Each business must abide by certain compliance standards determined by how many credit card transactions it processes annually. Some, like Level 4 merchants who handle less than 20,000 online payments each year, are required to submit an annual self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ). PCI compliance services such as URM Consulting assist larger businesses that conduct larger volumes of payments.
PCI compliance mandates businesses monitor and test their networks regularly. Furthermore, a security policy must be developed and shared with relevant employees and vendors.
1. Create a security policy
Businesses that store, process, or transmit credit card data must develop a security policy outlining how their systems will be protected. This policy must outline the information security responsibilities for staff, contractors, and partners with access to sensitive credit card data; furthermore, it should outline your approach to key PCI requirements such as vulnerability management programs, encryption standards, and robust key management processes.
PCI compliance may seem daunting to business owners without extensive cybersecurity experience; however, steps can be taken to ease its burden. First of all, business owners should make their website PCI-compliant by installing SSL, which is required by most payment gateways and provides additional customer protection. Furthermore, as soon as updates become available on any systems storing cardholder data (such as databases, web servers, and firewalls), those updates must also be installed immediately.
Businesses must ensure they segregate payment processing systems from other systems to minimize vulnerabilities and the amount of data lost if there is a breach. For instance, if your e-commerce store utilizes shared servers for email and non-payment-related activities like hosting an email server and non-payment-related tasks on one server(s), consider moving its payment system onto its own dedicated server protected by firewalls and security software.
Business owners should implement role-based access controls for those who require cardholder data access, limiting its availability only when necessary. Furthermore, it would be prudent to encrypt data at rest whenever possible in order to decrease the chances of breaches and make it more challenging for criminals to exploit stolen information.
2. Install Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is a security protocol that establishes an encrypted link between a web browser and a server, thus protecting any information exchanged between them from being exposed to hackers or thieves. Furthermore, SSL safeguards against identity theft by protecting personal data provided online from being exploited for fraudulent use.
To meet PCI compliance, all systems that store or process card data must be protected by SSL certificates. This is essential to any business accepting credit cards, as it protects customers’ sensitive card details while simultaneously reducing audit scopes.
Other steps you can take to protect your business include segmenting data to isolate cardholder-specific environments from general company files. This will reduce the number of systems requiring compliance testing while simultaneously lowering operation costs. You should encrypt any stored information both during transmission and storage on systems. Lastly, role-based access controls should be employed so as to restrict employees from viewing or editing cardholder data.
PCI compliance can be a complex and ongoing task for businesses, so it is wise to remain proactive about maintaining compliance. Should any changes to your card processing system arise, make sure that your compliance strategy reassesses and updates questionnaires accordingly.
Reaching PCI compliance can be an expensive endeavor that will involve your entire team’s participation. Fees to hire an approved scanning vendor to test your network and complete an assessment questionnaire can quickly add up for small businesses.
Employees play an essential part in safeguarding the security of any business, which is why it’s vital that every member of staff understands PCI compliance and how to handle credit card information properly. Doing so will reduce the risks of data breaches or fraud and help your organization build its reputation while safeguarding itself.
One way to educate employees on PCI compliance is through conducting training sessions throughout the year. At these sessions, you can discuss ways of keeping cardholder data secure while emphasizing why following protocols is so crucial. Furthermore, these sessions offer a great chance for employees to ask any questions, receive their input, and give their input as well.
Employees can take individual responsibility for protecting credit card data. This could involve simply reminding them to use strong passwords and not store sensitive authentication data on personal devices, or more complexly training them on how to report suspicious activity to your security team.
No matter the nature and size of your business, it is critical that all employees understand the implications of not adhering to protocol. Failure to do so could incur major, hefty financial penalties as well as impact your ability to accept payment cards in the future.
Curricula offers comprehensive PCI awareness training that covers all employees—even those not required to complete it—so as to help ensure employees remain up-to-date on PCI requirements and can also help prepare you for a self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) by highlighting any gaps in security measures and filling any security holes that might exist in your security measures.
Businesses adhering to PCI compliance requirements must closely monitor their network activity to detect any unauthorized access to sensitive information. Unauthorized users could gain entry by altering network devices such as switches and routers, so businesses should back up these settings regularly as part of PCI compliance and monitor for any unauthorized changes. Services like Network Configuration Manager, which automatically detects and restores previous configuration settings, can help meet this requirement.
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard mandates that organizations log network activities and keep daily records that can be reviewed annually. Reviewing each log line by line can be tedious; to speed things up, many companies rely on automated processes like Tripwire solutions that monitor for and notify administrators about activities that could indicate breaches.
Installing a firewall is another effective way of protecting your network and can prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information, as well as block phishing attempts by blocking sites known to send emails containing links that direct people towards malicious websites that deliver spam emails to customers. Sometimes payment processors require businesses to comply with PCI compliance by installing a firewall as one of their requirements.
Companies that collect and store credit card data must comply with PCI Compliance rules or face the risk of fines based on the number of cards handled; further, failing to do so may necessitate finding another payment processor or stopping accepting cards altogether.
Credit card companies mandate PCI compliance for any merchant or service provider who processes credit and debit card payments, with payment processors (Visa, MasterCard, and American Express) responsible for upholding it. Compliance enforcement falls to the PCI Security Standards Council, while payment processors manage compliance enforcement through payment processor accounts and card networks (Visa, MasterCard, and American Express).
To ensure compliance, start by mapping all of the systems, network connections, and applications that interact with card data throughout your organization. Typically, this requires assistance from cybersecurity and IT teams. Next, prioritize areas requiring attention, such as upgrading to more secure hardware, updating outdated software, installing additional firewalls and antivirus programs, etc.
Care must be taken when protecting cardholder data. Compromised data could result in lost sales, damaged customer trust and brand image, as well as lawsuits being brought against your organization by customers and the payment networks, noncompliance fines from payment networks, and canceled card accounts.
As many small businesses prioritize growth over information security budgets, their budgets may become constrained. Therefore, it’s crucial that you find an equilibrium between needs and budget to ensure compliance without impeding growth or innovation in your organization.
Integrating payment processing into a point-of-sale, or POS, system can make PCI compliance simpler and reduce the risk of data breaches. These systems tend to be secure, low-maintenance, and include support for payment card industry requirements, making them ideal for businesses with limited IT resources who still must meet compliance obligations. Nevertheless, having such a POS does not replace regular updates to operating systems and application software; the Council does not permit unsupported OSes, apps, or platforms; therefore, upgrading should always be pursued if possible.
Use PCI Compliance Services
In order to ensure adequate compliance with the PCI DSS, you have to conduct an annual assessment. For companies that handle large volumes of transactions (over 6 million per card brand for merchants and 300,000 for service providers), an independent Qualified Security Assessor Company (such as URM Consulting) must complete a report on compliance (ROC).
For smaller businesses, the option is available to demonstrate compliance through a self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ). It is crucial to prioritise compliance to protect both your business and your customers.