There are some people who still insist on paying the old-fashioned way, with cash. If you purchase anything using a credit card, you are most likely aware that thousands of cardholders have had their data stolen by unethical hackers. For this reason, there are standards, which businesses that offer credit card payment as an option must follow. Consumers have the assurance that a business is working to protect their valuable information by adhering to Payment Card Industry, PCI compliance mandates.
What Is PCI Compliance?
All major credit card issuers must adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). This is a mandated compliance standard established by the Payment Card Industry Security Council. The standards apply to any business, no matter how large or small, which accepts credit card payments. It protects cardholder data and reduces the chances of credit card fraud.
For a business to be PCI compliant, they must meet a series of requirements established by the PCI-SC. PCI compliance standards are divided into multiple classifications depending on the method of payment venue of the transaction. Business classifications for PCI compliance purposes fall into four categories based on the number of card transactions handled during a 12-month period.
How to Implement PCI Compliance
It’s all too common for businesses to treat PCI compliance as a once a year responsibility. This is a false assumption that can lead to a misleading feeling of security, and then ultimately some very costly consequences. IT professionals suggest that nearly every compromised system that experienced a data breach was out of compliance.
Since PCI compliance is essential to the livelihood of a business, not to mention the security of their valued customers. Maintaining compliance needs to be an ongoing assignment. If your business accepts credit card payments, it’s suggested you follow these steps and consider a few strategic methods to remain PCI compliant.
The steps that your business is required to take will depend on your classification level. A class 1 PCI compliance rating designates the largest entities, which process over 6 million Visa or MasterCard transactions over a twelve-month period. The classifications and steps required for PCI compliance drop, as the number of transactions becomes lower.
The lowest class level is 4 and is for e-commerce businesses with less than 20,000 online purchases registered and other companies with less than a million accepted card payments. Small businesses may be able to satisfy compliance requirements once per year, but most companies benefit from applying these steps as warranted, part of an ongoing process.
1: Assess the Data System
Businesses need to exercise caution will all credit card data. Nothing can cost a business more profoundly than a breach of consumer financial security. Your business needs to implement this step in a timely fashion when there is any indication of a potential vulnerability.
Your business needs to either employ an IT professional or hire the services of one to fix any vulnerability uncovered by the assessment step. An excellent preventive measure to help ensure customer card security is to erase cardholder information unless the data is absolutely needed.
Do not keep consumer cardholder data out of convenience for your business operations; the practice carries too many consequences if your system is unfortunately compromised. By implementing a good PCI compliant remediation plan, you can remove a great deal of the risk of a breach.
3: Filing Reports
The final step in maintaining good PCI compliance is to remit all the required reports to the appropriate banks and credit card companies you do business.
The brevity of your reports will be dictated by the PCI level established by the number of transactions you handle, plus any particular stipulations by specific financial institutions you conduct business.
Methods & Strategies
Adhering to some sound strategies can improve the PCI compliance process. Following the same model as a business plan, a PCI compliant strategy needs to be coherent. You need to consider all the factors particular to how your company conducts financial transactions. These strategic tips can help your business compete safely in today’s market.
#1. Scheduled Audits
Nothing shows transparency like an audit. The larger your business, the more frequent and in depth these need to be. As one performs these business audits, your business will be able to update data inventory and further identify places where you are vulnerable to a breach.
Consumers are not prone to read lengthy privacy statements. To show that your company cares about privacy and security, especially in relation to your customer’s sensitive financial data, post a clear and concise policy on how your company handles credit card information. Include this policy as part of communications with banks and the credit card companies as well.
#3. Layer the Security
Hackers are vigilant in their unethical attempts to circumvent security walls. Businesses must be equally determined to protect the financial data of consumers. You show a true sense of commitment to that end if you have your IT team build multiple layers of security within your system. Encrypt all data, and tell your customers’ that you do. Consider using multi-factor authentication for all credit transactions.
Often people associate the mention of a firewall with protecting sensitive company data and computer systems. While a strong firewall is necessary for this type of security, it also puts up another barrier against a breach of cardholder data. The thicker the barrier you put between a hacker and your customer’s financial data the safer your business interests will be.
PCI Compliance and cardholder security are complex parts of running a business. You may find the process to be time-consuming, let alone confusing. To guarantee that your customer’s data is secure, reach out to the banks and credit card entities for advice. They value their cardholders as much as you value their business.
Since a data breach can devastate your business, you might also consider contracting with an outside agency that specializes in PCI compliance procedures. Sometimes a PCI category level is a 1 or a 2. In this case, consider hiring an IT professional dedicated to this one area. The consequences and financial ramifications of falling out of PCI compliance are serious. Enduring a data breach will cost a lot more than the annual salary of an IT professional.