Many of our client’s process countless payment card transactions in their daily operations. We’re on a mission to help all of our clients – and any organization that processes or collects payment card information (PCI) – understand how to stay secure and compliant. Read on for everything you need to know about PCI compliance.
When you think about it, cash is becoming a more and more rare form of currency in the business world. More often than not, when customers are paying for products and services these days, they’re charging it to a credit or debit card. This means that for many businesses and service providers, processing payment card transactions has become second-nature.
However, with all the convenience and speed of today’s economic reality, it can be easy to forget that sensitive financial information is constantly being shared, stored, and transmitted at a rapid-fire speed. This opens up new risks and vulnerabilities when it comes to financial and identity fraud, not to mention potential liability issues for businesses who process payment card transactions. That’s where PCI compliance comes in.
First things first, let’s answer the question that’s burning in everyone’s mind: what is PCI compliance and why is it so important to almost every organization in the modern business landscape? PCI compliance is mandated by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council which was formed in 2006 to mandate the security of credit card transactions between cardholders and merchants.
Being PCI compliant is all about consistently adhering to the comprehensive set of guidelines developed by the PCI Security Standards Council. These compliance standards require that all merchants and organizations who process payment card transactions handle payment card information in a proactively secure manner.
So, why is PCI compliance so important? There are a few key reasons. First of all, by implementing PCI compliance standards, organizations help reduce the likelihood that cardholders will have sensitive financial account information hacked or stolen. This means organizations can rest assured that PCI compliance standards help them to provide a secure customer service environment every time their products or services are being bought and sold.
Additionally, however, PCI compliance standards are designed to protect organizations themselves. If merchants and businesses do not handle credit card information according to PCI standards, they open themselves up to a multitude of risks. Not only could company financial data be stolen or misused, but they also open themselves up to major liability issues in the case of a data breach where client financial information is accessed without authorization and used for a variety of fraudulent actions.
Further, PCI compliance standards truly are serious business. When organizations fail to uphold these standards they could also face significant fines and penalties for non-compliance. To put it simply, the risks of ignoring PCI compliance regulations can have serious impacts on the reputation and business continuity of non-compliant organizations.
Now that we’ve got your attention, you’re probably wondering what PCI compliance regulations look like and how you might implement these standards for your own organization.
The requirements developed by the PCI Security Standards Council are known as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). The PCI DSS is a comprehensive and detailed mandate that includes 6 major objectives, 12 key requirements, 78 base requirements, and over 400 test procedures. This collection of guidelines and requirements are considered data security best practices by leading industry professionals.
All organizations that handle payment card information in any way are required to uphold PCI DSS as stipulated in their card processing agreements. While we couldn’t possibly go over all the details contained in PCI DSS here, we can take a closer look at the 6 major objectives that will help guide your organization and maintain rigorous PCI compliance. Let’s check them out in closer detail below.
Here are the 6 major objectives of the PCI DSS:
Build & maintain a secure network and systems
Organizations should be proactively working to develop and maintain an overtly secure IT infrastructure. This means making sure IT security strategies have been considered and implemented from end-to-end and might mean reaching out to a professional team of IT compliance experts for guidance.
Protect cardholder data
Your overall cybersecurity strategy should have specific policies and procedures for protecting cardholder data. Whether you need to secure hardware, software, or both, there should be a consistent and deliberate effort made to ensure payment card information is protected with multiple layers of security.
Maintain a vulnerability management program
Knowing your enemies is crucial. You should be committed to regularly assessing your network, system, and IT policies for security gaps, new risks, or unaddressed vulnerabilities. By remembering to constantly manage risk and vulnerability, you can assure your clients that their data security is always a top priority.
Implement strong access control measures
Who has access to sensitive information in your organization? How do they access it? What access control measures do you have in place? Focusing on who is or isn’t allowed to get their hands and eyes on sensitive data is crucial. Data access should always be secured using multi-factor authentication strategies and data access policies should be clear and consistent.
Regularly monitor and test network security
This one goes hand-in-hand with managing vulnerability and mitigating risk. One of the best ways to ensure your network is properly secured is to consistently monitor and test your network defenses. Again, this is crucial in terms of upholding compliance and is something that a team of cybersecurity professionals can help with.
Maintain a data security policy
Last but not least, best practice is always to get your overall data security policy on paper. By creating and centralizing your organization’s data security policy you leave nothing to the imagination and your team always knows where to reference critical data security and compliance information. Having a data security policy on hand is also a great way to organize and demonstrate consistent adherence to PCI compliance standards.
At the end of the day, PCI compliance is the industry standard, and doing business without it can result in substantial fines and penalties for agreement violations and negligence. And guess what? PCI compliance truly is designed to protect your clients and your organization – so there’s really no good reason to avoid it.
If you’re ready to stop putting off PCI compliance, we would love to help you tackle it head-on. Our team has lots of experience helping organizations in countless industries implement and maintain reliable strategies to uphold PCI compliance. Have questions about how to get and stay compliant? Our team is here to help.