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Understanding PCI Compliance



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Online payment transactions are clearly the future – and the future is now. As a company owner, you understand just how essential payment processing is to your business, since credit cards and other forms of digital currency are the standard for transactions these days.
Is is the digital nature of these forms of transaction that necessitates an elevated level of security. For this, there exists the Payment Card Industry’s adoption of DSS – the Data Security Standards PCI Compliance levels. Adhering to the levels serves as protection for consumers and businesses alike, wherever payment processing is concerned.

Levels of PCI Compliance

The levels of PCI Compliance are totally dependent on the volume of credit card transactions that your company conducts every year. Each level, from the very lowest at Level 4, to the very highest at Level I, have different requirements that must be satisfied in order to qualify for that assessment. Specifically:

  • PCI Compliance Level I: For businesses with more than 6 million credit card transactions per year. Independent cyber-security assessor will validate, each year, whether your company is up to par on the requirements. Also requires a quarterly scans on your network – conducting in-house by your Information Technology security team.
  • PCI Compliance Level II: For businesses with between 1 million and 6 million credit card transactions annually. Does not require an independent security assessor; but does require network scans four times a year and a self-questionnaire.
  • PCI Compliance Level III: For businesses with between 20,000 and 1 million credit card transactions per year. Requires quarterly network data and security scans as well as the aforementioned questionnaire.
  • PCI Compliance Level IV: The easiest to pass; in fact if your business conducts fewer than 20,000 credit card transactions, you don’t even need this level. It is advisable, however; it consists of requirements that all companies should implement anyway. This includes protective software, firewalls, etc.

Tactics to Protect Against Data Breaches

The purpose of PCI Compliance is to protect your company against debilitating data breaches that adversely affect consumers. Cardholder data must be secured at all costs; additionally, the data packets must be encrypted as they travel over the Internet to you from the consumer. With regular software updates, this is one of the easiest requirements to fulfill for a minimum level of compliance.

Along this vein, you should run regular scans of your information network – monitoring software is available for any size business. There’s always the possibility that the cyber-threat emerges from within the company; whether by accident/negligence, or on purpose. Another way to combat this is through access control methods, in which only a few people in your company even have access to customer financial information. This includes the ability to refund or rescind credit card purchases, visual access to Social Security Numbers, etc. Every time anyone with one of the unique User IDs logs into the system, you will be apprised.

Security Wards Off Data Intrusions

A secure network is, simply put, your best defense against cyber hackers. This means, for starters, having strong passwords for every data access point. An all-too-common problem with routers and modems is that companies neglect to change the default passwords – these can easily be looked up would-be hackers on the internet. Set a password that cannot be broken by brute-force methods, and limit who has access to this password. Beyond this, software updates, patches and a robust firewall should form the next level of your PCI Compliance attempts. These will scale up as the number of yearly transactions increases.

Want to take the guess work out of compliance monitoring? There are a number of software solutions that can help. Reciprocity offers ZenGRC that can help you manage PCI compliance helping to lower your businesses’ risks.

 

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