What Type of PCI Data Must Be Protected?


Heather Bennett

When it comes to protecting PCI data, it is essential to understand what type of information falls under this category. PCI data refers to any sensitive information that is involved in payment card transactions. This includes credit card numbers, debit card numbers, and other personal identification information (PII) associated with the cardholder.

Types of PCI Data

There are several types of PCI data that must be protected to ensure the security and integrity of payment card transactions. These include:

Credit Card Numbers

Credit card numbers are the primary piece of information that needs protection. These are the unique 16-digit numbers assigned to each credit card and serve as the main identifier for payment processing.

Debit Card Numbers

Debit card numbers are similar to credit card numbers but are linked directly to a user’s bank account. They also need to be safeguarded against unauthorized access or use.

Cardholder Names

The cardholder name is another crucial element of PCI data. It identifies the individual who owns the payment card and should be protected from unauthorized disclosure.

Expiration Dates

Expiration dates play a significant role in validating payment cards. While they may not seem as sensitive as other elements, they still need protection as they can be exploited in combination with other data.


CVV/CVC codes, also known as Card Verification Values or Codes, are three or four-digit security codes printed on payment cards. These codes provide an extra layer of security during online or over-the-phone transactions and should never be stored after authorization.

Social Security Numbers

Social Security Numbers (SSNs) can sometimes be required for certain types of payment transactions. If collected, they must be protected with utmost care due to their potential for identity theft and fraud.

Best Practices for Protecting PCI Data

Now that we understand what type of data falls under PCI, it is crucial to implement best practices to protect this sensitive information. Here are some key recommendations:

  • Encryption: Use strong encryption methods to protect data both in transit and at rest.
  • Secure Networks: Maintain secure networks with firewalls, regular security updates, and robust access controls.
  • Access Controls: Implement strict access controls to limit who can access and handle PCI data.
  • Data Minimization: Collect and store only the necessary PCI data. Avoid retaining unnecessary information.
  • Vulnerability Scanning: Regularly scan systems for vulnerabilities and address any identified issues promptly.
  • Audit Logs: Keep detailed audit logs of all activities related to PCI data, including access, modifications, and deletions.

In conclusion, protecting PCI data is of utmost importance in maintaining the trust and security of payment card transactions. By understanding the types of information that require protection and implementing best practices to safeguard this sensitive data, businesses can ensure compliance with industry standards while minimizing the risk of unauthorized access or misuse.

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