Meeting PCI compliance requirements for your merchant account may seem daunting to any business owner, but if managed properly, keeping up with regulations doesn’t have to be so complicated.

Following PCI compliance requirements isn’t optional for businesses who accept credit and debit card payments, in large part because of the growing threat of security breaches. PCI DDS, as it’s known, refers to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, and is designed to protect merchants and their customers by safeguarding card payment credentials.

This applies to how your payments processing system accepts, stores and transmits your customer’s card data. Staying PCI compliant in today’s cyber-filled, fraud-hacking world ensures you are protecting your business and your customer’s credentials, which is critical in retaining and driving new business.

Data from financial industry consultant Aite Group projects that credit card fraud is expected to grow exponentially over the next three years to the level of $10 billion — making it easy to see why businesses need to stay ahead of the game.

 

Staying Ahead of PCI Compliance Requirements

When businesses evaluate their payments software and processing needs, they should rely on systems that do not store any credit card data. The major credit card breaches suffered by big box retailers in the past few years are example enough of why this is critical.

Achieving PCI compliance starts by having point-of-sale and eCommerce payments systems that allow you to accept credit cards without needing to store sensitive data associated with each cardholder. This is being made easier thanks to technologies like tokenization, which encrypts credit card information so the account holder’s information is never stored within a merchant’s system.

For those merchants who cannot avoid storing payment credentials, it’s important to take all necessary precautions to protect data from getting into the hands of the wrong people (i.e., hackers). Ensure you’re investing in extra cybersecurity measures and security protocols in order to have multiple layers of protection to prevent payment card breaches.

Those layers include having extra protection, like additional firewalls, on your computer systems in order to add more lines of defense against cybercriminals. But the trick to these is regularly monitoring them for alerts, potential threats and necessary upgrades. And just like payment credentials, your computer systems linked to payments processing should be password protected (changed frequently), and encrypted to thwart off hackers.

To make any of this effective, business owners also need to make sure they actually understand what type of data needs to be protected — and how to protect it. Keep in mind that financial data is the gateway for a hacker to steal a person’s entire identity.

That’s why it’s necessary to have clear understanding of how payments data is stored, how it  moves across and between your multiple systems, and what happens to that data when a payment is processed. That way, you are well equipped to know how to implement the proper steps to protect each layer, particularly as it relates to your merchant account.

When it comes to PCI compliance, not staying informed of this critical information can cost your business big, and hurt your potential to retain customers.

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Anna Lothson is a content contributor for Payline Data. She previously wrote for PYMNTS.com, as a Sr. Content Producer, where she focused on financial services and payments innovation, fraud and security, emerging payments, and FinTech news, research and thought-leadership content across the payments industry.