What Steps Need to Be Taken to Become PCI Compliant?
With the growing threat of identity theft, customer data security is more important than ever. If you are unable to keep your customers’ data secure, you open your business up to fines, sanctions, costly lawsuits or even the loss of your business as a whole. The best way that you can protect your customers’ information is to ensure that your business is in compliance with the standards set forth by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Read on to learn how your business can become (and stay) PCI compliant.
Establish a Foundation
The first step towards PCI compliance is to understand exactly what it means. First, you’ll need to identify your merchant level. This is based on the number of VISA transactions your business has processed in the last 12 months as follows:
- Level 4 – Up to 20,000 transactions
- Level 3 – Up to 1 million transactions
- Level 2 – Up to 6 million transactions
- Level 1 – More than 6 million transactions
The more transactions your business processes, the stricter the rules you’ll have to abide by in order to maintain PCI compliance.
Continue Your Education
Now that you’ve established your merchant level, your next step should be to learn everything you can about the requirements for your level. It is difficult to comply with rules that you don’t fully understand. For large organizations, you will likely need to have a dedicated professional network to handle the IT aspects of maintaining PCI compliance. Take care as well to review the punishments for and possible complications of failing to comply with PCI guidelines. Knowing what could potentially happen to your business can instill the drive you need to prioritize this important task.
Set Up Your Network
Unless you have a background in IT, you’ll need to contract with a professional to install your network security system. Getting set up properly from the beginning can make the difference in your organization’s ability to remain compliant farther down the line. However, simply setting up your network is not enough. You’ll need to ensure that it is constantly updated to reflect changes in the network security industry and with the PCI compliance guidelines.
Protect Your System with Powerful Passwords
Passwords are critical as well. Never use the same password as is initially assigned to your system at the start. It should be changed right away. Choose something that combines uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Be sure to change your passwords, at the very least, every six months. Any time an outside contractor works on your system, change the passwords immediately after.
Control Access to Your System
Each employee should have no more access to the system than he or she needs to perform job duties effectively. Only those at the highest levels should have access to the most sensitive data areas. In addition to keeping your data more secure, this compartmentalization makes it easier to identify the source of any data breaches. In the event of a breach, your network manager will be able to determine where the exposure came from and which employees would have had access to that area, making it easier to narrow down potential sources of the breach.
Testing and Maintenance
Network security protocols are constantly changing and evolving as hackers become even more sophisticated. To stay ahead, your organization will need to carefully monitor the flow of customer data throughout your network, testing for potential vulnerabilities along the way. Keep an ongoing log of all test results in order to verify your PCI compliance efforts in the event of a security breach. Keep a detailed outline of your organization’s PCI compliance procedures so that everyone at your facility understands what is expected of them when it comes to data security.