pci dss

How Much Does PCI Compliance Cost?

By ERMProtect Staff

As cyber threats continue to evolve, protecting sensitive data has become a top priority for organizations across all industries. This is especially true for organizations that handle credit or debit card transactions, which are required to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). PCI compliance is necessary for any business that accepts, stores, processes, or transmits credit card information. In this article, we'll explore the cost of PCI compliance and how organizations should budget for it.

What Is PCI Compliance?

PCI compliance centers around a set of security standards mandated by major credit card companies, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover, and developed and managed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). These standards are designed to protect cardholder data by ensuring that businesses are using secure methods to process customer payment information. Failure to comply with PCI standards can result in legal penalties (including hefty fines) and significant reputational harm.

How Much Does PCI Compliance Cost?

The cost of achieving and maintaining PCI compliance varies greatly depending on several factors, including the size and complexity of the organization and its payment processing system, the number of transactions the organization processes each year, and the type of technology infrastructure and third-party providers involved.

Cost of PCI Compliance for Small or Medium-sized Businesses

For small to medium-sized organizations with relatively simple payment card processing systems, the cost of achieving and maintaining PCI compliance can range from $20,000 to $50,000 per year. This includes the cost of implementing necessary security controls and technologies, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and encryption tools, as well as the cost of conducting regular security assessments and audits to ensure ongoing compliance.

Cost of PCI Compliance for Large Businesses

For larger organizations with more complex payment card processing systems, the cost of achieving and maintaining PCI compliance can be much higher, potentially extending into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. This is mainly due to the increased scale and complexity of larger organizations’ infrastructures, which necessitates more advanced security technologies, additional dedicated security personnel, and more frequent security audits.

In addition to the size and complexity of an organization and its payment card processing system, other factors that can influence the cost of PCI compliance include the level of compliance required by the organization's merchant bank or payment processor, the number of transactions processed each year, and the type of third-party providers in use.

Which Factors Influence the Cost of PCI Compliance?

Here is a more detailed breakdown of the some of the primary variables that influence an organization’s PCI compliance costs:

Number of Transactions per Year

The number of card transactions an organization processes each year is one of the most significant factors that affects the cost of PCI compliance. The PCI DSS defines four levels of required compliance based on annual card transaction volume.

  • Level 1 compliance is required for organizations that process more than 6 million card transactions per year.
  • Level 2 compliance is required for organizations that process between 1 million and 6 million card transactions per year.
  • Level 3 compliance is required for organizations that process between 20,000 and 1 million card transactions per year.
  • Level 4 compliance is required for organizations that process fewer than 20,000 card transactions per year.

Achieving higher levels of compliance requires more rigorous and extensive testing, which increases the cost of compliance.

Level 1 organizations are required to undergo annual on-site assessments by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA). All other levels must complete an annual PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) in addition to performing the required security testing as outlined by the PCI DSS. However, it’s usually more efficient for level 2 and 3 organizations to schedule an audit with a QSA rather than undergo self-assessments. Level 4 organizations may be able to efficiently self-assess.

Technology Infrastructure

The size and complexity of an organization's technology infrastructure also influences the cost of maintaining PCI compliance since larger infrastructures tend to create more opportunities for compliance gaps. In addition, older or less secure technology infrastructure may need to be upgraded or replaced to ensure all hardware, software, and network equipment meets current industry standards for security and data protection. Upgrading technology infrastructure can be expensive, but it is unavoidable for organizations that hope to achieve PCI compliance.

Security Culture

Organizations with cultures that prioritize security may be able to achieve compliance more quickly and cost effectively, since these organizations have likely already implemented some of the necessary security controls required for PCI compliance, such as regular vulnerability scanning and employee training.

Internal Resources

Organizations with dedicated in-house security teams may be able to internally handle some compliance activities, such as vulnerability scanning and risk assessments. Internal compliance testing can reduce the need to hire third party service providers to ensure PCI compliance, helping to lower costs. However, some compliance maintenance is best handled by the correct service provider, and smaller organizations with fewer resources may need to rely on outsourcing for all compliance activities.

Budgeting for PCI Compliance

Any organization that stores, transmits, or receives payment card data should carefully consider the factors that influence the cost of PCI compliance to create an appropriate PCI compliance budget. Remember that achieving compliance is not a one-time expense, but an ongoing effort that requires regular monitoring and maintenance. This means organizations need to plan for recurring expenses related to PCI compliance.

When creating a PCI compliance budget, consider the cost of any necessary upgrades to the organization’s technology infrastructure, the cost of any necessary staff training, and the cost of any outside consulting services necessary to achieve and maintain compliance. Organizations should ensure that any third-party providers they use are also PCI-compliant, as failure to do so can result in non-compliance penalties.

PCI Compliance Companies

There are many companies that provide PCI compliance solutions to help organizations achieve and maintain PCI compliance. PCI compliance services range from helping organizations with their self-assessment questionnaires to comprehensive audits by a Qualified Security Assessor (PCI QSA).

ERMProtect can provide organizations with a full range of cybersecurity services, including an audit readiness assessment designed to help organizations identify and close PCI compliance gaps prior to an audit. ERMProtect is a certified PCI QSA firm, and our professionals can certify an organization’s compliance with PCI DSS by conducting an assessment that leads to an Attestation of Compliance (AoC) and Report on Compliance (RoC).

For more information about our PCI compliance services or a free quote, please contact [email protected] or call 305.447-6750.

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