How PCI SAQ is Helpful for the Credit Card Industry Today?

May 24, 2017 | By Natasha Miranda


What is PCI SAQ?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard Self-Assessment Questionnaires (PCI DSS SAQs) are validation tools for merchants and service providers that are eligible to evaluate and report their PCI DSS compliance via self-assessment.

The credit card industry evolves around the merchants who need to be able to accept credit card payments, the payment brands, and the merchants’ banks. The framework laid out by the PCI Council provides guidelines for the best practices for merchants which would help them ensure the security of the sensitive data. The council has defined a number of different SAQs and these are intended to meet the requirements of specific types of environments – businesses.

How it Works?

Step 1: A look at the transaction workflow of a credit card payment reveals that in the first step – the customer submits his/her credit card for payment to the merchant. The merchant’s payment system sends this sensitive information to the payment processor via a secure data transmission connection. The merchant bank’s processor now submits the transaction details to the credit card network. The credit card network (Discover, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc) sends the transaction details to the “issuing bank” – the bank that provided the credit card to the customer.

Step 2:The issuing bank checks out the customer’s available credit limit and funds and then based on that it approves/declines the transaction. This authorization is now sent back to the credit card network, which then relays these results to the processor of the merchant bank. These transaction results – whether approved or not – is then sent to the merchant who then provides or declines-to-provide the product or services.

Step 3:The card issuing bank now transfers the necessary funds to the credit card network that functions as a conduit to transfer funds to the merchant’s bank. In the final process termed as “settlement”, these funds are then deposited to the merchant’s account.

Now, all these entities must ensure that details of the card data always remain integral and secure. If the card data is eavesdropped or stolen by malicious entities, this data can be used to create cloned cards that can be used at other merchants for purchasing goods and services. It is critical for securing the data, and the guidelines provided by PCI DSS help ensure that security.

Methods to take up PCI SAQ:

Taking the SAQ will help the merchant know the shortfalls in his/her system, and then following the recommendations will help the merchant become PCI compliant. The questionnaire covers 12 security requirements in 6 sections. Successful completion of compliance serves as proof that can be provided to the merchant’s bank.

Taking the SAQ questionnaire directly may be difficult due to its intricacies. There are wizards such as the Hackerguardian PCI Compliance Wizard that provides informative guidance through each step of the process. These wizards also provide remediation plans as well as the final compliant SAQ.

The SAQ serves as proof for the merchant’s bank to function as its acquiring bank. The PCI DSS SAQ serves as a complete guidance for all entities involved in the credit card payment process.


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