Nowadays, the internet is the primary channel through which customers carry out transactions regarding a wide variety of goods and services. Due to the sensitive customer data that is involved in every online credit card transaction, a set of safety requirements for protecting consumer data was developed by credit card companies. These requirements, referred to as PCI DSS (Payment Credit Industry Data Security Standard), define standards of data protection and security procedures that govern online credit card transactions.

Ecommerce PCI compliance is an absolute necessity.  With up to 100% of your transactions taking place online, you need to develop internal information security programs that ensure PCI compliance and also meets your business needs. PCI compliance, along with DDPR, will revolutionize how ecommerce businesses like yours handle customer data moving forward.


Understanding PCI Compliance

Ecommerce companies face multiple risks in an online payment world. Indeed, customers may be susceptible to unauthorized transactions, while merchants may be susceptible to phishing attacks, ransomware, and other cyber risks. PCI compliance was developed to protect both businesses and consumers, especially in an online space.

By developing and maintaining PCI compliance, you can better manage the flow, usage, and storage of important customer data. PCI compliance is also a stepping stone for ecommerce companies to develop more comprehensive information security programs that can increase business efficiency.


The 4 Levels of PCI Compliance

PCI compliance is split into 4 levels, dependent on the quantity of credit card transactions that the business processes every year. Level I is the highest level (most credit card transactions), and level IV is the lowest (fewest transactions).


Level I

This level of compliance is designed for merchants that process over 6 million digital transactions a year. To attain proper compliance, an independent security assessor needs to validate that the business is meeting minimum requirements every year.

In addition, quarterly scans should be carried out in-house by the business to assess the level of compliance in the network.

Level II

For businesses that process between 1-6 million digital transactions, quarterly internal scans are required to establish compliance. An external assessor is not necessary, but the business should fill in a self-questionnaire every year.

Level III

This compliance level is for companies processing $20,000 to 1 million in credit card transactions per year. Quarterly security and data scans are required, but an external assessor is not a requirement for this level of compliance.

Level IV

As the lowest compliance level, it covers businesses processing $20,000 transactions or less. Such businesses only need basic protection measures such as software security platforms and network firewalls.


Ecommerce businesses cannot afford to be non-compliant

PCI compliance should be taken seriously, especially for ecommerce businesses. Credit card companies are posing steep fines for merchants who fail to establish necessary PCI compliance levels, which can interfere with your operations.

Even worse, non-PCI compliance can erode customer trust and push them away from interacting with your business.


How to secure your ecommerce business against data breaches

At the end of the day, PCI compliance was established to protect both customer and business data. It is specifically aimed at protecting against data breaches that may interfere with sensitive customer or business information. In order to achieve this, data packets need to be encrypted. It is the data packets that travel between the business and the customer across internet platforms. For ecommerce businesses, data packets are the fuel that drives online transactions.

There are multiple levels for controlling data packets, the most basic being carrying out regular software updates. Other actions that your business can take to protect customer data include:

Related: 10 Ways to Build Customer Trust to Increase Ecommerce Sales


Regularly scanning information networks

It is important, especially for ecommerce businesses, to regularly scan their current networks for threats. Indeed, these scans may reveal that software platforms are outdated or inefficient, or that there is a weak link in the network firewall where cyber-attacks can originate from.


Anticipating threats from all sources

Businesses should be aware that a threat can arise from any source, both internal and external, accidental or on purpose.


Limiting access to sensitive customer information

In order to control threats arising from internal sources, you should take steps to limit the access to sensitive customer information. Access control should ensure that only relevant personnel have access to customer financial records, as well as the ability of employees to process various credit card transactions (such as refunds).

In addition, social security numbers, addresses, and other sensitive information should only be accessible upon special approval by management.


Keeping intrusions at bay

While protecting against data breaches is key, there are additional steps ecommerce businesses should take to secure customer information. Firewalls should be set up to block as many threats as possible before they penetrate the network. In addition, patches should be robust enough to upgrade PCI compliance, and modem/router passwords should be frequently updated to limit hacks.

With these steps, not only will your ecommerce business maintain PCI compliance, you will also develop customer trust and attain growth due to your business’s high levels of data security.


This article was written by Ken Lynch. He is an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity’s success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk, and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT.  Learn more at

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