PCI Compliance – What is it, and why is it important?
Most new business owners are concerned with many things, but many have not considered PCI compliance and how it impacts their business. In fact, many don’t even know what it is. To begin, it’s essential to know what PCI, and DSS, stand for; Payment Card Industry and Data Security Standards.
In a nutshell, these are the standards and requirements that all companies, large or small, must adhere to if they accept payment from clients and customers via credit or debit card. If your business accepts, processes, transmits or stores credit card payment data, then you are obliged to maintain a secure card payment environment. In Australia, and internationally, this means ensuring that your business is PCI compliant. It will also protect your business from the potentially severe consequences of a data breach. There is no perfect protection against being hacked but ensuring that you are PCI compliant will go a long way to avoiding data breaches and protecting your business.
PCI Compliance Explained
Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS) illustrate the rules that Australian businesses need to adhere to in terms of the security of their customer’s payment and credit card data. This includes rules regarding; policies and procedures, networks, software design, architecture and security measures.
The aim of PCI compliance is to make sure that you are maximising your customer’s security when you process or store their payment data. To ensure that businesses comply with PCI Security Standards, an independent body known as the PCI Security Standard Council was created in 2006. Their primary role is to manage and administer PCI DSS.
Despite this body being in place, it is still the duty of the credit and debit card brands, banks, retailers and small businesses to ensure that they meet compliance requirements. It is an essential step for new business owners to determine whether PCI compliance is necessary for their business. This may seem like a lengthily and complicated process, but it is important to remember that no matter the size of your business, if you plan to transact using debit or credit cards, you must be PCI compliant.
While many businesses find the idea of PCI compliance daunting, it does come with a long list of benefits that far outweigh the hassle. These include:
- Your business is reputable and will be held in high regard with banks and credit card suppliers.
- Your business will be reputable and compliant with banks and credit card companies.
- Your customers are valued, and their data is safe. There are no concerns with security breaches when transacting with your business.
- Customers can trust your business with their valuable payment data, which is a good way of ensuring repeat business from them.
How to become compliant
There are several tasks that are essential to your business becoming PCI compliant. These include;
- Build and maintain a secure network
- Protect valuable payment and cardholder data
- Ensure that you have a vulnerability management program in place
- Implement stringent access control measures
- Monitor and test networks for vulnerabilities
- Ensure that you have an information security policy in place
If these tasks seem too big for your small business, it is a good idea to speak with IT experts in the field of PCI DSS who will be able to guide you on the best course of action for your business.
The PCI Compliance Checklist
If you are currently setting up your business or want to audit your existing business’s PCI DSS compliance, the process may seem overwhelming. So, we’ve taken the guesswork out of it for you by outlining the PCI Security Standards Council’s checklist which aims to ensure that your business is currently compliant, and remains that way. It’s a good idea to go through this checklist yourself and with any IT or infrastructure provider that you are working with.
- Ensure that there are firewalls in place between the public network and payment data and keep these updated.
- Make sure that any vendor-supplied passwords are changed, particularly those supplied with network and payment processing equipment.
- Encrypt any transmissions of customer data over a public network.
- Check and ensure all antivirus software is maintained on all of your business’s computers and devices.
- Only invest in and deploy secure card processing applications and systems.
- Make sure that only limited people within your business have access to payment data.
- Restrict physical access to stored data on the network and business devices.
- Continuously review and improve any PCI security processes that your business has in place.
- Ensure that all employees are kept informed of security policies.
These are just a few essential considerations when reviewing your business’s PCI compliance. Maintaining a high level of payment data security is not only necessary to meet industry regulations, but will also protect your business from security breaches and the impact these have on your reputation and budget.
It goes without saying that your business needs to take PCI compliance seriously. It can be a confusing process, but be sure to consider the points we’ve outlined above if you need some guidance!