Regardless of the industry, businesses that handle credit card transactions need to be PCI compliant to protect company and customer data.
Being PCI compliant means that an organization follows the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which places a strict set of requirements on sellers and credit card providers to ensure safe transactions.
By maintaining PCI compliance, businesses can assure buyers that their personal information is safe to build trusting customer-brand relationships.
To become PCI compliant, merchants need to implement operational and technical changes. This guarantees payment processes are able to safely complete transactions and store cardholder data.
The 12 PCI DSS requirements include-
1. Implement Firewalls
Even with technological advances, hackers present cybersecurity threats to merchants and customers. Therefore, businesses need to install robust firewalls for all software and hardware that facilitate transactions or store sensitive data.
Firewalls should prohibit internet access, as it can introduce phishing and hacking risks from unverified sources. This means any additional devices connected to the merchant's network, such as employee computers, need to be equipped with the same safety measures.
In order to properly maintain firewalls, management should refer to its configuration rules to ensure software and hardware updates still restrict unwarranted activity.
2. Create Unique Passwords
Even with a powerful firewall, hackers can breach a company's network if they use the vendor's default password. Every router and piece of equipment is programmed with factory settings, including a standard passcode that needs to be personalized once installed.
Otherwise, hackers can enter internal networks without being detected. Therefore, management should create a complex passcode that only verified users know.
3. Secure Stored Cardholder Information
Data protection is of the utmost importance for both customers and companies, as poorly protected information can lead to legal repercussions.
While storing data heightens the risk of identity theft and security breaches, many businesses find it necessary for regulatory reasons, such as loyalty programs and customer accounts. Therefore, companies should establish a protocol that limits data retention and purges the information after a specific time frame.
For example, organizations can dump cardholder account data every quarter and prompt customers to re-enter their card numbers and billing information. This limits the customer's exposure to credit card fraud and the company's liability.
4. Encrypt the Transmission of Sensitive Data Across Public Networks
Businesses use different payment processors, and therefore send cardholder information to various locations, the most common being-
- Backup Servers
- Third-Party Processors
- Outsourced Management Systems
- Corporate Offices
In order to transmit cardholder information to these sources, they need to travel across open, public networks, which increases security risks. By encrypting data before transfers and decrypting upon retrieval, businesses can significantly lower the risk of stolen information.
However, the PCI Security Standards Council announced that Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption vulnerabilities have been revealed, requiring companies to transition to Transport Layer Security (TLS) technology.
5. Continuously Update Anti-Virus Software
To remain PCI compliant, businesses need to make sure that their anti-virus software is up to date and live during all operations. Aside from transactions, business emails and other communication means introduce weaknesses for fraudulent activity.
Therefore, security solutions should be integrated with all internal processes and installed in every piece of equipment, including all portable devices, workstations, and computers. This enables employees to safely access the network locally and remotely.
6. Perform Maintenance on Processes
Aside from updates, businesses may need developers to install security patches to mitigate risks and maintain processes. If management discovers suspicious activity, they need to pinpoint the area of weakness and quickly implement a security patch that strengthens the infrastructure.
These areas need to be monitored closely to ensure the innovations successfully block threats. The main components that companies should focus on include-
- Internet Browsers
- POS Terminals
- Internal Processors
7. Restrict Access to Sensitive Data
To employ a strong access control, management should be able to allow or deny every attempted access to sensitive information, such as cardholder data. Only verified employees should be authorized to enter the network, and any unverified user attempting to enter the system should be reported to management immediately.
This allows developers to determine the source of the threat, as attempted logins could very be traced back to unauthorized employees or external parties. Management should also be able to grant one-time permission to enter the network and establish authorization levels to allow access to specific information based on verification.
8. Designate a unique ID to Each User
Each authorized user should be assigned a unique ID and password, so management can keep a log of who accessed cardholder data.
Extensive surveillance can also tell when an employee accessed the network and from which device. This enables businesses to determine which users are responsible for data breaches in the event of a security attack.
9. Restrict Physical Access to Cardholder Data
By implanting digital security measures, companies can eliminate physical records that hold sensitive information.
Unlike information protected by software, physical documentation can be exposed to third parties, such as contractors, suppliers, guests, and consultants. With cybersecurity, management can efficiently monitor everyone that views and pulls sensitive information to ensure safety protocols are followed.
10. Monitor all Network Activity
Aside from manual monitoring, companies should consider implementing automated audit trails. Audit trails oversee internal processes, firewalls, and user actions to anticipate suspicious activity and pinpoint the culprit.
With real-time surveillance and alerts, businesses can promptly isolate and eliminate threats, enabling transactions to continue without disruption.
11. Test Security Systems
Installing security systems is not a one-and-done task. It requires frequent tests to ensure that no new vulnerabilities have formed or breaches have taken place.
Management should schedule routine security and weakness checks that test access points, control systems, and encryption tools. While more frequent scans are ideal, businesses need to hold internal and external vulnerability checks once a quarter to remain PCI compliant.
12. Assess Risks
Finally, businesses need to keep proper documentation on all policies, procedures, and reports on their security practices. This enables auditors to determine if security practices were defined and followed during assessments.
Management will need to keep copies of-
- Employee Handbooks
- Internal Policies and Procedures
- Vendor Agreements
- Third-Party Contracts
- Incident Response Plans
Companies need to also perform their own risk assessments to define assets and determine if security measures and protocols effectively protect cardholder data.
While becoming PCI compliant may require additional labor and business intelligence, it guarantees customers that they can trust the brand to handle their personal information.