In this digital age, to run a successful online business, no matter the size, you have to understand a wide variety of areas, from how to create a user-friendly website and engage search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, to finding the right products, marketing effectively, and providing top-notch customer service.
Another area that entrepreneurs really need to be on top of is actually taking payments online. It’s vital that small businesses utilize a payment solutions provider to handle transactions efficiently and securely, so that both customer details and the money that exchanges hands are kept safe for both parties. When it comes to deciding on a company to entrust this important role to, you should always carefully analyze the options and look for PCI compliant service providers.
Understanding PCI Compliance
There are also some things you can do yourself. To operate a PCI compliant website though, you must first know what the term refers to. PCI DSS, as it is often called, is the shortened version of “Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.” This mouthful of a term simply covers the industry standards which have been put in place to ensure that customer credit or debit card payments taken by merchants are secure. No matter the size of your organization, you must follow the PCI DSS requirements if you ever accept, process, transmit, or store cardholder information.
While you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of making your business PCI compliant, it’s an essential step of operating a venture that trades online. After all, payments fraud happens all too often, and hackers continually develop techniques for stealing client data. You need to protect your business from being compromised by hacks and information leaks so that you can build and retain client trust, and maintain a solid reputation.
Since business owners are responsible for protecting cardholder details, failing to be compliant can lead to a variety of negative consequences, such as penalties, fines, and even potentially the closure of your venture. To reduce the risk of such issues occurring in your organization, read on for some tips you can follow to safeguard valuable information today.
Put Firewalls and High-Strength Passwords in Place
The first step you should take is to make sure that firewalls are operating on all of your computer systems which are used for business purposes. Firewalls act as the first line of defence, and help to stop criminals from accessing data via an internet connection. When it comes to firewalls, check to see that they are properly configured, and then keep an eye on them in case security holes open up over time.
As well, proper passwords are also essential on all your devices. Codes should:
- Be at least eight characters in length
- Contain a variety of upper and lower case letters, plus symbols and numbers
- Be changed roughly every eight to 12 weeks
Be wary too of giving out passwords to any contractors, technicians, consultants, or other business contacts.
Don’t Store Data
Next, it is a good idea not to store any sensitive data in house if at all possible. Look at the transaction points all along the way of your sales process to consider when and where customer details are taken and what is done with the data. At each point, analyze whether the information actually does have to be retained and stored.
It helps to use an e-commerce payment system that makes it possible for you to never have to store client data after transactions have been made. This way, the information can’t be stolen on your end, whether digitally or physically. If it is truly necessary for your business to store some sensitive details, then make sure that a limited number of people within the organization are given access to the information. Each person should have their own unique credentials to use when they log in to a system too.
Know What Information Needs to Be Protected
Lastly, to help your PCI compliance, you should be clear about what actually qualifies as sensitive data. You, and your team, should realize that it isn’t just financial details which can be at risk. You also need to put safeguards in place to protect any other personally identifiable information, such as customer addresses, birthdates, phone numbers and so on.
You should then analyze where you keep all of this data, and how it runs from one point in a system to another. That is, be clear on what happens to information when it leaves a customer’s hands and enters your venture’s systems, whether that be for data transmission, processing or storage. Once you see how the details travel, you can do what you can to protect the information at each step along the way, both online and in person (such as in the office, at a client’s premises, at an event, or some other location).