If you’re like many small-business owners these days, you utilize technology a lot in your business, particularly when it comes to accepting payments from customers. Digital payment gateways, mobile apps and the like are incredibly handy and affordable and satisfy the consumer demand for quick and easy payments. Unfortunately, these systems can also become a target for hackers.
As a result, small business owners must protect customer data at all times. In fact, no matter the size of your venture, if you ever accept, transmit, process, and/or store the information of cardholders, you are required to adhere to PCI compliance regulations.
PCI DSS, as it is often called, is the shortened version of “Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.” This term simply covers the industry standards put in place to ensure that customer credit or debit card payments taken by merchants are secure.
Making your business PCI compliant is an essential step. After all, payment fraud happens all too often, and hackers continually develop techniques for stealing client data. You need to protect your organization from being hit by information leaks so that you don’t give consumers cause for concern when it comes to your trustworthiness and reputation.
If you are found to have not complied with PCI, it can lead to a variety of negative consequences, such as penalties, fines, and even possibly the closure of your business. To reduce the risk, read on for some tips you can follow today to safeguard your customers’ information.
Be Aware of Which Details Need to Be Protected and How Data Moves
First up, it is important to actually be clear about which sensitive customer details need to be protected from prying eyes. You should note that it isn’t just financial data, such as credit card numbers and expiration dates. You need to also protect any other personally identifiable details that could be linked to a customer. This includes addresses, birth dates and passwords.
Whether data is processed, transmitted and/or stored, you should analyze how it moves from one place to another, and what systems you can put in place at each step along the way to stop hackers gaining access. Don’t forget to think about all the ways in which you access customer information, such as through online payment processing systems, mobile apps or in-person collection.
Put Firewalls, Security Software and Proper Passwords in Place
Start by putting firewalls in place on every computer system that your business uses. Firewalls work as the first line of defence against hackers.
You should also buy security software. Opt for comprehensive products which have antivirus, anti-spam, anti-ransomware, anti-malware, and anti-spyware protection included. Check your point-of-sale machines and computers on a regular basis for skimming devices or rogue software as well.
In addition, keep in mind that systems get hacked because the owners of devices and networks don’t bother putting proper passwords in place. Use strong passwords that are at least eight characters long and made up of a combination of symbols, letters (upper and lower case) and numbers. Change these passwords every couple of months, and be very careful about who they are given out to. Try to avoid giving the codes to contractors, technicians, consultants, or other external vendors.
Don’t Store Data
Lastly, another good way to achieve PCI compliance is to never actually store any sensitive customer information at all. After analyzing how client details move to and through your business, you should be able to determine if the data does need be retained and stored onsite. Generally you’ll find that there isn’t actually a need for you to keep that sensitive information at all.
For example, if you use an online payment processing system to handle all of your transactions, you can make sure that you choose a provider who simply transmits data but does not store it once customers have been charged for goods or services in real time.
If for some reason you run a business that requires sensitive details to be stored, then you should make sure that this database is only accessible to a limited amount of people within your organization. Each of the people who can access the data should be given their own unique password to use when logging on, so that if any issues ever occur you know whose credentials were used.
It also pays to run some company training for all of your staff members about the importance of protecting client details. Employees should be clear about the possible negative consequences that can be faced by the business if proper safeguards aren’t adhered to.
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