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Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. The PCI DSS was developed to enhance cardholder data security and facilitate the broad adoption of consistent data security measures globally.

The PCI DSS was established in 2004 by the major credit card companies: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB. These companies formed the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) to manage the ongoing evolution of the PCI DSS and other security standards.

The PCI DSS comprises six major objectives, which are further divided into twelve specific requirements. These objectives and requirements are designed to provide a comprehensive framework for securing cardholder data. The six objectives are:

  1. Build and Maintain a Secure Network and Systems:
    • Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data: Firewalls are crucial for controlling data entering and leaving the network, preventing unauthorized access.
    • Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters: Default passwords are well-known and can be easily exploited by attackers.
  2. Protect Cardholder Data:
    • Protect stored cardholder data: Encryption and other data protection techniques are essential for safeguarding stored cardholder information.
    • Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks: Encryption helps prevent interception and misuse of data during transmission.
  3. Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program:
    • Protect all systems against malware and regularly update antivirus software or programs: Regular updates and anti-malware solutions help prevent malware infections.
    • Develop and maintain secure systems and applications: Security vulnerabilities in systems and applications must be identified and remediated promptly.
  4. Implement Strong Access Control Measures:
    • Restrict access to cardholder data by business need to know: Only authorized personnel should have access to cardholder data.
    • Identify and authenticate access to system components: Implementing robust authentication methods ensures that access is granted only to legitimate users.
    • Restrict physical access to cardholder data: Physical security controls prevent unauthorized access to data storage facilities.
  5. Regularly Monitor and Test Networks:
    • Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data: Logging and monitoring activities help detect and respond to security incidents.
    • Regularly test security systems and processes: Regular testing, such as vulnerability scans and penetration testing, helps identify and address security weaknesses.
  6. Maintain an Information Security Policy:
    • Maintain a policy that addresses information security for employees and contractors: A comprehensive security policy ensures that all personnel are aware of and comply with security practices.

Compliance with PCI DSS is validated annually by either a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) or by a self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) for smaller entities. Non-compliance can result in severe consequences, including fines, increased transaction fees, and potential loss of the ability to process credit card transactions.

In summary, PCI DSS is a critical framework for ensuring the security of cardholder data across the payment card industry. By adhering to its standards, organizations can protect sensitive information, reduce the risk of data breaches, and build trust with customers and stakeholders.