The Comprehensive Guide To PCI Compliance

PCI compliance entails meeting all Payment Card Industry standards for protecting cardholder data. PCI standards entail ensuring your business protects its customers and that you can contact how you manage their data.

All businesses that accept credit cards must meet PCI compliance rules. You must meet these standards regardless of the level of compliance you must follow. Your merchant service provider can help you meet all the rules you need to follow for your success.

The General Terms For PCI Compliance

PCI compliance is critical for all businesses to complete. There are six fields you must support when attaining PCI compliance:

  1. Network Security

Your network must include a firewall to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing cardholder data. You must also use unique passwords for all accounts instead of whatever default passwords you will utilize.

  1. Data Protection

The protection effort includes protecting all cardholder data, including all addresses, numbers, and other identifying factors. The data you do manage should also be encrypted when going over a public network. You’ll also have rules on what pieces of data you can collect.

  1. Vulnerability Control

Your software systems must be routinely updated to ensure all security vulnerabilities stay in check. You will also require antivirus programs that can help identify potential security threats and keep viruses and other outside problems from entering your system.

  1. Access Limits

All employees must have unique IDs for accessing cardholder data. But the data you collect should be restricted on a need-to-know basis. There should also be physical restrictions on how people can access the card data you hold.

  1. Testing

Regular testing helps find possible threats in your business. You can test your security setups to see if they are intact or if there are any problems. You can also produce logs that list how people access cardholder data and network resources.

  1. Information Protection

Your business also requires a defined policy for how you’ll handle data security efforts. All data protection plans must work based on what your business knows will fit.

All six fields of work are divided based on how you’ll handle your data and how you will protect your system. You must meet all of these fields if you want to reach compliance.

Failing to comply with any of these will make your business vulnerable to data breaches and theft. You may also be liable for any losses you experience in such a concern.

Compliance Levels

Your business will fall under one of four PCI compliance levels:

  • Level 1 – Major retailers that process at least six million transactions each year must complete an annual internal audit. A PCI auditor will be on hand to review the business’ PCI actions.
  • Level 2 – Businesses with anywhere from one to six million deals a year will need to complete a PCI SAQ each year. The Self-Assessment Questionnaire is an annual risk assessment that identifies possible threats and concerns in the business.
  • Level 3 – A Level 3 business will process at least 20,000 transactions a year. Businesses here must also finish an SAQ each year.
  • Level 4 – Level 4 is the lowest available level and is for businesses that process fewer than 20,000 online transactions and fewer than one million other transactions each year. Level 4 businesses must complete an annual SAQ.

All businesses must also file an Attestation of Compliance and receive an annual network scan from a certified provider. Many merchant account providers can offer these scans, although some of them can serve quarterly scans for further protection and analysis.

Check your credit card reports and processing data to review where you fall when managing your work. You likely won’t reach Level 1 unless you run a multinational business that has hundreds of locations. But those who do get to that point will require extra help in maintaining their PCI points, especially since they’re more likely to receive business than others.

Working With Your Merchant Provider

Your merchant services provider can help you review your PCI compliance efforts to help you see what works for your business. A provider can assist you in many ways:

  • Your account provider will review your processing hardware and software system. The team will identify possible PCI issues and introduce solutions for each.
  • A team can also review unique requirements that your business demands. You may need different functions for your setup if you run a nonprofit organization, for example.
  • You can also provide details on how you store consumer data on the network. Your account provider can identify possible issues with how you store data.

You could be subject to non-compliance fees if you don’t meet all PCI standards. You’d have to pay that fee until you can meet proper compliance. Most providers will not charge you extra for a PCI compliance fee after you fix your issues.

An Ongoing Effort

Remember that PCI compliance is not a one-off thing you can do and forget. You’ll need to keep your business compliant throughout its operation.

Various vulnerabilities may appear in your system after a while. Some rules for how you can protect data may also change, especially if PCI rules shift at some point.

You can keep your business compliant by using a few points:

  • Update your firewall terms and definitions as necessary, especially if you experience new threats.
  • Change your passwords on occasion. You could require people to change their passwords at certain points. You could also demand requirements for what characters will appear in an account.
  • Watch how you share your passwords and other sensitive data with other people. All content must only be made available on a need-to-know basis.
  • A merchant service provider can also offer routine network scans to find potential vulnerabilities.
  • Keep logs of all your access points, including when people reach databases. Your logs will help you track whoever might be using your data the most while online.

Be prepared to look at how your business will work when you’re aiming to meet PCI compliance. A compliant business will be easier for people to trust and support.

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