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PCI DSS Certificate & Why Your Business Needs It Right Now

Boaz Gam

Boaz Gam


7 min
PCI DSS Certificate — No Fraud Is Allowed How to Join the Compliance Alliance?
Benefits Integration: How Long & How Much?

PCI DSS is a security standard that was designed to protect credit/debit card transactions. Let’s see why your company needs it and which benefits it will bring.

PCI DSS Certificate — No Fraud Is Allowed

Typically, the online payment algorithm looks like this:

So, what is PCI DSS? It stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Back in 2004, it was designed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council and then was employed by 5 biggest payment transaction companies — MasterCard, American Express, Visa, JCB International and Discover Financial Services

This standard was designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store or transmit the credit card information maintain a secure environment to make all card operations safe, minimizing the possible risks of fraud, and so on.

The PCI DSS meaning is that merchants and customers are protected from fraud. This compliance serves to safeguard against such typical threats as:

  • Money theft.
  • False chargebacks.
  • Sensitive data getting stolen from both merchants/shoppers, etc.

These are extremely serious factors to consider. For instance, in 2016 it was estimated that chargeback frauds alone cost companies $2.40 for every single dollar they have to reimburse.

So, this certificate is basically one of the pillars that carry every successful venue, both online or physical. But what does PCI DSS certification exactly include? Let’s investigate.

How to Join the Compliance Alliance?

You may ask, what are the requirements set by this standard? And how to become PCI DSS- compliant? Universally, there are 12 key principles to follow. Let’s take a quick look:

  1. Payment security can be achieved with a secure network only. So, the cardholder data must be protected with a firewall.
  2. Your company cannot rely upon basic and default safety parameters, which apply to payment cashier systems, and so on. Plus, no simple or predictable passwords are allowed.
  3. The cardholder’s personal data must be strongly protected, according to the strict PCI DSS rules.
  4. Encryption is the key when it comes to protecting the sensitive data across the public networks (WiFi).
  5. All anti-virus databases that you employ must be regularly updated.
  6. Employ only secure and trustworthy apps and utilities.
  7. Access to the cardholder’s data must be limited.
  8. Every online customer should have a unique ID.
  9. Physical access to the client’s data must also be limited.
  10. Access to the client’s data must be closely monitored along with the usage of the network resources.
  11. Security system must be kept in check and tested for vulnerabilities on a regular basis.
  12. Your company’s policy must be based on the information security principles.

Now, let’s see which security level your venue should be compliant with.

It is generally accepted that there are 4 levels of PCI DSS security compliance. Here’s a short review of each one.

  • Level 1

    This level is required for those entities, who process at least 6 million credit/debit card transactions each year or more.

    Besides, this level requires that a business venue hosts an internal audit annually — this can be done with the help of an authorized PCI DSS auditor only. Plus, a company must submit a PCI scan — a scan for vulnerabilities — via an ASV (Approved Scanning Vendor).

  • Level 2

    This requirement is for the entities who process from 1 to 6 million card transactions each year. It is also mandatory for them to conduct an annual self-assessment with the help of a SAQ — Self-Assessment Questionnaire. In some cases, a company has to submit the PCI scan too.

  • Level 3

    This level applies to all entities who hold from 20 thousand to 1 million card transactions each year. It also implies that SAQ is necessary. And optionally, the PCI Scan might be required as well.

  • Level 4

    Finally, companies that have up to 20 thousand yearly transactions can qualify for this level. SAQ is mandatory, PCI scanning may be required.

As you can see, even a small company can adhere to the PCI DSS standards, which automatically improves its security ecosystem. At the same time, reality is that it costs to invest in building and maintaining the infrastructure that is necessary to make your enterprise fully PCI DSS-compliant. It includes hiring professionals, expanding the staff, licensing software, going through an audit, etc.

But wait: what do you win exactly from introducing these seemingly intricate security algorithms to your business?

Compliance Level Number of Transactions Requirements
Level 1 6 million or more
  • Yearly internal audit
  • PCI Scan
  • AOC verified by an Approved Scanning Vendor
Level 2 1 - 6 million
  • Yearly Self-Assessment Questionnaire
  • PCI Scan
Level 3 20,000 - 1 million
  • Yearly Self-Assessment Questionnaire
  • PCI Scan
Level 4 Fewer than 20,000
  • Yearly Self-Assessment Questionnaire
  • PCI Scan


The literal PCI DSS definition includes a bunch of technical procedures. But metaphorically speaking, it also implies protecting your clientele and winning their trust.

Here are some of the benefits that you get from employing PCI DSS:

  1. Reputation

    No commerce, including its digital iteration, can exist without trust. The more you invest in protecting your customers, the more you contribute to building up your reputation. The modern merchant definition surely implies taking care of your clientele among all else.

  2. Global access

    If your business meets global standards, it has a bigger chance to enter the global market successfully. For example, the standard is widely used in Europe.

    And though it has no legal force at the moment, it’s possible that PCI DSS may become obligatory for all e-merchants in the future.

  3. Prevent attacks

    Online attacks may produce disastrous consequences: stolen money, hijacked accounts, damaged reputation and even lawsuits, as the Scripps Health incident showed us when the database with personal details of 150,000 patients was stolen, which resulted in a collective lawsuit against the company.

  4. Even more security

    Once your company works in unison with PCI DSS, it’ll be much easier to introduce other security standards: ISO, GDPR, and others.

  5. Smoother workflow

    A secure payment gateway will allow your customers to pay instantly with no extra hassle or bustle.

Integration: How Long & How Much?

And finally: how do you apply to be PCI DSS-certified? Certification process requires companies of Level 2, 3 and 4 to fill a Self-Assessment Questionnaire.

Its number of questions may vary: sometimes there can be as many as 300+. And then you will need to prepare the Attestation of Compliance (AOC). If your entity is Level one, then a Qualified Security Assessor will need to participate too.

But before you can submit all these forms and docs, you’ll need to invest a good amount of time and money into “fine-tuning” your company.

There's no definite answer on how much time it'll take or how big your costs will be to attain the desirable compliance. It may stretch from $500 to $70,000 annually, depending on the size of your enterprise.

It includes buying antivirus software, employing encryption technologies, paying for a security audit, and so on.

But there’s a shortcut. Instead of doing all this, you can use an out-of-box solution that will make your company compliant instantly — the PCI DSS-compliant gateway.

Once it’s connected to your venue’s ecosystem, you can:

  • Keep track of all money transactions.
  • Advertise your business as PCI DSS-compliant.
  • Accept payments right away: no need to lose time.
  • Save money: extra costs like paying for boosting your security system can be cut.

As you can see, the lengthy procedure can be shortened. Lose no time and solve the issue of PCI DSS compliance with one elegant move. Connect the PCI DSS gateway and your company will enter the next level of security.

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