Understanding the Credit Card Auditing Process

Also called the PCI compliance process, credit card auditing can be a challenging thing to comprehend. It’s a procedure all businesses must undergo, no matter how big or small. It ensures that their customer’s data will always be protected if they engage in credit or debit card transactions or if they choose to store their info in an internal database belonging to a company. Therefore, we have put together a short step-by-step guide to the credit card auditing process, for your convenience.

What Is Credit Card Auditing or PCI Compliance?

To be able to understand what it is, we must first look at its name. PCI is an abbreviation which stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. Simply put, these ‘standards’, as they call them, are a set of requirements with which every single company that offers payment via credit card has to comply.

If you are the owner of a firm, and your website can operate, accept, process, transmit, and store data belonging to a cardholder, then you are obliged by law to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. It’s the only way you can ensure your patrons can transact safely on your website.

Building on this idea, credit card auditing or PCI compliance is a process through which merchants are verified to see if they comply with said standards. An audit is just about the only way to check if they are offering maximum security to their customers and credit cards.

There is an independent organization, called the PCI Security Standard Council that was created in 2006. Its purpose is to administer and manage the PCI. However, you should know that it will not enforce compliance. This task comes into the realm of the card brand, banks, as well as the retailers and businesses per se. This is also the reason why many large credit card brands have played a significant role in defining the PCI Standards. Some examples include MasterCard, Visa or American Express.

What Are the Benefits of the Credit Card Auditing Process?

One of the most frequent questions business owners ask themselves when it comes to PCI compliance is if the credit card auditing process is necessary or not. They struggle with this conundrum because it’s a lengthy and intricate procedure and they typically want to skip it. However, as pointed out above, it is mandatory, so that your patrons can rest assured they can transact safely on your website.

Here are some of the benefits you will enjoy if you go through the credit card auditing procedures.

  • Your clients will view your company as a serious one, that puts their finances’ safety first. Once you become compliant with the PCI DSS, they will return to your website whenever they need, detrimental to other competitor sites.
  • Complying with the PCI DSS not only ensures you the respect and trust of clients, but of other companies, banks, and credit card issuers as well.
  • You get to prevent all security breaches and transform your customers’ shopping sprees into a pleasant and safe experience which they will undoubtedly seek out again.
  • You protect your clients as well as your company from confidential information leaks which, in the digital age, is a crucial thing to obtain.

credit card and magnifying glass in credit card auditing

What Does a Credit Card Auditing Procedure Involve?

As promised in the introduction, here is a step-by-step summary of what the credit card auditing or PCI compliance process involves.

  • You, as the business owner, need to find a qualified security assessor or QSA to run the audit. He or she has to be approved by the PCI SSC or the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. Otherwise, it will not be an official assessment.
    The Assessor’s first job in the credit card auditing process will be to appraise your security network, as well as all your policies, systems, infrastructure, and procedures. When he finishes, he is obliged to present you some risk assessment papers. This leads us to the next step.
  • The risk assessment is going to become the basis of your attempt at improving your current security system. Centered on it, the QSA will advise you on how to train your staff towards security awareness. This formal training is a crucial step, as it will give your employees access to the knowledge and skills they need to meet the PCI standards that are currently in place. It will also make them more responsible, by showing them just how critical secure business conduct is, from this point of view.
  • The third step revolves around vulnerabilities. In case the QSA finds any after he or she performs the assessment, he will rank them. The criterion used in this ranking is ‘seriousness’, and it will allow you to prioritize the vulnerabilities. In this way, you will be able to address the crucial ones first and finish with the secondary weak points. Evidently, the main idea here is to improve your security when it comes to credit card payments on your website.

PCI DSS compliance concept art in credit card auditing

  • The last step involves consulting. It’s crucial you discuss all the problems you notice with the QSA, as it is the only way you can fix them. The consultant will be able to give you advice on this and show you how to improve your PCI compliance.
    At this point, the QSA agent will also determine your level of compliance. If you’ve never been through a credit card auditing procedure before, chances are your compliance level is quite low.
    However, if it’s already high, then you don’t have to prepare as intensely for the audit as you would otherwise do, nor will you have too many problems to fix afterward.
    One tip here – if your company has been the victim of a security breach in the past, make sure to tell your QSA all about it. He or she will teach you how to improve your security measures so that it doesn’t happen again.

Although it might seem like a bit of a nuisance since it’s not the most pleasant of processes, a credit card auditing procedure or PCI compliance is necessary. It will allow for a stable system of managing data security and make sure you will never be exposed to any breaches.

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