What Is PCI Compliance?

Payment Card Industry compliance pertains to the operational and technical standards that businesses are required to follow. It covers the security and protection of customers’ credit card data, typically transmitted via card processing transactions such as credit and debit cards. And as a whole, PCI standards were developed and implemented by the PCI Security Standards Council.

What is PCI Compliance
What is PCI Compliance

Businesses, both small and large, should be PCI-compliant by meeting the following requirements:

  • Constantly updating antivirus and anti-malware software
  • Assigning unique IDs to employees with computer access
  • Investing in data encryption to protect stored cardholder data
  • Having a solid firewall configuration

However, the total cost and effort needed to achieve PCI compliance depends on several factors. Two of the most notable elements are your business’s payment volume and the payment processor. So, in a nutshell, the more your transaction processes are, the more you’ll need to comply.

And did you know that merchant compliance isn’t enforced by the PCI Security Standards Council nor the government? Instead, the steps towards being PCI-compliant are found in the contract or agreement with the payment service provider or merchant service provider.

PSCI Data Security Standard

PCI DSS pertains to a set of requirements or guidelines covering all companies that store, process, or transmit credit card information. It mandates these businesses to maintain a secure environment to keep customer data safe and secure. PCI DSS compliance refers to when a company strictly adheres to the guidelines.

PSCI Security Standards Council

PCI SSC is responsible for overseeing and managing the entirety of PCI DSS. It was curated by MasterCard, Visa, JCB, American Express, and Discover for additional security.

The Basics of PCI Compliance

It’s no surprise that PCI compliance could be a tedious process that most businesses find frustrating. And because it covers cybersecurity regarding card transactions, it has to be tackled. So here are some of the fundamental knowledge in PCI compliance:

  • PCI compliance isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s a regulation that has to be accomplished every year;
  • Compliance requirements vary depending on a business’s size and how many card transactions have been processed for a particular year;
  • In PCI compliance, businesses are classified into four groups. Small businesses that process less than 20,000 card transactions are Level 4 merchants;
  • The larger your business is, the larger your PCI compliance burdensome will be.

Should All Businesses Be PCI-Compliant?

In a nutshell, yes — all businesses are mandated to abide by the PCI guidelines. However, sneaky business owners try to get around the requirements. It’s a highly irresponsible thing to do, leading to devastating results. It’s not worth the shot because, in the end, your business will suffer just because you chose not to follow the standardized guideline.

By not complying with the PCI standards, you’re putting your business and customers at risk. Without PCI’s protection, your business will become more vulnerable to cyberattacks such as fraud and data breaches. In return, it will cost you plenty of money to recover. For example, you’ll be charged $5,000 to $500,000 if a data breach occurs and your company isn’t PCI-compliant.

Moreover, you’ll also risk losing your entire merchant account. It will ultimately lead to your business not having the capacity to accept credit card payments, which will negatively affect your ROI.

Your company might also catch a spot in the Member Alert to Control High-Risk Merchants (MATCH) list. Unfortunately, with this, you won’t have the chance to obtain a new merchant account for the next few years.

Lastly, a single data breach could bankrupt your business. It could cost thousands of dollars in damages, your customers’ respect and trust, and ultimately end your brand’s reputation. If you, however, survive, it will be a hell of a ride going back to how your company was before a breach.

How Can Your Business Become PCI-Compliant?

Small, medium and large businesses that accept card payments are all expected to comply with the PCI standards. And to do this, your business must practice two things:

  1. Perform a security scan on all networks used to process card payments. It’s a form of technical exercise that requires the help of a third-party firm.
  2. Complete and verify an assessment that proves how secure their business’ systems, practices, and safety measures are. Small businesses without the assets to do extensive assessments may perform a self-assessment check.

In becoming PCI-compliant, you’ll have to go through hoops of difficulties. But don’t worry because it will all be worth it in the end. And after the first few tries, you’ll slowly find it easier to comply as the years go by.

Conclusion

It’s pretty simple; if your business accepts credit card payments, you must be PCI-compliant. No buts, no ifs — just follow the guidelines and notice an improvement in your security.

PCI compliance will be a continuous process requiring companies to evaluate and assess their security systems and practices regularly. It’s not a one-time event — your business has to do it every year. And instead of viewing it as a burden, simply look at it as an additional layer of security against hackers.

Don’t let fear, confusion, or frustration stop you from accomplishing your PCI compliance checklist. Because in the long run, it will protect you, your customers, and your employees from cyberattacks that could lead to your company’s downfall.

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