Security has become so crucial in today's digital world that businesses must follow many rules to comply with these new rules. In a world of growing online transactions, companies must rely on third-party payment processing to protect customers from fraud and keep their businesses running smoothly. If you own a business and accept credit cards, chances are you have a payment processor. But there are a few steps to take to become PCI compliant.
This form of compliance is a set of standards designed to provide a secure environment for payment card data. The importance of being PCI compliant, from the perspective of a bank or retailer, is that they can be confident that their customers' information is safe and secure. It also provides an added layer of security to guard against internal fraud, external hacking, and data breaches. While PCI compliance is not necessarily a legal requirement, anyone who handles their customers' sensitive data knows how vital it is to have the correct certification. It also helps avoid costly fines and allows companies to have a more competitive edge in the market.
There are several steps involved in becoming certified. While all businesses are different in the way they might approach the process, many of the steps are consistent from company to company.
Before you can get started, you will need to know how many annual card transactions you perform. This data will let you know which level you should apply for, and they include:
- Level 1: This is the highest level of accreditation and only applies to businesses that handle more than 6 million card transactions a year.
- Level 2: For your company to be in the second level, you must prove that you process 1 to 6 million transactions per year.
- Level 3: You will be processing from 20,000 to 1 million sales each year at this level.
- Level 4: This is the lowest entry point and applies to any business that records 20,000 or fewer card transactions per year.
Implemented in September 2009, the first PCI DSS standard (DSS v1.2) introduced 12 requirements that need to be examined by a merchant to ensure they are PCI compliant. A merchant's level of expertise, training, and technology will influence how they adhere to the standards. Networks handling 2 million transactions are more complex than networks operating 2000. Therefore, you must familiarize yourself with what is required of you at each level.
The PCI Security Standards Council sets standards for protecting cardholder information, such as setting up a firewall. A firewall is typically installed on one or more layers of network equipment, such as routers and switches. This layer creates a barrier between an external network and an internal network, preventing data from being exchanged without authorization on the external network.
In the case of manual credit card processing, you should keep receipts in locked files according to security regulations. If the cardholder information is stored on your network, it should be kept behind your company's firewalls, as mentioned previously.
You should put strict access control to deter unauthorized individuals from gaining access to customer data. In essence, you will be compartmentalizing your employees on a need-to-know basis.
Depending on the level you fall into, this can range from straightforward to complex. Cybercriminals can steal card data easier because of the vulnerabilities in physical and wireless networks. All systems need to be audited, and their logs need to be sent to a central server. It is crucial to perform daily log reviews to detect anomalous activities.
A PCI-compliant entity must adhere to strict rules, regulations, policies, and procedures to prevent data breaches. They are also required to perform audits on their systems and structures at regular intervals depending on their risk profile. While you can perform self-assessments, hiring a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) is often easier to review your implementation and keep you updated. QSA's are allowed to sign off on other companies' security protocols and practices after being assessed themselves. They may also be able to offer you advice on how best to mitigate risks associated with your company's data system, particularly if you're using older technologies.
With any luck, this guide has been an excellent resource for you on your path to PCI-compliant practices. Although the overall cost of compliance might seem high, you can protect your organization from costly fines by protecting your company's reputation and engaging in compliance awareness education.