Do You Need a PCI DSS Audit? Here's How to Determine If and When

PCI DSS audits are an important part of ensuring the security of your business. If you process, store, or transmit credit card information, then you need to be compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). A PCI audit is a comprehensive review of your organization’s security measures and processes to ensure that they meet the requirements set out by the PCI DSS.

Are you wondering if your organization needs to undergo a PCI DSS audit? If so, you're not alone. Many businesses that handle credit card transactions have questions about the requirements and circumstances surrounding PCI DSS audits. In this blog post, we'll discuss the factors that determine whether your organization needs an audit and, if so, under what circumstances.

  1. Determine if your organization is subject to PCI DSS requirements

     The first step in deciding whether you need a PCI DSS audit is to determine if your organization is subject to PCI DSS requirements. If your organization stores, processes, or transmits cardholder data, you must comply with PCI DSS requirements to protect cardholder information and minimize the risk of data breaches.
  2. Understand your organization's merchant level 

    Your organization's merchant level determines the specific PCI DSS compliance requirements, including whether or not you need to undergo a PCI DSS audit. Merchant levels are based on the number of credit card transactions your organization processes annually:
  • Level 1: More than 6 million transactions per year
  • Level 2: 1 to 6 million transactions per year
  • Level 3: 20,000 to 1 million e-commerce transactions per year
  • Level 4: Fewer than 20,000 e-commerce transactions per year or up to 1 million total transactions per year
  1. Assess PCI DSS audit requirements based on your merchant level 

    Different merchant levels have varying PCI DSS audit requirements:
  • Level 1: Level 1 merchants must undergo an annual PCI DSS audit conducted by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) and submit a Report on Compliance (ROC). They must also perform quarterly network vulnerability scans by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).
  • Level 2, 3, and 4: Merchants at these levels are not required to undergo a PCI DSS audit by a QSA. Instead, they must complete an annual Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) and conduct quarterly network vulnerability scans by an ASV.

However, some exceptions may apply. Your acquiring bank may require an audit even if you're not a Level 1 merchant, especially in cases of previous data breaches or non-compliance.

  1. Consider additional factors 

    Apart from the merchant level, additional factors might influence your organization's need for a PCI DSS audit:
  • Service Providers: If your organization is a service provider that stores, processes, or transmits cardholder data on behalf of other merchants, you may need to undergo a PCI DSS audit regardless of your transaction volume.
  • Contractual Requirements: Some contracts or business agreements may require your organization to undergo a PCI DSS audit, regardless of your merchant level or transaction volume.
  • Regulatory Requirements: Certain industries or jurisdictions may impose additional regulatory requirements that necessitate a PCI DSS audit.

Understanding your organization's PCI DSS requirements is crucial to ensuring the security of cardholder data and maintaining trust with your customers. While not all organizations need to undergo a PCI DSS audit, it is essential to assess your merchant level, service provider status, and any contractual or regulatory requirements to determine if and when an audit is necessary. By adhering to these guidelines, you can help safeguard your organization against data breaches and maintain compliance with industry standards.

To know more about PCI Compliance read our comprehensive blogpost here.

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