Is PCI Compliance Necessary For Business Throughout Chicago?

Since 2006, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council has protected cardholder financial account information with uniform security guidelines to minimize the risk of cardholder data exposure.

Is PCI Compliance Necessary For Business Throughout Chicago?

Cardholder account information can best be described as sensitive details about the cardholder, and that’s an incredible understatement. In the wrong hands, this information can essentially give someone else complete access to an identity and wreak immeasurable havoc.

The payment card industry has seen major transitions in the last 40 years, from manual imprinters producing paper receipts that required a card – and the cardholder – to be present, to contactless in-person and online transactions. Leveraging technology, the payment card industry has experienced an unprecedented evolution from its paper days.

What PCI Compliance Means for Cyber Security

Electronic point of sale (POS) terminals replaced “cash registers”, and digital payment card devices became the common tool for processing payment card transactions. First using “dial-up” technology, transmitting data using a legacy telephone line, and now using a dedicated network with sophisticated security measures to protect the digital data, payment card transactions pose unique risks just as much today – more, in fact.

Technology enables today’s payment card transactions, involving vendors and merchants, payment processing networks, credit card companies, and more. With more parties involved, the risk increases given the dependence on heightened security throughout the entire transmission. The payment card industry is a delicately balanced ecosystem in which players are reliant on each other to take cybersecurity measures to protect cardholder data.

What Are the Steps to Becoming PCI Compliant?

The major credit card companies agreed to the formation of an oversight body for the payment card industry. Since 2006, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council has protected cardholder financial account information with uniform security guidelines to minimize the risk of cardholder data exposure.

The Council has released a set of security guidelines, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), specifying how cardholder data needs to be safeguarded in payment card transactions. The data security requirements outlined in PCI DSS reinforce the need to protect sensitive cardholder information, including how this data is stored, accessed, and processed. Also summarized in the PCI DSS Quick Reference Guide, these base requirements focus on the holistic technology environment, and are divided into key areas:

  • IT Systems and Networks
    • Keep IT systems and networks secure with password best practices
    • Require two-factor authentication
  • Protect Cardholder Information
    • Encrypt sensitive information
  • Minimize Security Weaknesses
    • Identify and address security improvements
    • Routinely check for security updates, and install promptly
  • Strong Access Controls
    • Limit access to sensitive information
    • Require unique user IDs
    • Implement password policies that require updating passwords often and prohibit duplicate passwords
  • Monitor Network Activity
    • Track all users accessing the network
    • Log activity to monitor for consistency and prevent unauthorized access
  • Information Security Policy for All Users
    • Establish a formal policy for all users, and enforce protocols

Why You Want to Be PCI Compliant

Taking a closer look at each of the security bullets and you’ll note a common thread: advanced technology requires advanced security, but this security protects your business just as much as these safeguards protect your data. Businesses that experience data breaches are quick to provide a detailed list of reasons why each of these bullets is crucial to preventing security vulnerabilities and why you should take proactive measures now.

Aside from protecting your data, businesses who find themselves on the wrong side of PCI compliance face stiff fines due to negligence, potentially exposing cardholder data to the risk of identity theft, credit card fraud, loss of business reputation, and more.

You can’t afford to not be PCI compliant.