The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council created regulations for financial service organizations to address a growing number of merchant-based vulnerabilities that put businesses and consumers at risk. The goal of these standards is to stop cardholder data from getting accessed by unauthorized parties, such as a cyber criminal.
The data that is protected under these standards includes:
- Credit card number
- Name on the credit card
- Credit card expiration date
- Service code
- Magnetic stripe information
The Penalties for Not Complying with PCI Standards
Noncompliance penalties come from the payment brands themselves and are issued to the acquiring bank. These fines range from $5,000 to $100,000 per month until the violation is addressed. Typically, the acquiring bank passes this fine to the merchant in noncompliance. You also face the potential for the bank to drop you as a client or increase your rates. If your processing fees suddenly go up, it can be difficult to maintain a profit margin that’s sufficient for you to remain in business.
Your merchant account agreement with the acquiring bank will go into detail of the potential consequences, as they vary based on the financial institution that you’re working with and the contract terms you agreed to originally.
Who Has to Comply with PCI Regulations
Any company that is storing, processing or transmitted the protected cardholder data listed above is subject to PCI regulations. If you create software or manufacturer hardware that’s involved at any step of that process, then the PCI has other guidelines that are specific to those situations.
How to Comply with PCI Requirements
PCI compliance is an ongoing process, as new vulnerabilities may appear at any time. You have three primary steps to focus on:
- Assessing your organization to determine the cardholder data you have access to, inventorying your IT assets, documenting your payment card processing business processes, and analyzing everything to determine the risks and vulnerabilities that are present.
- Remediating the vulnerabilities that impact cardholder data and limiting how much cardholder information you store.
- Reporting the steps that you took to remediate vulnerabilities to the card brands and the acquiring banks that you partner with.
Here are a few recommendations for protecting your organization against vulnerabilities and keeping cardholder data safe:
- Put a firewall in place that is configured to protect against common threats facing your financial services organization.
- Train all staff members on appropriate cyber security measures. Social engineering is a prevalent threat, along with phishing, so improving technical knowledge throughout your organization is an effective way to fight it.
- Change default passwords and configurations for the software and hardware that you have in place. Default information for commonly used applications and equipment are readily available online, so they pose a significant risk to cardholder data.
- Use physical and digital safeguards for cardholder data in storage at your organization.
- Document your IT security measures and policies so that it’s easy to review on a regular basis.
- Encrypt all transmissions that contain cardholder data if it has to travel through a public network to get to its destination.
- Create a digital paper trail to account for all users and systems accessing cardholder data.
- Proactively monitor the networks that transmit and receive cardholder information. When you see potential intrusions and unauthorized access, you can take corrective measures before a full-blown data breach happens. Monitoring also helps you identify potential vulnerabilities. Any system that you have in place should be able to track all devices and systems accessing the network, including personal devices if you have a Bring Your Own Device policy in place.
- Develop internal applications that have strong security measures in place.
- Don’t allow users to share login information. Everyone on the network needs a unique identifier.
- Stop unrelated job roles and users from accessing systems with cardholder information. You should only give access to this data for the people who can’t do their jobs without it.
- Keep anti-virus programs up-to-date and evaluate whether they can address the current threats.
How an IT Services Company Can Help You Meet PCI Compliance Requirements
You need a strong team of security specialists who are familiar with the risks associated with payment processing. Recruiting enough employees with this type of specialization, especially on short notice, can be difficult in a competitive job market. An IT services company that understands PCI compliance requirements and has experience implementing these measures can help you get up to speed quickly. When you’re worried about becoming compliance with PCI standards or you need to overhaul your systems due to emerging vulnerabilities, an IT company offers you the expert resources you need to make this a smooth process.
Complying with PCI data security standards is a must if you work with cardholder data. The financial industry gets hit hard with data breaches, as this information is incredibly valuable for criminals. When you come into compliance with PCI standards, you not only avoid the penalties, you also end up with robust cyber security measures in place that protect your entire organization. Working with a trusted IT services company allows you to bring in the resources you need to achieve this goal without needing to hire more full-time IT specialists.