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PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

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The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is administered by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) to decrease payment card fraud across the internet and increase credit card data security. Organisations that store, transmit or process card holder data must comply with the PCI DSS. IT Governance Ltd is an authorised PCI QSA, supplying the full range of PCI QSA audit and consultancy services. To discuss your PCI DSS requirements call us on +44 (0) 845 070 1750.

What is on this page:

Introduction to the PCI DSS

The currently applicable version of the PCI DSS is version 3.0, published in November 2013 – download it here.

The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) has released version 3 of both the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS). Publication on 7 November 2013 marks the end of one lifecycle and the start of the next three-year cycle for the Standard. The changes will help companies make the PCI DSS part of their business-as-usual activities by introducing more flexibility and an increased focus on education, awareness and security as a shared responsibility. Find out more about PCI DSS v3.0 here >>>

Organisations are given a 14-month grace period to transition from version 2 to version 3 until PCI DSS v3.0 becomes mandatory on 1 January 2015. As an approved QSA company, IT Governance is ideally positioned to help organisations comply with both versions and help them transition to v3.0 in due course. For more information call us on +44 (0)845 070 1750, or email

Applicability of the PCI DSS

The PCI DSS applies to any organisation that processes, transmits or stores cardholder data.

If you are a merchant, the PCI DSS applies to you. Even if you have subcontracted all PCI DSS activities to a third party, you have the responsibility for ensuring all the contracted parties are compliant with the Standard.

If you are a service provider, including a software developer, the PCI DSS applies to you if you process, transmit or store cardholder data, or your activities affect the security of the cardholder data as it is being processed, transmitted or stored.

IT Governance can advise on the applicability of the PCI DSS to your organisation.

Scope of the PCI DSS

The PCI DSS can apply across the whole of your organisation, or to a subset of your organisation if you have correctly compartmentalised the processing, transmission or storage of cardholder data away from the rest of your organisation.

It applies to all people, processes and technologies that are involved in the processing, transmission or storage of cardholder data. It is not just the electronic systems, but includes all systems including paper records such as receipts, mail order forms, etc., and recordings of phone conversations if they capture cardholder data being read out to call centre operators. IT Governance can advise on scoping the cardholder data environment within your organisation.

PCI DSS compliance requirements

The Standard basically requires all applicable merchants and member service providers (MSPs) who are involved with the storage, processing or transmitting of cardholder data to:

  • build and maintain a secure IT network;
  • protect cardholder data;
  • maintain a vulnerability management program;
  • implement strong access control measures;
  • regularly monitor and test networks;
  • maintain an information security policy.

PCI DSS compliance criteria and PCI levels

Compliance is driven from the payment brands (Visa, American Express, MasterCard, etc.) downwards. The payment brands look for acquiring banks to be compliant and all their merchants to be compliant, too. The acquiring banks will ask all of their merchants to become compliant, and, as part of that process, merchants will ask their service providers to be compliant.

The criteria that a merchant or service provider has to meet are set by the individual payment brands. Each payment brand has its own compliance programme and sets criteria for compliance based upon the volume of transactions made by a merchant or service provider. In general, there are four merchant levels and two levels of service provider, but this varies by payment brand.

Achieving compliance with the PCI DSS

Compliance with the PCI DSS is achieved by the merchant or service provider demonstrating its compliance through successfully completing an audit of the cardholder data environment against the Standard. The type of audit depends on the compliance requirements of the payment brand and the level of the merchant or service provider as defined by the payment brand. The types of audit are:

  • Report on Compliance (RoC) completed by a PCI QSA organisation or by an ISA.
  • A self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) signed by an officer of the organisation.
  • External vulnerability scan conducted by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).

The PCI DSS compliance procedure can take anywhere from a day to many weeks, depending on what is uncovered by the vulnerability assessment scan and the audit. Organisations that currently have a good level of information security are likely to achieve compliance quicker than those that do not. The starting point for all organisations that need to comply is to download the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and to consider a vulnerability assessment service or vulnerability scan, both of which can be conducted by IT Governance.

Another good point of reference is to get your own copy of the manual on PCI compliance, PCI DSS: A Practical Guide to Implementation. It is a good investment!

Those wishing to develop their understanding of the PCI DSS may also be interested in our PCI Foundation and PCI Implementation training pathway.

PCI compliance requirements – IT Governance services

As a general rule of thumb, the criteria below are based on those from Visa and MasterCard, as these are the predominant payment brands that card merchants will process. IT Governance provides the following services in each of the various compliance categories:

Merchants/ Service providers Annual onsite audit Self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) Quarterly* external vulnerability scan Quarterly* internal vulnerability scan Annual** penetration test Quarterly WLAN analysis
* Or after any significant change in the network (such as new system component installations, changes in network topology, firewall rule modifications, product upgrades).
** Or after any significant infrastructure or application upgrade or modification (such as an operating system upgrade, a sub-network added to the environment, or a web server added to the environment).
# Only required for testing network segmentation if any is present.
+ Only external penetration test required.
ROC Yes   Yes Yes Yes   Yes
SAQ D for Merchants   Yes Yes Yes Yes   Yes
SAQ D for Service Providers   Yes Yes Yes Yes   Yes
SAQ C   Yes Yes Yes Yes # Yes
SAQ C-VT   Yes        
SAQ P2PE-HW   Yes        
SAQ B-IP   Yes Yes      
SAQ B   Yes        
SAQ A-EP   Yes Yes Yes Yes  +  
SAQ A   Yes        

The PCI Report on Compliance

A Report on Compliance (ROC) is a form that must be completed by all qualifying merchants and service providers undergoing a PCI DSS audit. The ROC is used to verify that the organisation being audited is compliant with the PCI DSS. The ROC must be filled out by the PCI Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) or an Internal Security Assessor (ISA) who has audited the organisation. The form is then submitted to the merchant's acquiring bank for acceptance. Once the merchant's acquiring bank has accepted the ROC, it sends the document on to the payment brand for compliance verification.

Payment brand PCI compliance programmes

While the PCI DSS is a common standard, each payment brand has its own compliance programme. Note that there may be regional variations for VISA (e.g. USA and Canada), while MasterCard has a single global standard, and that acquiring banks (not the payment brands) are usually responsible for enforcement. All detailed compliance enquiries should therefore be directed to one's acquiring bank. Here are the PCI DSS compliance programs for each of the five founding members of the PCI SSC:

PCI DSS and ISO/IEC 27001

While the PCI standard was not written to map specifically to ISO27001, COBIT® or any other existing framework, it sits clearly within the ISO27002 framework and organisations that have implemented an ISO27001-compliant ISMS should be able to also demonstrate their conformance with the PCI standard with minor additional work.

Subscribers can access additional guidance on using ISO27001 as a PCI DSS management framework. Nine Steps to Success describes how ISO27001 can be implemented to provide an overarching best practice information security management framework that will encompass the requirements of PCI DSS.

Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode (Payer Authentication Service/3D-Secure)

Verified by Visa (VbV) is a security protocol introduced in 2005 by Visa, for Internet-based (i.e. not for mail order or telephone purchases) transactions only. VbV provides additional security for both the shopper and the merchant by enabling the cardholder to input a password to validate their transaction. While a cardholder may proceed with a transaction even if they have not entered a password, the mere availability of VbV shifts the chargeback liability from the merchant to the card issuer. MasterCard have a similar scheme, called SecureCode which applies to MasterCards and to Maestro Cards.

For full details of Visa VbV, go to

For full details of MasterCard SecureCode, go to

To discuss your PCI DSS requirements, call us on +44 (0) 845 070 1750.

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