Chances are you’ve heard about PCI Compliance—and if you haven’t, you’re certainly aware of criminals targeting businesses to steal sensitive credit card data. Safeguarding your business and your valued customers from this kind of fraud is critical, but many merchants aren’t entirely sure what to do. In this article, we break down what you need to know about PCI (Payment Card Industry) Compliance to protect both your business and your customers.
What is PCI Compliance
PCI Compliance is a set of requirements intended to ensure all businesses that process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure data environment. Whether you have a computerized POS system, process over a phone or a credit card terminal, or have an eCommerce website, PCI Compliance establishes a series of best practices and minimum security protocols that must be observed.
Being PCI compliant means consistently adhering to a set of guidelines set forth by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council® (PCI SSC), an organization formed in 2006 for the purpose of maintaining credit card security. As a result of increasing data leaks, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) was created, including a series of regulations and protocols put in place to prevent fraudulent transactions and even worse, data breaches.
What are the levels of PCI Compliance?
While there are 4 PCI Compliance levels for businesses based on payment card transaction volumes over a 12-month period, the majority of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will fall within level 4 when it comes to compliance. PCI Compliance can be a complex maze to navigate for business owners, but they can look to their merchant services provider for guidance.
What is a PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire?
The PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) is a merchant’s documented statement of compliance with PCI security standard requirements. An SAQ is a way to demonstrate that, as a merchant, you have security measures in place to keep cardholder’s sensitive data secure at your place of business. SAQs vary according to business type and your merchant services provider can help you determine which type of questionnaire is required and assist you in completing it.
What happens if you’re not PCI compliant?
If a data breach occurs and you’re not PCI compliant, your business will have to pay expensive fines—and you run the risk of losing your merchant account, which means you won’t be able to accept any credit card payments at your business. Additional effects of non-compliance include, but are not limited to:
These effects merely scratch the surface of non-compliance, and a breach of any kind has long-term consequences. It’s important to educate yourself and follow security protocols to safeguard your business and your customers. Compliance is paramount to the security of your merchant account and the cardholder data you process. Don’t leave your business vulnerable to an attack. Criminals are smart, but by following proper PCI DSS guidelines, your business can stay ahead of the game.
Is PCI compliance required by law?
While PCI DSS is not a law, it is a security standard mandated by major credit card brands and the banks that manage payment processing. Additionally, PCI Compliance is part of the contractual relationships between a merchant and the major credit card brands.