Tips for an E-commerce Business To Achieve PCI DSS Compliance

Published on : 16 Oct 2020

pci dss compliance ecommerce

PCI DSS Compliance is a mandate for every organization dealing with cardholder data. So, when it comes to your E-commerce business, you are expected to be compliant with the PCI Standards. 

When running an e-commerce store, the last thing you would want to deal with is a security breach and its legal implications. So, for those of you running an e-commerce business, you must take into account various security parameters for protecting your business against cybersecurity threats. You need to ensure that your business is PCI Compliant, with the website and payment gateway developed and designed securely.

E-commerce website design is more than just looks. From the Compliance standpoint, you need to consider its functionality and also ensure that all the customer information passed from one party to another is secured.

Having said that it is important to note that, those of you who outsource the payment process to the third-party vendor still fall under the ambit of PCI Compliance.  Although your scope of compliance may reduce due to the outsourcing of the payment process, but you will still be responsible for the security of the payment process.

In today’s, article we have provided a few tips and guidance that will help you in your efforts of achieving PCI DSS Compliance. Given below are certain elements or security parameters that you must consider for your e-commerce business.

Tips for E-commerce businesses to achieve PCI DSS Compliance

1.Secure website / web application development

Designing and developing your e-commerce web site / application appropriately is the first stepping stone to your compliance success. In context to PCI DSS Compliance, this involves having knowledge about the standard requirements and implementing the same into developing a secure website.

  • Coding review:-

A poorly developed website /application is an easy target for an attacker to access sensitive data. More than often, poor coding creates vulnerabilities that allow attackers to successfully embed malicious code into your vulnerable websites. Hackers are always on a look to gather user data like passwords and credit card numbers. With embedded malicious code on your website, you could be exposed to data theft. This is why you should involve a professional third-party code reviewer to identify and bridge gaps in the coding. Considering a penetration test on your website is essential to identify and fix vulnerabilities.

  • Default password settings:-

Although it is a no brainer, I would still mention this as many of you still fall prey to breach due to the use of default password setting as well as other vendor defaults. You need to ensure that you do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security managers. As much as possible, you should have stringent security controls in place to make it difficult for hackers to penetrate or gain access to the inner workings of your website.

  • Firewalls:-

Installing and maintain a firewall configuration on your website is crucial for business. Firewall installation to a great extent protects cardholder data. Setting up a firewall is essential as it lets you filter the traffic on to your website and prevents unnecessary or dubious traffic. Hence, we strongly recommend you to install firewalls on your systems and networks for securing business information.

  • Anti-virus:- PCI DSS requirements clearly state that you must have antivirus programs installed to protect all systems against malware and regularly update antivirus programs to ensure compliance.

2.Protecting cardholder data:-

If you want your customers to trust you and purchase your products, you must secure their payment process and protect their sensitive card data.

  • Encryption:- Protecting Cardholder data is paramount for your business. As an e-commerce business vendor, you need to develop a strong security infrastructure. Data encryption is one such essential criteria set forth by PCI SSC for achieving PCI DSS Compliance. Ensure that sensitive information is encrypted during transactions. By encryption I mean your security software disguises the data in code when in transition and then decodes on reaching the intended destination. So, anyone who tries to intercepts the data midstream, during the transition will only find an unreadable code that cannot be deciphered without having the relevant keys. Ensure you have TLS 1.1 minimum for data transmission that encrypts the information to be transferred. For encryption Data stored, AES 256 is recommended. This is an effective security technique that is essential for your business to prevent data theft or data breach and achieve PCI Compliance.
  • Security considerations for your payment solution:- E-commerce businesses are privileged with different types of payment options. This would include having a merchant hosted payment form, iFrame, URL Redirect Model, or the JavaScript form to name a few. Depending on the type of payment option you select for your business, you need to implement the necessary security controls for your payment solution.
  • Storing Credit Card Information:- As much as possible, avoid storing credit card information on your website. So, when a customer checks out, their credit card information should be passed to your merchant via your SSL in an encrypted format. So, if ever anyone hacks your website they will not be able to get card numbers to steal. Moreover, for those of you who want your customers to create an account and save information for future payments will most definitely need to implement encryption technology to keep the data secure.

3.Policies Procedures & Security Training Programs

  • Maintain Information security policy:-

Your business needs to have in place and maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel. Having an overall security policy, and usage policy for relevant technologies will ensure you are regularly assessing risks and reviewing safety measures. This will also make your employees accountable for their actions, especially those tasked with security-related responsibilities.

  • Implementing access controls:-

Implementing access control is crucial for data protection. Restrict access to cardholder data will minimize the risk of misuse of information or data theft. Only those employees who are absolutely required to have access to a specific task should be authorized. All such access should be logged with due encryption. This makes the authorized person accountable for their activity performed. You must also focus on securing physical storage devices or tools that have card data stored in them to prevent data theft or manipulation.

  • Training Programs:-

Access to cardholder data should be restricted to only those who absolutely need it. However, with this, it also requires you to train the authorized employees to be cautious about hacks and other security threats. All it takes is one ignorant / careless employee to accidentally introduce malware into your system and give the hacker easy access into your system. So, ensure you train your employees regularly on your company’s security measures, protocols and build awareness on malicious emails, attachments, downloads, etc.

Also Read:- Why PCI DSS Training Important?

  • Vulnerability management programs:-

We are now in a world of highly advanced and sophisticated hackers attacking your systems. By exploiting vulnerabilities and worming their way into your website is always a major concern. While you may have firewalls and anti-virus in place to defend your systems you may still want to check its effectiveness every once in a while to ensure your systems are safe and free from vulnerabilities. This is when you would need to have in place vulnerability management programs to test your security controls and ensure the system is protected against the latest threats.

4.Testing networks and systems

  • Regularly Monitor and Test Networks:-

Track and monitor all access to network, resources, and cardholder data to ensure its security. Have in place necessary alert systems that keep you posted and helps you detect malicious activities; an SIEM is recommended for automated log correlation and alerting. So, even if anything goes wrong, you will have the information that will pinpoint the vulnerabilities and unauthorized access.  Moreover, we suggest you hire a third-party vendor to regularly test your security systems and processes and see how you can improve your security posture and ensure your website is PCI compliant.

  • Approved Scanning Vendors:-

There are Approved Scanning Vendors (ASVs) who conduct data security scanning and see whether businesses have taken necessary measures to meet the PCI standard. They are authorized to check whether there are any vulnerabilities in the externally exposed systems in your Card environment. This checks have to be done a minimum of every quarter. So, if there are any vulnerabilities or loopholes detected you will be informed of it. This is essential for it will help you in the decision making of whether or not to avail services from a specific vendor.


When it comes to your e-commerce business, make sure you take the right steps to secure your customer’s card data. Although making your business PCI-compliant will involve a significant amount of work, implementing these measures will secure your business against various cybersecurity threats.

As an expert I personally believe, PCI compliance is absolutely worth the efforts for any merchant. Having necessary security measures is enough to reassure potential customers that your website is safe for purchasing what they want. Moreover, receiving a PCI Compliance certificate for your e-commerce business will demonstrate that your business is committed to their safety.

This may most likely encourage them to come back many more times to your website and boost your sales. Remember PCI Compliance is not just for protecting your clients, but also for safeguarding your business and its reputation.

Also Read:- What are the Best Practices for Securing E-commerce Business?

Narendra Sahoo
Narendra Sahoo

Narendra Sahoo (PCI QPA, PCI QSA, PCI SSF ASSESSOR, CISSP, CISA, CRISC, 27001 LA) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm, based in the US, Singapore & India. Mr. Sahoo holds more than 25 years of experience in the IT Industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, & Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance & Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2 Compliance & Audit, PDPA, PDPB to name a few. The company has for years (since 2004) worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.