How To Get Your PCI Compliance Certification in 6 Steps

How do I get PCI DSS Certified?
  1. Identify your compliance ‘level’
  2. Complete a self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) or Complete an annual Report on Compliance (ROC)
  3. Complete a formal attestation of compliance (AOC)
  4. Complete a quarterly network scan by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV)
  5. Submit the document.

PCI Compliance 101 – What is PCI Compliance, and How to Become PCI Compliant

Why get a PCI compliance certification?

There are many reasons to consider pursuing your PCI compliance certification, including:

Increased access to merchant processing vendors

One primary reason to become certified is to process debit and credit transactions for your company. Most companies that plan to accept cards as a form of payment use merchant processors. Many merchant processors require companies to be in compliance to help mitigate the risk associated with offering credit card payment options. Compliance certifications show vendors and merchant companies they can trust the security of your organizations online transactions.

There are many reasons companies might want to process, keep or share credit card data, and compliance can help ensure they do it successfully and correctly. Compliance certification can help you expand your business offerings and offer more payment options to your customers.

Enhanced business security

Beyond it being a required stipulation of most merchants and credit card companies, compliance can offer you added security. PCI certification helps companies protect the security of their data. By following the best practices and established requirements, companies can mitigate the risk of data breaches and help protect sensitive customer financial information. Regular scans also help organizations monitor their security efforts and identify risks before they become problematic.

Improved customer confidence

When companies value the security and privacy of their customers data, consumers might feel more confident returning to the business for future transactions. Showing you care about laws and regulations can assure customers, vendors and merchants that you prioritize best practices and follow guidelines in your processes. By caring about customer information and doing your best to align your business and customers values, you can improve your reputation as a company.

Reduced risk for penalties

Compliance can help businesses avoid unnecessary fees or costly consequences. Data breaches can affect customer confidence, a business financial security and a companys reputation. Additionally, companies that experience a breach or that arent properly certified might encounter fines from merchant processing vendors, lawsuits from aggrieved customers or decreased sales.

What is the PCI DSS?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is an outline of the baseline security standards major credit card companies require companies to follow. The guidelines help to reduce the risk of theft and fraud. Business that process credit and debit card transactions often need to prove their compliance in order to continue accepting payments successfully. Compliance ensures companies can reliably incorporate best practices like installing firewalls, using antivirus software and encrypting data transmissions.

Depending on the size of your company and the amount of transactions you process, you may have to pursue a specific levels of compliance. There are four levels:

How to get a PCI compliance certification

If youre interested in getting your PCI compliance certification, here are some steps you can take:

1. Determine your certification level

The different PCI compliance levels can affect the requirements you need to meet to fulfill PCI policies. Research guidelines to determine which level applies best to your company. The level you choose can depend on both in-person customer transaction numbers and e-commerce transactions, so be sure to consider both when reviewing level parameters. Each certification level comes with unique requirements and requires adherence to established policies. Following procedures successfully might require frequent action, like quarterly compliance scans and yearly assessments.

2. Understand PCI DSS requirements

Compliance can depend on your ability to follow outlined PCI DSS requirements and procedures. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council lists 12 components for handling customer data securely. The 12 requirements fulfill a variety of goals related to securing company networks, protecting sensitive cardholder information, mitigating risks and vulnerabilities, testing networks and securing information successfully.

Here are the 12 requirements:

3. Complete your ROC or SAQ

With the above rules in mind, complete a self assessment questionnaire (SAQ) or report on compliance (ROC). SAQs are a tool merchants can use to validate the answers on your self assessment. Some companies, especially larger companies, enlist the help of a qualified security assessor (QSA) who can help them accurately assess their current compliance levels. An ROC is for level-one companies undergoing security audits. Most ROCs are valid for one year.

4. Verify your status and commitment to following compliance standards

Complete PCI compliance further requires companies to complete an attestation of compliance (AOC) which formalizes their status. QSAs typically complete the AOC to confirm compliance and provide written documentation supporting their use of best practices. The version of SAQ and AOC you select and complete can depend on your company type and specific level, so be sure to perform careful research when completing these steps of the process.

5. Perform quarterly scans

Most compliance levels require companies to scan their activities and processes regularly to ensure their continued compliance and adherence to established best practices. You can use an approved scanning vendor (ASV) to help ensure the reliability and accuracy of your scans and to meet PCI guidelines. Vendors perform external audits using approved security tools to identify risks or vulnerabilities within your system. Once youve identified the potential weaknesses, you can improve them to remove opportunities for hacker exploitation. Scanning frequently, every business quarter or 90 days, can help you ensure the continued security of your systems.

6. Communicate compliance with banks and payment companies

The final step is to provide all the relevant documentation to concerned parties, like your bank or the card companies you use. This includes your SAQ, AOC and ASV scans. After you submit your documentation, ensure receipt and acceptance. This can help you guarantee your successful certification and make it easier for you to start processing transactions effectively.

Please note that none of the companies or certifications mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


Can I do PCI compliance myself?

This a crucial step in the annual validation process for merchants who are levels 2-4. All you need to do is: Download the correct PCI self-assessment questionnaire and answer the provided questions. Complete an Attestation of Compliance (more on that momentarily).

How long does it take to get PCI certified?

PCI QSAs are specially trained and certified cybersecurity professionals who are deeply knowledgeable about the security standards required for an organization to become PCI certified. The merchants who fall under level 1 of PCI-DSS compliance also need to complete an annual Report on Compliance (ROC).

What is PCI compliance certification?

The entire process of becoming PCI compliant usually takes between one day and two weeks. The actual time for compliance will be dependent on how long the self-assessment questionnaire takes to complete. In addition, the business will need to pass a PCI scan.

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