An easy guide to PCI compliance

by | Dec 15, 2022 | Security

Data breaches are always a source of concern for businesses, and they can have devastating consequences. In addition to ruining a brand’s reputation, customers can become vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. This can cost companies millions of dollars in damages.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (commonly known as PCI or PCI compliance) is a set of standards that govern how credit card information is stored, transmitted, and managed within a business environment. If you have been wondering if your business needs to comply with this standard, then keep reading.

What is PCI Compliance?

Compliance with PCI is the process of making sure your business data is secure and compliant with standards set by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. This is a set of rules that businesses need to follow to protect cardholder data.

The council is a nonprofit organization that works with businesses to educate them on how they can better protect customer data. The council is comprised of the largest credit card processing companies in the world and their membership has strict guidelines when it comes to what is and what is not accepted as compliant.

To become compliant, a business needs to understand what exactly is required of them and how to achieve it. At the core of PCI compliance are the two rules that are critical to every business. These rules are covered in the rest of this blog post and are:

Why is PCI Compliance important?

Maintaining PCI compliance is your best defense against a data breach and also assures your customers that it’s safe for them to use their credit cards for transactions with you.

The biggest reason for businesses to comply with PCI standards is that it will significantly improve their security posture. This is important for a few reasons. Security experts agree that the number one way to improve your security posture is to have a strong risk analysis and spend time at the beginning of the process — not at the end.

By complying with PCI standards, you will have a much better idea of what security controls are needed and be able to take the appropriate steps to improve your security posture. Another reason is that businesses that comply with PCI standards will have a higher likelihood of retaining and acquiring new customers. Customers are much less likely to shop at a business that is not compliant.

How to Achieve PCI Compliance

The first step to compliance is understanding what it takes to be compliant. A non-compliant business is at risk of being compromised. The best way to determine if you are compliant is to ask your accountant and lawyer. They will be able to accurately tell you if your business is compliant. Once you know where you stand, the next step is implementing security controls.

Secure the network – One of the first things you need to do is secure your network. A weak or exposed network is the number one way for hackers to gain access to your business. You must monitor your network for vulnerabilities and patch them immediately. Every device connected to your business network should be protected with a firewall.

Update software – Most businesses are still running outdated software. It’s important to keep your software up to date and have a plan in place for upgrading your software. Upgrading your software is an important step in achieving compliance.

Implement an authentication policy – One of the things that hackers look for is an opportunity to gain access to sensitive information. The best way to prevent this is to have an authentication policy in place. This policy will help you identify what actions are required for authorized users to access the system.

Implement a strong access control policy – Access control policies are critical in ensuring that only authorized users can access critical information.

Only use PCI-approved PIN transaction security devices – PTS devices now include traditional countertop credit card terminals, PIN pads, mobile processing devices, and point-of-sale systems. Find a full list of approved PTS devices on the Approved PTS Devices page of the PCI SSC’s website.

Only use PCI-approved point-of-sale and payment gateway software – As with your processing hardware, your software services must be validated by the PCI SSC as being compliant. A list of validated payment applications can be found on the PCI SSC website’s Validated Payment Applications page.

Do not store credit card information – Modern payment processing systems shield card data using encryption and tokenization. You should never store it digitally — either on your hard drive or website server — for any reason. It is especially unwise to store credit card data physically. Don’t write down a customer’s credit card number, date of expiration, or CVV number unless necessary. If you do, you must follow PCI compliance rules that apply to this data.

Enforce strong password policies – Do not depend on default passwords. You should change the passwords on your networked devices to the strongest ones possible so that you do not depend on default passwords. Password managers such as LastPass are applications that can help you create extremely strong passwords and store them in a secure vault to avoid passwords being repeated.

Check terminals, PIN pads, and computers regularly – To make sure no malicious software has been installed, especially if your firm is vulnerable to this type of attack. Network vulnerability scans are excellent for finding skimming devices like these. Scan your system at least once a quarter, no matter how secure your PCI compliance level is.

Ensure employees are educated about security and data safeguarding – PCI compliance is an important subject, but passing that knowledge onto employees is even more significant. You should establish a procedure that instructs employees what they are, and what they are not, permitted to do when accepting payments from clients.

Stay safe with IT compliance experts

If you’re looking to better protect your customers’ data and your business, you need to stay up to date on the latest regulations. This is easy with the IT compliance experts at Aquarius. With the assistance of our professionals, you will be able to keep up with all the latest requirements and regulations and identify which technologies are appropriate for your business. Talk to us today and keep your business data secure.

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