How often do PCI compliance checks have to be done by Payment Fintech Gateways and how long do they take?

How often do PCI compliance checks have to be done by Payment Fintech Gateways

In the digital age, where financial transactions are increasingly conducted online, ensuring the security of payment card information is of paramount importance. Payment fintech gateways play a vital role in facilitating secure payment processing for businesses and consumers alike. 

One crucial aspect of maintaining this security is adhering to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This set of requirements helps protect sensitive cardholder data and maintain a secure payment environment. 

What is PCI Compliance?

PCI compliance refers to adhering to the guidelines and requirements set forth by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) to ensure the secure handling of payment card information. Compliance with these standards helps protect cardholders’ sensitive data, reduces the risk of data breaches, and instils trust in customers. The PCI DSS encompasses a set of security controls and requirements that businesses must follow to achieve and maintain compliance.

PCI Compliance for Payment Fintech Gateways

Payment fintech gateways, which serve as intermediaries in online payment processing, are subject to PCI compliance requirements. As intermediaries, they handle cardholder data during payment transactions, making it essential for them to comply with the PCI DSS.

The frequency and duration of PCI compliance checks for payment fintech gateways depend on several factors, including the volume of transactions processed, the level of risk associated with the gateway’s operations, and the specific compliance requirements set by the PCI SSC. Generally, payment fintech gateways are required to undergo an annual PCI compliance assessment.

Annual PCI Compliance Assessment

The annual PCI compliance assessment involves conducting a thorough review of the payment fintech gateway’s processes, systems, and controls to ensure compliance with the PCI DSS. This assessment is typically performed by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) or an Internal Security Assessor (ISA) authorised by the PCI SSC.

The assessment process consists of several steps, including:

a. Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ): The payment fintech gateway may need to complete a self-assessment questionnaire, which helps identify areas of non-compliance and guides the subsequent assessment process.

b. External Vulnerability Scan: An external vulnerability scan is conducted by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) to identify any vulnerabilities in the gateway’s network infrastructure.

c. On-Site Audit: In some cases, depending on the level of risk associated with the gateway’s operations, an on-site audit may be required. During the audit, the assessor examines the gateway’s processes, systems, and controls in detail.

d. Report on Compliance (ROC): After completing the assessment, the assessor prepares a Report on Compliance (ROC), which provides an overview of the gateway’s compliance with the PCI DSS. The ROC outlines any vulnerabilities or areas of non-compliance that need to be addressed.

e. Remediation and Compliance Validation: If any non-compliance issues are identified, the payment fintech gateway must address them and provide evidence of remediation to the assessor. This may involve implementing additional security controls, modifying processes, or updating systems.

Timeframe for PCI Compliance Checks

The timeframe for PCI compliance checks by payment fintech gateways depends on various factors, including the size of the organisation, the complexity of its operations, and the level of preparedness regarding security controls. While the exact duration can vary, it is crucial to allocate sufficient time to ensure a comprehensive and successful compliance assessment. Here are some considerations regarding the timeframe for PCI compliance checks:

  1. Planning and Preparation: Adequate planning is essential to initiate the compliance process effectively. The payment fintech gateway should allocate time to understand the PCI DSS requirements, assess its current security measures, and identify any gaps that need to be addressed. This initial preparation phase can take several weeks or even months, depending on the organisation’s readiness.
  2. Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ): The completion of the SAQ is a critical step in the compliance assessment. The gateway should allocate time for thoroughly reviewing the questionnaire, gathering the necessary information, and accurately responding to the provided statements and requirements. This process may take a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the organisation’s complexity and availability of required data.
  3. External Vulnerability Scan: Conducting an external vulnerability scan is a mandatory requirement for many payment fintech gateways. The scan identifies potential vulnerabilities in the network infrastructure and systems. The duration of the vulnerability scan can vary depending on the size and complexity of the gateway’s network. It typically takes a few hours to complete, but the results and remediation of any identified vulnerabilities may require additional time.
  4. On-Site Audit: Depending on the level of risk associated with the gateway’s operations, an on-site audit may be required as part of the compliance assessment. The audit involves a comprehensive review of the gateway’s processes, systems, and controls to ensure compliance with the PCI DSS. The duration of the on-site audit varies based on the size and complexity of the organisation. It typically takes a few days to a week to complete, but it may require more time for extensive audits or multiple site visits.
  5. Remediation and Compliance Validation: After the assessment phase, if any non-compliance issues or vulnerabilities are identified, the payment fintech gateway must address them promptly. The time required for remediation can vary based on the nature and severity of the issues. It is crucial to allocate sufficient time for implementing necessary security controls, updating systems, and validating the effectiveness of the remediation measures.
  6. Ongoing Compliance Monitoring: PCI compliance is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. Payment fintech gateways should establish procedures and mechanisms for continuous monitoring and maintenance of PCI compliance. This includes regular reviews of security controls, periodic vulnerability scanning, staff training, and keeping up-to-date with changes in the PCI DSS requirements.

It is important to note that the exact timeframe for PCI compliance checks may vary depending on the specific circumstances of each payment fintech gateway. It is advisable to consult with a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) or an Internal Security Assessor (ISA) to get a better understanding of the expected timeline for your organisation’s compliance assessment.

Overall, allocating sufficient time and resources for the entire compliance process, including planning, assessment, remediation, and ongoing monitoring, is crucial to ensuring a successful and sustainable PCI compliance program for payment fintech gateways.

To understand how Quantanite can help you manage your PCI compliance and back office services get in touch and we will walk you through how we would support your business with these processes. 

To learn how Quantanite can improve your company’s back-office services contact us here.

Photo by Nathana Rebouças on Unsplash

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