6 PCI DSS Compliance Goals You Must Be Aware Of 

Meeba Gracy

Meeba Gracy

Apr 02, 2024

PCI DSS Compliance goals

According to a study from Pew Internet, a US-based fact tank, a whopping 79% of users are cautious about how their information is being used online by companies. Moreover, 59% don’t know what happens to their data after it is collected.

This is where the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, a.k.a PCI DSS, comes into play. This term is quite famous in the credit card processing industry, but what are the goals of PCI DSS compliance, and why should you care?

This article will discuss the six PCI DSS compliance goals and how they benefit your organization!

Let’s dive in…

What is PCI DSS?

PCI DSS is a set of security standards developed by MasterCard, Visa, Discover, JCB International, and American Express governed by the PCI SSC (Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council). 

This compliance was established to help protect credit and debit card transactions from data theft and fraud. The founding members of this organization have an equal say in how it is run and what work gets done.

As a standard, it implements minimum security features that must be in place to avoid the chances of cardholder data falling into the wrong hands. This standard implies that any entity that stores, processes, and transmits cardholder data should validate compliance with PCI-DSS. 

Therefore, as a SaaS business, you need to diligently comply with PCI DSS standards so that you are better prepared in the event of a breach or costly lawsuits in the future. 

The PCI SSC is not legally allowed to force anyone’s compliance, but businesses that want to process credit or debit card transactions must meet its requirements.

For more details, we have a list of PCI DSS requirements you might want to take a look at:

The best way to safeguard sensitive data and information is through PCI certification. This will help you build long-lasting, trusting relationships with your customers.

Breeze through PCI DSS compliance without the stress

What is the goal of PCI DSS compliance?

PCI DSS goals ensure that cardholder data is safeguarded no matter where it is transmitted, processed, or stored. The 12 security controls and processes required by PCI DSS are vital for protecting cardholder account data, including the PAN – the primary account number printed on the payment card.

However, you need to understand the main 6 PCI DSS compliance goals before being compliant. 

PCI DSS goals

Establish a secure network

The first goal of PCI DSS is establishing and maintaining a secure network. When it comes to keeping your network secure, you need to properly set up and maintain a firewall. Firewalls protect your system by analyzing incoming traffic and ensuring it follows certain rules. It’s important to stay on top of these rules and update them every six months; that way, you can be sure nothing suspicious creeps in. 

For example, if any open ports or services are running without a clear business reason behind them, they should be disabled right away. Such gaps can quickly expose even the most well-protected networks. 

Making sure your company’s systems are secure takes diligence, but with a combination of firewalls and ongoing maintenance, you can guard against malicious hackers and data theft. 

Also, don’t use any vendor-supplied default for system passwords. Cybercriminals will have easy access to the default passwords in no time. Hence, you have to change and disable the default passwords to avoid exploiting internal networks and comprise the data. Moreover, all undocumented services should be removed to ensure internal network safety.

Protect cardholder data at all cost

While you need to process and use cardholder data, it is also extremely important to securely store it. Certain steps should be taken to protect stored cardholder data to prevent potential misuse and theft. 

At the most basic level, this means eliminating cardholder data storage whenever possible – if you don’t need it, don’t keep it. But when storage isn’t an option, you should ensure that you only maintain the minimal amount of cardholder data required for legal or business needs. 

This can include things like customer name and billing address, but never any information that could compromise the integrity of a transaction like Sensitive Authentication Data (SAD). 

Also, cardholder data can be stored if necessary but should be unreadable. The data can include Primary Account Number, cardholder name, and expiration date.

For example, when processing a payment through a POS system, both the magnetic stripe and EMV chip should be excluded from stored information along with any Credit Verification Codes (CVV) and Personal Identification Numbers (PIN/Pin Block). 

Not only that, you should also encrypt the transmission of cardholder data when you share it over open public networks. Make sure that the encryption you use has strong cryptography to prevent bad actors from accessing the information.

Establish a vulnerability management program

To properly defend against cyber threats, the next goal is to maintain a robust vulnerability management program that includes anti-virus software or programs and other protective measures to protect cardholder data. 

Achieve Always-on compliance with Sprinto

Anti-virus programs should be regularly updated, set to scan periodically, and generate audit logs – importantly, end users should not have the ability to disable them without authorization from management. 

In addition, all systems should be regularly scanned for malware and updated with the latest security patches. For example, this can include ensuring that P2P file sharing is monitored or disabled altogether. 

Also, you must update and secure your systems and applications constantly. Train your developers regularly on identifying newly discovered vulnerabilities based on the risk they pose and properly code them to avoid any common software development mistakes in the future. 

We have a free resource for you if you want to check how risk assessment approach works:

Some of the common vulnerabilities include, but are not limited to: 

  • Cross-site scripting
  • Cross-site request forgery
  • Buffer overflows 
six pci dss compliance goals

Publicly accessible web applications should be scanned with specialized tools or methods (Pentesting) and utilizing a Web Application Firewall.

Also check out: How to get PCI attestation of compliance

Build strong access control measures

A few measures, like access control, are essential to have robust digital security. After all, a breach of your valuable cardholder data is much less likely when only the right people have the keys. 

Fortunately, access control systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated and reliable. A central example is based on the “need to know” approach – which limits user access to the bare minimum needed for their job function. 

This means that administrators only give employees access privileges over those areas required for them to do their job properly – ensuring no data is exposed unnecessarily. Regarding system components, companies should always set up default “deny all” settings for granular authorization to protect core assets. Other measures under the PCI goals include: 

  • All users must authenticate themselves to access system components using a unique ID. This way, you can hold people accountable for their actions. 
  • Passwords must be at least seven characters long with a combination of letters and numbers.
  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), which requires a second layer of authentication and a password. This is usually accomplished with a code sent to another device, like your phone, key fob/smart card, or biometric scan.

Continuously monitor and test networks

Keeping networks and data secure is all about appropriate monitoring and testing. To that end, tracking and monitoring access to any network resources or cardholder data are important. 

Ensuring there are logging systems in place for all necessary systems can help tie any suspicious activity back to the relevant account. It’s recommended that at least one year of logs be kept, with three months available quickly if needed. 

Along with this, regular backup processes should be initiated on a centralized server so that any alterations or deletions of log information can be identified soon. 

goal of pci dss

For example, it’s best practice to review logs daily and address any abnormalities immediately – this way, any attempts by intruders are flagged and dealt with before they cause too much trouble. 

You should also regularly test security systems and processes, including penetration testing and internal and external vulnerability scans

This work will help ensure the network is secure from newly discovered vulnerabilities. In addition, entities need to scan the cardholder environment for unauthorized access points using manual or automated methods; intrusion detection systems should also provide alerts when unexpected changes occur.

Also read: PCI DSS levels

Maintain an information security policy

Developing an effective information security policy is an important way to ensure the safety of cardholder data. This policy should outline which employees can use which devices and for what purpose. Additionally, specify which locations these devices may be used in for extra precaution.

For example, allowing your employees access to certain financial data from outside the office could cause serious breaches in information security, so be sure to create parameters around where and when employee-owned devices are allowed. 

You’ll also need to define acceptable usage policies that address privacy guidelines and expectations when using the entity’s network and computers. Regular training with staff can help reinforce these policies and keep everyone up-to-date on any changes or recent developments related to information security. 

Also, having an incident response plan for data breaches and security threats. This plan generally contains notifying the card brands, continuous plans, and storing backups of your data. Plus, be sure to follow any rules set by your local government regarding public announcements about the incident.

Also check out: PCI DSS network segmentation

What’s Next?

Keeping up with PCI DSS compliance can quickly become exhausting. With hundreds of controls and checks to implement, monitor and track, keeping tabs on security concerns as you grow isn’t easy. 

This is where Sprinto comes in – an automated compliance platform that allows you to hit the ground running and ensure your business stays compliant with all necessary standards. 

Not only does it take the hassle out of implementing and monitoring the many controls, but it even highlights areas for improvement – so if something has gone out of place, you can promptly jump in and sort it out. 

Join Sprinto’s 450+ satisfied compliance conquerors

Among other features like automatic threat alerts or live insights into compliance milestones reached, Sprinto also offers a unique continuous monitoring feature that scans every entity within your organization for full PCI DSS compliance – so you’re always covered! 

At Sprinto, our mission is clear: put you at ease when it comes to security, while you focus on the growth of your company. Book a demo now!


How many PCI DSS goals are there?

Under PCI DSS, six primary goals are further broken down into 12 subgroups. These goals and requirements are vital to protect cardholder data.

What are the five goals of security?

The five security goals are as follows: protection of Confidentiality, Availability, Integrity, Authenticity, and Non- repudiation of user data.

Meeba Gracy

Meeba Gracy

Meeba, an ISC2-certified cybersecurity specialist, passionately decodes and delivers impactful content on compliance and complex digital security matters. Adept at transforming intricate concepts into accessible insights, she’s committed to enlightening readers. Off the clock, she can be found with her nose in the latest thriller novel or exploring new haunts in the city.

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