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Companies and service providers that handle credit card data are required to comply with the PCI DSS security framework, which consists of 12 requirements and 281 directives.

When a business undergoes its yearly ROC audit, it can face severe penalties from credit card brands if it fails. To avoid this, it’s crucial to approach the audit as a preparation process rather than a pass or fail test. Businesses should start by conducting gap assessments and remediation efforts early in the year to ensure they are fully prepared for the audit.

1. Define Your scope.

The key to ensuring a successful PCI DSS assessment is accurately defining your scope prior to beginning any assessment project, since any mistake could derail its entirety.

In general, any system that processes cardholder data falls within the scope of PCI DSS standards and must comply. This includes systems that store, process, or transmit cardholder data as well as sensitive authentication data, in addition to people, processes, or locations that come into contact with this information. Therefore, it’s crucial that you fully comprehend what constitutes “cardholder data” so as to properly define your scope.

Determining your scope can be an intricate and time-consuming task, which is why professional guidance from an accredited QSA can be of great assistance in this first step of the PCI DSS compliance assessment process.

At its core, there are various techniques for reducing scope, but for maximum impact, it’s best done prior to beginning any PCI DSS assessment. Network segmentation separates your CDE from other areas of your business and can significantly lower its scope. Encryption of all point-of-sale hardware and software, as well as point-to-point encryption at firewalls, are also effective ways of decreasing your scope.

2. Assess Your requirements

If you process credit card data, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) applies. It consists of security requirements meant to safeguard cardholder data against cyberattacks and fraudsters; an audit will demonstrate if you’ve adhered to them and done your part to keep customers safe.

When working with a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA), it’s essential to know exactly what their evaluation entails. They will evaluate various components of your business facilities and systems, as well as how well you’ve met the 12 core PCI DSS requirements.

Make sure your organisation is ready for its assessment by updating any policies or procedures and training staff immediately after the assessment date has been set. Also ensure your QSA has had enough processes and controls reviewed since their last audit; external experts may offer fresh perspectives while offering guidance and support during this assessment process.

3. Implement Controls

Once you’ve identified and set areas for improvement, the next step should be making those changes, putting the plan into effect. A quality GRC software solution or service can make this task far simpler and more cost-efficient; popular tools include PCI scanning, rogue WiFi device detection, penetration testing, and event log monitoring and management.

Implementation and maintenance of an information security policy are integral parts of complying with PCI DSS. Your policy should align with your risk, governance, and cybersecurity frameworks and be reviewed at least annually.

All systems and network components must be monitored to enable an in-depth investigation of suspicious activity, while vulnerabilities that could lead to a data breach must be assessed and addressed accordingly. Access to systems storing cardholder data must also be restricted based on job responsibilities using an authentication system with unique identities for each user with access to sensitive information; quality password management tools can help meet this requirement. Failing to address identified issues could result in fines from credit card companies, which will escalate over time.

4. Report on Compliance

All merchants and service providers who accept, process, store, or transmit credit card data must abide by PCI DSS requirements, which include developing an information security methodology with 281 directives and 12 core requirements.

PCI compliance aims to ensure your organisation’s policies, procedures, people, and technologies are sufficiently protecting bank card data from theft or misuse; this process should remain ongoing so as to remain compliant with changing regulations and threats.

An absence of preparation can prove costly to both your business and its reputation. Data breaches often incur heavy fines; fraudulent transactions incur bank cancellation fees, and customers choose to move their business elsewhere as a result of your lack of readiness.

KirkpatrickPrice can help your organisation prepare for PCI audits with our trusted Qualified Security Assessors (QSAs), who can perform gap analyses that demonstrate what needs to be done to meet requirements and mitigate areas of non-compliance—and make sure you’re ready for audit day! Don’t fear the dreaded PCI DSS audit; treat them as opportunities to strengthen security and demonstrate customer data protection commitment.

5. Attest to Compliance

After your audit is complete, a QSA will provide two official documents: an Attestation of Compliance (AoC) and a Report on Compliance (RoC). Both documents remain effective for one year from when you receive them.

Merchants and service providers who accept, store, transmit, or process payment card data must comply with the PCI DSS security standard. This information security methodology comprises 12 requirements and 281 directives that must be monitored throughout a company to remain compliant.

The five major credit card companies came together to form the PCI Security Standards Council and develop stringent standards for merchants and vendors who handle payment card data, known as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), in order to protect cardholders from fraudsters.

Preparing for a PCI DSS audit takes time, effort, and expertise, and the team at RSI Security can make this process simpler, from initial gap assessments to the submission of your final documents.