The PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry & Data Security Standard) was established by credit card companies to create a unified security standard for handling credit card information.  The retail service industry now understands the strategic significance of PCI DSS compliance, which was demonstrated when TJX announced that their system was compromised for more than 17 months, where well over 50 million customers’ credit and debit cards were breached. Retail business which fails to comply will be subject to penalties and fines, possibly lawsuits, and may lose their credit card processing capability. Non-compliance will not only expose businesses to fines and penalties but also make it vulnerable to many threats, which can exploit the vulnerabilities in the system and put your business to unnecessary risk. These risks could have been avoided with some due diligence. When business is non-compliant, any major breach will have a significant impact on business viability.

To start a process of PCI compliance, a merchant should determine if PCI DSS applies to their organization.  PCI DSS is applicable if your customer PAN (Primary Account Numbers) is stored, processed or transmitted in your organization. After determining the applicability of the standard, the merchant needs to determine where their business falls in the categorization of businesses by their bank in terms of merchant level.

Before commencing the risk assessment the assessor will perform the system profile to determine the applicability of the scope and set the boundaries of the system covered under PCI-DSS assessment. Planning is the key to success of a project; this is the phase where all the planning and project preparation will take place.   Now the key to the success of your on-going compliance is to simplify the scope of the project. The best way to achieve this to put all the PCI related assets in a precise segment to limit the merchant card holder environment.

Comprehensive risk assessment will be performed on the identified scope where risk analysis will identify the gaps based on PCI DSS standards and risk rating will prioritize the gaps for risk management.  Thorough risk analysis will generate a quality technical and process gap analysis, where you decide the mitigation/compensating controls to comply with PCI DSS.  After completion of the risk assessment the task of the risk management begins, to eliminate the gaps in your environment and to comply with the standard. Depending on the numbers of gaps the risk management team should set realistic goals to complete the tasks in hand.  Best practices recommendations suggest that the organization should eliminate/mitigate the high risks (high impact & probability) gaps to the organization, but sometime organizations decide to go after the low hanging fruits to start with their risk management process.

When the risk management process gets close to finishing and you are well on your way to comply with PCI DSS, you might think that perhaps your job is done. Well in a way, it’s just a beginning of a process where your organization is supposed to maintain the compliance with PCI DSS.  Based on expert opinion, PCI DSS is a process not a project. What you have done so far, is baseline your environment. Ongoing compliance is achieved by monitoring the relevant PCI DSS controls. Ongoing compliance will depend on the quality of the merchant’s information security management system (ISMS). A strong  ISMS would include thorough monitoring, logging and reviewing controls to maintain and improve system security over time.  You can develop an automated PCI monitoring process to achieve consistent results and sustain compliance by continuously monitoring your system. ISMS (based on ISO 27001) certainly can be a great value to manage ongoing monitoring, maintenance and improvement cycle.

In a sense, PCI is neither a regulation nor a standard but a contractual agreement between the merchant and their acquirer bank, when merchants start transmitting PAN data that makes them contractually obligated to comply with PCI DSS. To understand their obligations, the merchant should make a proactive effort to understand their acquirer’s particular interpretation of PCI DSS requirements to get compliant.  Ongoing compliance will require adequate resources and automated controls in place to routinely monitor, maintain, review and improve the required systems. Ultimately, ongoing PCI compliance will enhance business efficiency and reduce the potential impact of adverse publicity on your business image.


Documentation Compliance Toolkit

PCI Compliance

Practical guide to implementation (Soft Cover)

Practical guide to implementation (Download)

PCI Compliance