What Ecommerce Shops Need to Know About PCI DSS

E-commerce shops are at high risk of cybercrimes, especially regarding consumer data. According to the RSA Anti-Fraud Command Center (AFCC), e-commerce stores lose $660, 000 per hour to fraud, with payment fraud being the biggest crime. To protect crucial details such as credit card information and prevent online fraud, your e-commerce store needs to obtain PCI DSS compliance. However, what is PCI DSS, and why is it essential for your e-commerce business?

What is PCI DSS?

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard or rather PCI DSS is a set of standards developed by major credit card companies to protect consumers sharing their card information with e-commerce companies.

In the beginning, there were no rules to guide the architecture of websites, let alone protect sensitive data, such as credit card details. Over time, reports of unauthorized transactions increased, and credit card companies, including American Express, Mastercard, JCB, Discover, and VISA, found a solution- PCI DSS.

Why is PCI DSS important?

PCI DSS are guidelines created for the protection of all brands, consumers, and retailers against online fraud and data breach. By following the standards, businesses, whether big or small, can create internal data security for their e-commerce platforms. In a nutshell, entities storing, processing, and transmitting cardholder data (CHD) should comply with these guidelines.

With PCI compliance, your e-commerce business can track CHD and identify where it is coming from, moving through, and stored for enhanced data security. It is essential to recognize that PCI compliance forms a part of your information security program, but does not secure your e-commerce store. When implemented correctly, these guidelines strengthen your security.

Aside from reinforcing your data security, your e-commerce business also protects its reputation from data breach scandals. Your customers are also more likely to trust your brand if it protects their private information.

What Are the Risks of Ignoring PCI Compliance?

A prohibition from Using Credit Cards: Large credit card companies rely on PCI DSS for consumer, retailer, and brand protection. If you ignore compliance and fraud happens through your company, the card companies will issue a ban on using their cards.

Fines: Credit card companies will fine your e-commerce business will should fraud be detected. The penalties can vary between $86,500 – $4 million.

Forensic Investigation– After a data breach occurs, you will be forced to hire forensic investigators to gather data and find a suspect. The investigation will not only cost you money but also consume your time. For a small business, the cost ranges between $20,000 and $50,000.

Liability Claims: Your business will face liability claims once criminals have access to credit cardholder data.  

Reassessment: After clearing the data breach, a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) has to assess your e-commerce company to authenticate PCI compliance. This verification is one of the steps in being allowed to use credit cards once more.

Reissuing Costs: Credit card companies require retailers to pay a reissuing cost of $3-$10 per card. The charge is meant to cover communication, activation, and transportation. As you can imagine, this will amount to a hefty cost.

How Can You Make Your E-commerce Business PCI Compliant?

PCI DSS has several requirements listed for different businesses. Some organizations hire a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) or an Internal Security Assessor and produce a Report on Compliance (ROC). However, other organizations can fill out and submit Self-Assessment Questionnaires (SAQs).

The SAQ your business needs depend on several factors:

  • Whether you process your credit card transactions or outsource them to a third party.
  • The type of payment processing machine or terminal that you use for card transactions.
  • Whether you accept payments in-store with physical cards, through phone-pay applications or only through e-commerce.

What is the Checklist for PCI DSS Compliance?

Disable all Default Passwords

Do not use vendor-supplied default passwords that come with equipment and devices used in processing payments. Always change or disable or default passwords before installing your network.

Install an Antivirus

Use antivirus software on all machines operating cardholder data and ensure that you regularly update the software. Your antivirus should run uninterrupted at all times.

Create a Secure network

Protect your network by using a firewall between the payment card data and the public network. Also, remember to keep your firewall updated. Hackers do not search for weak websites manually. Instead, they have bots that crawl the web for vulnerabilities. Once your firewall is down, hackers will breach your security and steal your data. Lastly, only authorized personnel should be allowed to change your passwords or remove firewalls.

Avoid Storing Credit Card Holder Data

Cardholder data is sensitive, and holding it in your system only increases your risk. Instead, shift the data from your system. However, if you need to store the data, use secure encryption to protect the data over any public network.

SSL/TLS technology, for instance, is excellent for encrypting data traveling between systems. PCI DSS requires that all e-commerce stores use an SSL certificate to accept online payments. This certificate allows access to your site through HTTPS instead of HTTP. Several hosting websites offer SSL certificates for free or at a minimal fee.

Moreover, SSL certification improves your trust among customers and promotes your website’s ranking. Google has started giving more weight to sites with HTTPS, which will work well for your SEO.

Restrict Access to Cardholder Data

Limit the access to cardholder data to a few people to limit your vulnerability. Ensure you have a written policy on access permissions. Share this policy with your customers and employees and who may be affected when a breach occurs.

Assign unique ID numbers to all your employees to track their movements and to ensure that everyone remains accountable for their actions. You should also include additional authentication methods to improve your data security. Hackers breach networks through weak authentication protocols. Use multi-step authentication practices to reduce the chances of a breach.


PCI DSS compliance is beneficial for your e-commerce shop and your clients. By following the guidelines, you protect cardholder data from cybercriminals and retain the trust of your consumers. To ensure that your data security is top-notch, consult a professional, and work on the overall safety of your e-commerce store.

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