The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) Council is a global team devoted to the development, improvement, and implementation of financial data protection best practices. The PCI DSS Council sets compliance standards that all businesses should follow to protect themselves and their clients from data hacking and theft. The organization also provides information and educational resources to support PCI compliance. Security Boulevard recently curated a list of 50 PCI compliance tips, offered by industry-leading experts. Some key highlights from that extensive list are summarized below.
Safely Transmit Cardholder Data
Sensitive cardholder data is highly vulnerable to theft when it is being transmitted across public networks. Hackers can more easily steal confidential personal and financial information while it is in transit through those less secure channels. That’s why it’s critically important to encrypt any such data. That way, even if it falls into the wrong hands, it will remain unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have access to the unique de-encryption codes. As far as thieves are concerned, it will be useless, incomprehensible gibberish─and the actual cardholder data will remain a closely guarded secret.
Store Confidential Data Securely
Similar steps have to be taken to safeguard cardholder data that is stored and archived by businesses on their own computer networks. Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of these networks contain unencrypted data. When a data breach occurs, hackers can steal this unprotected cardholder information, causing a potentially catastrophic security lapse. Not only do customers have their identities and accounts compromised, but the business that was responsible for securing that data can incur irreparable damage to its brand and reputation. Businesses may also suffer devastating financial repercussions due to lawsuits or regulatory fines. To avoid that risk, businesses can secure cardholder data off-site, instead of on their own servers, and use tokenization to harden data security and help minimize liability.
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Select a PCI Compliant Provider
Obviously, the less data a company stores on its network, the lower the threat level becomes. But most businesses accumulate lots of cardholder information over time, thanks to hundreds and thousands of transactions. To stay PCI compliant may require on-site expertise, time, and a significant investment in technology. Many businesses cannot afford that, but neither can they afford to risk noncompliance. The simplest solution is to select a payment processor to manage all of that. They should offer cloud-based storage and ensure PCI Level 1 compliance─which is the most rigorous standard of PCI protection.
Train Employees in Best Practices
Human error and oversight is another frequently-exploited vulnerability. Customers share credit card information in person and over the phone, before the transaction takes place. For that reason, only authorized and trained personnel should have access to that customer data. Otherwise, they may create risk due to simple negligence and a lack of understanding of best practices and security protocols. That can happen, for example, if they inadvertently download malware embedded in an email. Or hackers can infiltrate the network if an employee doesn’t use a strong enough password. Passwords are often the weakest link in the chain of custody for businesses holding cardholder data. They should be a minimum of eight or more characters long, including a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters plus symbols and numbers.