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What is PCI Compliance?

If you accept credit cards in your business then you've already been acquainted with the concept of PCI compliance.

Although credit cards provide a convenient means of accepting payments, your customers might not understand the complexities involved in each transaction. With increasing levels of eCommerce and retail fraud, PCI compliance has become more significant than ever.

As a business owner, you must understand what PCI compliance involves and ensure you follow the required standards to protect your customers’ sensitive data.

Here's what you should know about PCI compliance:

How Does PCI Compliance Work?

PCI or Payment Card Industry compliance is a mandate from credit card companies to ensure a level of security when it comes to credit card transactions. The term denotes the operational and technical standards that businesses follow to protect and secure credit card information issued by cardholders and transmitted through card transactions.

The PCI Security Standards Council is responsible for developing and managing PCI compliance standards. Meanwhile, the FTC or Federal Trade Commission is responsible for overseeing credit card processing as consumer oversight and protection is one of the FTC’s main responsibilities.

Although PCI compliance isn’t really enforced by law, it's considered compulsory through court precedent, where a landmark case in 2015 laid down most of the security standards that we follow today.

PCI compliance encompasses the regulations and rules, which cover particular prerequisites and teach sellers and organizations how to sustain machine compliance. It also covers other aspects, including the storage of sensitive data in a transaction, secure data processing, and the secure acceptance of credit card payments.

Requirements for PCI Compliance

Firewall Use and Maintenance

In simple terms, firewalls hinder the access of unknown or foreign entities trying to snoop for private information, such as a customer’s bank details. These prevention systems are frequently the first defense line against hackers. Firewalls are necessary for PCI DSS compliance due to their efficiency in preventing unlawful access and are found in just about every secure digital system linked to the internet.

Secure Cardholder Information

Obtaining cardholder information securely is one of the most significant and integral steps of PCI compliance. These policies don't merely cover how you'll store cardholder data but also include the management of encryption keys that add further layers of security.

Selecting the appropriate storage provider or method directly affects the safety of your customers' data. This is the core of sustaining PCI compliance and data security.

Password Protection

Modems, point of sale systems, routers, and other 3rd party products frequently come with security measures and generic passwords for easy public access.

Maintaining compliance in this area requires keeping a list of all software and devices which need a password. Other than password inventory, the implementation of basic precautions should take place in the event of a password leak.

Use and Update Anti-Virus Software Regularly

The installation of antivirus software should take place on all systems that are vulnerable to malware. Ensure you update anti-malware or antivirus programs regularly to identify known threats, and stop them before they have a chance to compromise your systems.

Malware attacks often occur in waves - spreading through illegal online resource websites. As a digital business owner, it’s important to follow news in the cybersecurity realm, and brace yourself in response to any impending threats.

Furthermore, you can configure systems to monitor suspicious activity, such as unauthorized access attempts and file transfers.

Encryption of Transmitted Data

When data moves across public networks, it's susceptible to external interception. That's how most hackers access cardholder information. Generally, this occurs when information goes through a payment gateway or payment processor.

An easy solution involves the encryption of cardholder data before transmission. If a hacker then tries to intercept the data, all they’ll receive is an encrypted mess without the right access keys.

Develop and Sustain Access Logs

All activity associated with primary account numbers and cardholder data need a log entry. The lack of appropriate record keeping and documentation is possibly the most common non-compliance issue, and often becomes evident when it’s too late.

To observe PCI Compliance, you’ll need to document how data flows into your company and the number of times access is required - especially for financial transactions.

Document Policies

Inventory of software, equipment, and employees with access will need documentation for compliance purposes. The logs of accessing cardholder information will also need documentation.

In the event of a security threat, this helps pinpoint what went wrong, and who should be held accountable.

Benefits of PCI Compliance

Reduced Likelihood of Security Breaches

Businesses today partially exist in the digital world, where security breaches can take place from numerous devices. With compliance policies set in place, you get a bird’s-eye view of who accessed your network, how they’ve accessed it, and what they’re up to.

Enhance Customer Confidence

Customers might not understand every detail surrounding PCI compliance, but with numerous public breaches, awareness regarding the issue is developing. No good customer will conduct business with a company that doesn’t take their security seriously, after all.

Final Thoughts

PCI compliance isn't just about checking off a list of rules. It offers a proven means of protecting you and your clients' data from external attacks, crucial data collection benefits, and the assurance that your business remains future-proof in an increasingly digital world.

If you're looking to start a business that accepts card payments, this informative guide will come in handy.

To learn how our payment solutions can help you run your business more efficiently, schedule a free consultation with our merchant services team today.


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