Understanding and Maintaining PCI Compliance

In a world dominated by technology, it’s hard to underestimate the importance of cybersecurity.

To ensure cybersecurity standards are met, a variety of regulatory frameworks have been created. Some of these apply to specific industries and verticals, such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Others affect every industry and company, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).

Unlike other security standards, PCI DSS (often referred to as PCI) is not a law. PCI is a set of rules and guidelines developed and enforced by the credit card industry itself. At first blush, this may sound as though PCI is less important than other cybersecurity standards. However, since failure to comply with PCI can lead to a company being forbidden to process credit and debit card transactions, PCI compliance is essential.

 Understanding PCI Compliance

What Is PCI?

PCI was developed on 7 September 2006 by American Express, Discover Financial Services, Japan Credit Bureau, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa International to reduce credit card fraud. These companies created the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) as an independent entity responsible for the continual development of PCI DDS.

The standard is updated regularly to ensure that it remains relevant. As it stands, every company that intends to accept card payment as well as to store, process and transmit cardholder data must be PCI compliant. Validation of compliance is performed either annually or quarterly by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA), an Internal Security Assessor (ISA) or, for organisations handling smaller volumes of data, a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ).

The penalties for failing to comply with PCI range from fines of between £3,800—80,000 per month, legal action and compensation costs – not to mention damage to your brand and reputation.


5 Steps to Becoming PCI Compliant

PCI compliance is incredibly important for businesses looking to process credit and debit card transactions. Achieving PCI compliance doesn’t have to be a huge faff. We’ve listed some of the most critical actions necessary for those seeking compliance to implement. Ensuring your organisation adheres to these will go along way to helping you get compliant.


1. Create a Strong Network

When it comes to protecting your customers’ card details, your first line of defence is a strong network. To achieve this, your business needs to have its own firewall configuration policy as well as a configuration test procedure specifically designed to protect cardholder data. If you use a hosting provider, make sure that they have firewalls in place to protect information in your network and to create a secure, private network. You should never use default system passwords.


2. Protect Cardholder Data

To ensure data is secured, you need to deploy proper physical and cybersecurity measures. Cybersecurity essentials include authorisation, authentication and strong passwords. Required physical security processes include restricted access as well as secure server, storage and networking cabinets.

When transmitting cardholder data across public networks, it’s essential you encrypt it. Encrypted data cannot be read without the proper cryptographic keys, which means that, even if someone accesses the raw data, it will be unusable.


3. Implement a Security Management Program

Cybersecurity is something you do, not something you get. In other words, maintaining good cybersecurity requires ongoing effort. Your first point-of-call will be high-quality anti-virus software. This will be regularly updated to ensure you’re protected against the most recent threats, as well as logging any security issues and events.

If a security issue does arise, it’s important that you receive alerts so that you can spot and deal with potential problems before they become more serious. To do this, you should be constantly monitoring and updating your system in line with any security vulnerabilities.


4. Reduce and Control Access

Not everyone in your organisation needs access to cardholder data. This means you need to limit the number of employees that can access this data. Every user that does have access should be assigned a unique ID, use password encryption, authorisation, authentication and update their password every 30 days. These measures will help you to identify the source of any security breaches and reduce the chances of you experiencing one at all.


5. Utilise an Information Security Policy

It’s good practice to maintain a comprehensive security policy. This high-level document will cover all acceptable uses of technology, your review schedule, annual processes for risk analysis, operational security policies and security administration.


Going Hosted

Granted, meeting these criteria can be difficult – especially for SMEs and companies whose budgets are already stretched. Luckily, by choosing a PCI compliant hosting provider, you can outsource most of these responsibilities. A good hosting provider will store all data in a secure and – importantly – PCI compliant way.

This means your business can enjoy guaranteed PCI compliance and extra security measures (such as biometric physical security, 24/7 CCTV, disaster recovery, business continuity, first-rate cyber security and inherent flexibility and scalability).

At Elite Group, we offer PCI compliant datacentre services. Our state-of-the-art datacentres allow you to benefit from the latest storage innovations without the capital investment required to build your own solution. Equipped with the latest security technologies – including multi-factor door systems, biometric access control, multiple comms routes to ensure no single point of failure, instant access, disaster recovery and 24/7 CCTV – our datacentres offer complete peace of mind to businesses which choose them.

Elite Group is the perfect choice for businesses looking to achieve PCI compliance. Working with you, we will create a tailored solution based on your business needs – such as the type of data you need to collect. This will allow you to reduce IT management resources, benefit from leading technologies and guarantee PCI compliance. No more worrying about penalties. No more worrying about your card processing privileges being revoked. And no more worrying about security breaches.

Elite Group is the leading unified communications provider. We supply businesses of all sizes with PCI compliant data hosting services and tailored datacentre solutions.