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The SecurityMetrics Guide to PCI DSS Compliance

What is PCI DSS Compliance?

PCI DSS 4.0: What's New and How It Affects You

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The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) was established in 2006 by the major card brands (e.g., Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International).

All businesses that process, store, or transmit payment card data are required to implement the security standard to prevent cardholder data theft. The investigation of numerous credit card data compromises has confirmed that the security controls and processes required in the PCI DSS are essential to protecting cardholder data.

Merchants often have a difficult time attaining (or maintaining) compliance for a variety of reasons. Many smaller merchants believe it’s too technical or costly, while others simply don’t believe it’s effective and refuse to comply.

However, PCI DSS was created to protect businesses from common, recurring threats so that they can avoid the consequences of an attack. Most SMBs (and even some large corporations) don’t survive data breaches. Even if they are able to afford the financial penalties that result from a data breach, they may not be able to often can’t withstand the loss of customer loyalty and the damage to their brand. Some organizations can afford to re-brand after a data breach, but that is extremely expensive and unrealistic for most businesses. 

With increasing cyber attacks, it’s in your best interest to protect your business by becoming PCI compliant. 

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Why we created the guide to PCI DSS compliance

No matter the advances in cyber security technology and despite government initiatives and regulations, attackers will continue to work to steal unprotected payment card data.

Some organizations have simple, easy-to-correct vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches. In other instances, organizations with intricate IT defenses and processes are overridden by an employee opening a phishing email.

Our guide was specifically created to help merchants and service providers address the most problematic issues within the 12 PCI DSS requirements, including auditors’ best practices and IT checklists.

Our guide is not intended to be a legal brief on all requirements and aspects of PCI compliance. Rather, it approaches PCI from the perspective of a security analyst, focusing on how to protect your cardholder data. Thus, we recommend using it as a resource to help with your PCI compliance efforts.

Ultimately, our goal is to help you better protect your data from inevitable future attacks.

Whether you’re a new employee with limited PCI knowledge or an experienced system administrator, our guide aims to help you secure your environment and for your organization to become compliant with PCI DSS requirements. We designed this document as a reference guide to address the most challenging aspects of PCI DSS compliance.

Depending on your background, job role, and your organization’s needs, some sections in this guide may be more useful than others. Rather than reading our guide cover to cover, we recommend using it as a resource for your PCI compliance efforts.

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How can you use the SecurityMetrics Guide to PCI DSS Compliance? 

Because the SecurityMetrics Guide to PCI DSS Compliance is a simple breakdown of PCI DSS, it can be a great starting point for employees who are new to PCI compliance or even cybersecurity. You can easily use this guide in workforce training or new hire training. While there may be sections of the guide that aren’t relevant for everyone, it is designed to be a reference guide so you can focus on what you need or what would be helpful to your organization. 

In addition to training, you can use this guide to explain the importance of and purpose behind PCI compliance to executives. The SecurityMetrics Guide to PCI DSS Compliance contains budgetary breakdowns, real-world examples of data breaches and solutions, current statistics, infographics, and expert advice so that you can easily demonstrate the importance of cybersecurity and PCI compliance. 

What’s in the SecurityMetrics Guide to PCI DSS Compliance?

PCI Compliance Trends

Every year, our PCI product team analyzes PCI compliance trends to find out where organizations could use support and education, as well as to give context to our readers. The guide is easy to understand and makes PCI compliance feel less overwhelming. 

Here is a sampling of some of the graphs from the PCI Guide:

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Topics included in the SecurityMetrics PCI Guide are:  

  • New Changes To PCI Compliance

  • PCI Compliance Trends

  • Understanding Your PCI DSS Responsibility

  • PCI DSS Version 4.0

  • The 12 Requirements of PCI Compliance

  • How To Prepare For A Data Breach

  • How To Create An Incident Response Plan

  • Data Breach Prevention Tools

  • PCI Compliance Best Practices

Security Perspectives from the Field 

As a team of auditors, we have the opportunity to collaborate on the PCI Guide. Keeping the Guide updated and accurate takes input from security assessors, penetration testers, forensic analysts, technical writers, graphic designers, and others–a process which takes months.  

Included in this process is the writing of “Auditor Perspectives.” Our security professionals write personal perspectives on specific PCI topics, drawing on their experiences in the field. These sections include insights on topics like how to meet PCI requirements, how to scope your environment, what good firewalls look like, how to overcome common PCI DSS challenges, etc.

Here is an example of an auditor's perspective from the PCI guide:

What organizations say about our guide

Every PCI manager should have a copy of the SecurityMetrics Guide to PCI DSS Compliance at their desk. Whether it’s to answer questions from your merchants, complete your own PCI compliance validation, or keep up with current data breach trends this guide is a great resource.

Jean Gerritsen, AVP Card Services, NCMIC Group, Inc.

The SecurityMetrics Guide to PCI DSS Compliance is a one-stop guide to ensuring your organization is PCI DSS compliant. This is the best comprehensive guide I've found.

Brenda Clark, Compliance and Security Manager, NTT America, Inc.

SecurityMetrics is our trustworthy partner when we have to make our annual PCI compliance process successful. They are dedicated in the PCI realm and always provide the detailed information, training, and assistance that make achieving compliance simple and easy.

Georgi Kirov, CEO, SWICS Ltd

SecurityMetrics PCI DSS Guide provides a very pragmatic method to understand and implement PCI DSS compliance.

Thierry Bricman, Head of Implementation, MFTEL Services


The guide all should follow.

 Steven Cilento, Owner, Jersey's Best Home Inspection LLC


The most comprehensive guide to PCI DSS compliance.

Ana Tremblay, Managing Director, Algonquin Travel TravelPlus


If you want to cut through the complicated descriptions and consultant-ese explanations, this is the guide to read.

Rodolfo Peña García, Senior Security Consultant, Energywise

The guide is useful and practical for year on year re-certification.

Lee Kin Hong, General Manager, ManagePay Resources

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