Performing a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

Performing a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

A marketable product is necessary to establish your retail business, but a complex payment method will work against you. As the world adapts online shopping, consider the payment processing solutions as opposed to the cash systems. However, here is what you need to know concerning the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance.

What is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)?

Increase in identity theft incidences marked the early 2000s thus prompting the large payment card organizations American Express, JCB International, Discover Financial Services, Visa Inc, and MasterCard to come together and form the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). The PCI SSC’s main aim was to protect their clients and their companies through a series of payment processing standards.

Together, the PCI SSC developed the PCI DSS to safeguard sensitive information.

What Are The Penalties for Non-Compliance?

PCI DSS is a typical security standard and not a law. That should not however, make compliance an option. Choosing non-compliance is a sure way of killing your organization.

Since most merchants choose non-compliance, acquiring banks and card brands have devised charges to force compliance. You will,  therefore, lose $5000 to $ 100,000 monthly on account of each breach. Such hefty fines will bring your small business to its knees, and the big corporations share in the pain too.

Who Needs to Be PCI DSS Compliant?

Irrespective of your firm size or industry, as long as you accept, store or transmit cardholder data, PCI compliance is for you.

Is PCI Compliance Similar For All Merchants?

The PCI DSS is considerate enough of your business size a decision they reach after computing the volume of your visa transactions for a year.  Based on the annual Visa transaction volumes, PCI DSS has four categories to shield your startup from compliance challenges.

The four Visa level definitions are:

1: A merchant with over six million Visa transactions processing all type of visa annually. Traders with highest risks belong in this level too.

2: Any trader who handles 1m to 6M Visa transactions of any kind in one year.

3: Any retailer who processes between  20,000 to 1M Visa e-commerce transactions annually.

  1. Any merchant who process at most 20,000 Visa e-commerce transactions annually or any retailer who handles ing a maximum of 1M all-type Visa transactions yearly.

Besides your visa level, it is important you know which online tier best describes your business as defined by the Visa definition. The tiers range from mortar to brick.

What Is Cardholder Data?

Cardholder data is any personally identifiable information (PII) which links you to both your credit and debit cards. The Cardholder Data comprises of your cardholder name, your primary account number (PAN), expiration date, and your service code.

Defining A Cardholder Data Environment (CDE)

PCI DSS compliance is a challenging task owing to the strenuous scoping of CDE. As per PCI DSS, CDE is any inter-connection or network that store, processes, and/or transmits your sensitive payment authentication data or cardholder data. Generally, definition of CDE by PCI SSC must include all components which support or connect to the individual network.

That is to say, your CDE is inclusive of any interface such as the wireless network, through which data passes. Also, involve any gadget such as personal and corporate tablets, laptops and Smartphone which connect to the network as well as the  more sophisticated hardware for example  routers and servers.

What Are Basic Steps to PCI Compliance?

Step 1: Catalog your data assets

Scoping your PCI environment forms the basis for creating cybersecurity procedures and policies. So, start by distinguishing all your networks such as routers, cellular network, wireless network, the terminal together with the point-of-service systems.

Step 2: Diagram your assets

When identification is complete, proceed to outlining how information flows in your environment while showing what interacts with the data. Pay closer attention to network segmentation to ensure you don’t transmit data to unprotected networks which will expose you to cybercriminals.

Step 3: Establish policies, procedures, and controls

Here is why you should be PCI DSS compliant; the standards are quite elaborate in defining the required controls. Further, the standards differentiate the acceptable and the unacceptable encryption while explaining the need for firewalls.

Consequently, PCI DSS explains its legal encryption and cryptographic methods.

How do you change your vendors’ passwords and configurations? Your internal policies should clearly discuss the procedure of modifying passwords and configurations on all third-party hardware and software.

As a merchant, PCI DSS requires that you personalize their services since the default configurations and passwords  are easily manipulated by hackers to gain unauthorized access to your system.

The terminal connections card-present POS POI cannot therefore use SSL/early TLS encryption since June 30, 2018,

Step 4: Continuously Monitor Your CDE Protections

How often do you monitor your CDE protections? For effective monitoring of the CDE, go beyond the review and instead perform audits. The audits will gauge the reliability of your control system while generating an effective audit trail.

Also, perform both the internal and the external vulnerability check.  Monitoring will build your confidence that the integrity of your information cannot be devalued either internally or externally. The monitoring should also include your vendors.

How can you ease the burden of PCI DSS compliance?

  • Use third-party compliance tools which are easy to understand and manipulate. Such platforms should expose your compliance challenges and your review control grades.


  • Secondly, invest in a software that offers your company timely, updated, monitoring insights hence your business can quickly manage the dynamics of the risks and vulnerabilities facing it.


Performing a cybersecurity risk assessment on your organization and taking the necessary step will ease your burden of PCI DSS compliance. While compliance is a choice, non compliance spells doom to your company.

How does scoping your PCI DSS compliance help you in better management of your compliance needs? For deeper Insights download “PCI-DSS: Steps to Successful Scoping” ebook.