Recent high-profile cases of data theft have put a renewed focus on credit card security and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. PCI DSS was established to prevent identity theft by requiring merchants to protect sensitive credit card data. Consequently, any type of business that accepts credit or debit card payments is expected to fully comply with PCI DSS regulations.
Although PCI DSS has been widely accepted for years, the ever-evolving compliance standards can be difficult for business owners to keep up with. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the consequences for noncompliance can be severe. Companies who are found to be noncompliant can face penalties and fines, even if a security breach has not yet occurred. Those that do fall victim to a security breach may face another, and sometimes more costly, side effect: customer distrust and possible legal action from any individuals who were negatively impacted.
There are several fundamental steps business owners can take to ensure comprehensive data security and achieve PCI DSS compliance. To start, businesses must complete a Self-Assessment Questionnaire to summarize your data security obligations. After the evaluation, the following actions should be taken:
Establish and maintain a secure network by installing a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
Similarly, utilize, and regularly update, antivirus software that will protect your system and applications.
Encrypt the transmission of cardholder information across any public networks. The same goes for any confidential data that is stored within your systems.
Immediately update any default passwords and put new guidelines into place that guarantee stronger passwords. This is an often overlooked but important security measure.
Reduce your scope with strong control measures. Restrict access to cardholder data to only those that absolutely need to know for business purposes.
Maintain a strong data security policy and train all current and new employees to ensure understanding across the board.
These are just a few key steps to get you started on the path to PCI DSS compliance. But your job isn’t done yet. Compliance is not a task to be checked off your to-do list ‘ it’s an ongoing project. Be sure to monitor and test networks regularly to ensure continuous protection.
Since PCI DSS compliance isn’t optional, your best bet is to prioritize a strong data security plan. Keep in mind that PCI DSS not only benefits the customer, it also benefits you as the business owner. Should your company be audited or faced with a security breach, you don’t want to risk the consequences discussed earlier in this article.
Tracy Richmond is the co-founder of AVATAS Payment Solutions. As a leader in payment solutions for the energy industry, AVATAS is well versed in PCI compliance and data security standards. For more information, please feel free to visit our website at It also provides a full array of payment options including online payments, EFT, mobile payments and check by phone. AVATAS can be reached by phone at 857-221-3830 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions surrounding your PCI compliance and/or data security strategies. Website: www.avataspayments.com.