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What Is PCI?

Today, fewer individuals are carrying around cash and coins. Instead, they are relying on credit and debit cards to pay for their needs and services. Making sure your business can handle card transactions is now an essential part of owning and operating a business. However, to ensure that your business can accept these forms of payments, you must understand the responsibilities that entail. Since small businesses are often the target of data plunderers, knowing how to protect your business from these modern-day thieves is important for avoiding paying restitution, fines, or losing the right to accept cards as payment.

PCI, which stands for Payment Card Industry, has created a set of security standards that all businesses must follow to ensure safe card transactions. Not only do these standards seek to protect businesses from thieves, but they also seek to protect consumers from having their valuable information and money stolen. PCI compliance is a must for all businesses, big and small.

Understanding PCI SSC Security Standards

Established in September 2006, the PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) created comprehensive standards along with supporting materials to develop the framework, tools, and measurements for businesses to use to ensure security for consumers using cards as payment. These tools and resources, which are available to all businesses in the United States, are as follows:

  • Self-Assessment: Questionnaires that are used to help determine whether a business is PCI compliant.
  • PIN Transaction Security: A set of requirements for device vendors and manufacturers of card-accepting devices. This also includes a list of approved transaction devices that can legally take an individual’s PIN.
  • Payment Application Data Security Standards: This consists of a list of validated payment applications to ensure that software vendors develop secure payment applications that protect cardholders and businesses.

The PCI SSC also established public resources for individuals to protect themselves from potential fraud. These resources include:

  • Lists of Qualified Security Assessors: These independent security organizations have been qualified to create lists of businesses that adhere to the PCI Standards.
  • Payment Application Qualified Security Assessors: The PCI SSC has created an in-depth program for security companies seeking to become a payment application qualified assessor; these security companies need to be recertified every year. 
  • Approved Scanning Vendors: These organizations ensure that businesses have regular network scans to detect any vulnerabilities.
  • Internal Security Assessor: This designation creates standards that an internal security auditor professional must meet to work for a qualifying company.

The Standards of PCI DSS Compliance

Using and Maintaining Firewalls

Firewalls are programs that block attacks from foreign entities that are attempting to access private data. PCI DSS compliance standards demand that businesses have firewalls installed for their servers to ensure that they have a strong first line of defense against hackers.

Secure Password Protection

Routers, Point of Sale (POS) systems, and other third-party products often come with passwords that are randomized, yet generic. Hackers can easily figure out these passwords, leaving businesses vulnerable to an attack. PCI DSS compliance requires businesses to ensure that they keep a list of all devices and softwares that require a password and that those passwords are changed periodically. Passwords should be kept in a secure inventory and should be changed every six months to ensure that hackers cannot get in.

Protecting Cardholder Data

Card data must be encrypted with algorithms that are established encryption keys. Regular maintenance and scanning of these account numbers are needed to ensure that no data goes unencrypted. Any unencrypted data must be encrypted immediately to avoid hackers or unauthorized parties from getting a hold of the data.

Transmitted Data Must Be Encrypted

When a consumer pays with their card, their information is sent through a multitude of channels such as the payment processor or to home offices from local stores. Information passing through these systems must be encrypted to ensure that they are protected from hackers and that sensitive information is not sent to an unknown location.

Using and Maintaining Anti-Virus Software

Viruses are the plague of the modern technological world and can be used by hackers to destroy or steal sensitive information. For your business to be PCI DSS compliant, it must have ant-virus software installed and managed to ensure safe interaction with consumer information and the store’s PAN.

Restrict Data Access

Cardholder data should only be accessed during “need to know” situations, such as processing a payment. Anyone who is not involved in these transactions should never have access to this data. Anyone who does have access to cardholder data needs to be documented as well as any actions they take concerning the data.

Proper IDs for Data Access

Individuals who are permitted access to cardholder data should have their credentials and identification on them at all times. This ensures that no two users have the same username and password. This creates a more secure system and ensures a quicker response time in case the data ever did become compromised.

Restricting Physical Access to Data

All cardholder data must be kept in a secure location, both electronically and physically. Access to this data must be kept limited, and any access must be logged to remain compliant with PCI DSS regulations.

Creating and Maintaining a Data Access Log

All activity dealing with cardholder information must be properly logged to show how data flows and the number of times the data is accessed. This log must be kept electronically to ensure the accuracy of the information and to avoid altering of the information.

Testing for Vulnerabilities

Scanning and testing the methods at which your company protects valuable data is required to reveal vulnerable areas of security measures.

Documenting Policies

All of your business policies, equipment inventory, software, and employees who have access to sensitive cardholder information should be documented. 

What Are the Benefits of PCI Compliance?

  • Helps develop a stronger bond of trust between you and your consumers due to a more secure system
  • Your business will be able to comply with other federal and state-mandated data security regulations more easily
  • You will be able to identify more variables and enable your IT infrastructure to be streamlined 

Blue Jean Networks Taking Your IT to the Next Level

Establish trust with your customers and allow your company to compete in this fast-growing business world by becoming PCI DSS compliant. At Blue Jean Networks, we can help you handle your IT infrastructure to create a secure and seamless way to bring your business up to speed with cardholder policies. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule a consultation to discuss how our experts can bring your IT to the next level.