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Understanding PCI Compliance: A Comprehensive Guide to the 12 Requirements

Gregory Gevorkyan image
Gregory Gevorkyan
25 May 2024


Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance is essential for any organization that handles credit card transactions. It ensures that sensitive cardholder information is protected and secure, helping to build trust with customers and partners. The PCI DSS framework consists of 12 requirements, divided into six logically related groups called "control objectives." Let's explore these requirements in detail:

1. Install and Maintain a Firewall Configuration to Protect Cardholder Data

Firewalls act as barriers between trusted internal networks and untrusted external networks, such as the internet. To protect cardholder data:

  • Establish and implement firewall and router configuration standards.
  • Identify all connections to cardholder data and ensure appropriate firewall configuration.
  • Regularly review and test configurations and firewall policies to ensure they are up-to-date and effective.

2. Do Not Use Vendor-Supplied Defaults for System Passwords and Other Security Parameters

Default passwords and settings provided by vendors can be easily exploited by attackers. To mitigate this risk:

  • Change all default passwords upon installation of systems.
  • Use strong, unique passwords for all accounts and systems.
  • Implement and enforce a password policy to ensure continued use of strong authentication credentials.

3. Protect Stored Cardholder Data

Stored cardholder data must be protected through encryption and other methods to prevent unauthorized access. Key measures include:

  • Encrypt cardholder data using strong cryptography.
  • Minimize storage and retention of cardholder data to only what is necessary.
  • Implement secure deletion methods for data that is no longer needed.

4. Encrypt Transmission of Cardholder Data Across Open, Public Networks

Data should be encrypted when transmitted over public networks to prevent interception and unauthorized access. Steps to achieve this include:

  • Use strong encryption protocols (e.g., TLS) to secure data in transit.
  • Implement proper key management practices for encryption keys.
  • Ensure secure transmission methods are in place for all cardholder data exchanges.

5. Protect All Systems Against Malware and Regularly Update Antivirus Software or Programs

Systems must be protected against malware with the latest antivirus software and other protective measures. This involves:

  • Installing and maintaining up-to-date antivirus software on all systems.
  • Conducting regular malware scans and responding to detected threats promptly.
  • Ensuring antivirus definitions and software are updated regularly.

6. Develop and Maintain Secure Systems and Applications

Organizations need to implement secure coding practices and conduct regular security testing to protect against vulnerabilities. Key practices include:

  • Following secure development guidelines and best practices.
  • Conducting code reviews and vulnerability assessments on applications.
  • Applying security patches and updates promptly to mitigate identified vulnerabilities.

7. Restrict Access to Cardholder Data by Business Need to Know

Access to sensitive information should be limited to individuals who need it to perform their job duties. This involves:

  • Implementing role-based access control (RBAC) to restrict access.
  • Regularly reviewing and updating access permissions.
  • Ensuring that access to cardholder data is granted only to authorized personnel.

8. Identify and Authenticate Access to System Components

Access controls must be established, including unique IDs and passwords, to ensure that only authorized individuals can access system components. Important measures include:

  • Implementing strong authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  • Ensuring unique identification for each user and device accessing the system.
  • Regularly reviewing and updating authentication protocols.

9. Restrict Physical Access to Cardholder Data

Physical security measures should be in place to protect cardholder data from unauthorized physical access. This includes:

  • Securing physical access to sensitive areas and data storage locations.
  • Implementing access controls such as key cards, biometrics, or security guards.
  • Monitoring and logging physical access to sensitive areas.

10. Track and Monitor All Access to Network Resources and Cardholder Data

Monitoring and logging mechanisms should be implemented to track access to network resources and cardholder data, ensuring accountability. Key steps include:

  • Implementing logging mechanisms to capture access and activity logs.
  • Regularly reviewing logs for suspicious or unauthorized activity.
  • Ensuring logs are stored securely and retained for a specified period.

11. Regularly Test Security Systems and Processes

Organizations should regularly test their security systems and processes to identify vulnerabilities and ensure compliance with security standards. This involves:

  • Conducting regular vulnerability scans and penetration tests.
  • Performing security assessments and audits.
  • Implementing a continuous improvement process for security practices.

12. Maintain a Policy That Addresses Information Security for All Personnel

A comprehensive information security policy should be established and maintained, outlining security protocols and responsibilities for all personnel. This includes:

  • Developing and implementing an information security policy.
  • Providing regular security training and awareness programs for employees.
  • Ensuring that all personnel understand their roles and responsibilities in maintaining security.


Achieving and maintaining PCI compliance is crucial for protecting cardholder data and ensuring customer trust. Implementing these 12 requirements creates a robust security foundation, but it can be complex and steal precious engineering and operational resources from your team.

For a more efficient path to PCI compliance, Modernbanc offers a Vault solution that helps simplify the compliance process, integrate seamlessly with your systems, and provide robust security measures. Learn more about how Modernbanc can support your PCI compliance journey at Modernbanc PCI Solutions.

SOC-2 Type II
PCI-DSS Tier 1