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If you’re a merchant that processes online payments, you’re always up against an enemy who is looking to breach your security protocol and steal something – often customer data. So, to help frustrate the efforts of this enemy, an administrative body came up with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) that online merchants have to comply with, or risk facing legal repercussions.

The move to Chip and PIN cards which eventually shifted fraud liability to merchants now means that achieving PCI compliance is more critical than ever. Fortunately, PCI compliance is something that any merchant can easily achieve. Here are some strategies to help you along the way. 

1.      Understand what material must be protected

Being PCI compliant starts with knowing what that actually entails. So, you’ll want to do your homework to determine what material you are required to protect in the course of doing business. While many businesses may consider customer’s payment information as what needs protection, it’s not the only form of data that qualifies as sensitive and thus needing protection. You may be required to also handle any personally identifiable information carefully as these could be linked to the corresponding individual. 

2.      Understand how customer information travels in your business

The other crucial thing is with regards to where your business stores customer data. You must now where the data is to be able to protect it.

Normally, data doesn’t sit static in an organization, it travels around, often to facilitate transactions. What is the point of entry for customer data into your organization and what happens once it enters the business? Whether you’re involved in taking credit card payments over the phone, processing, storage or transmission of customer data in your systems, being clear on precisely what this involves can go a long way in keeping you compliant at all times.

3.      Implement the latest information security measures and safeguards

Firewalls are generally the first line of defense in the cyber world. Implementing a robust firewall and always keeping that protection up to date can ensure that hackers are unable to access privileged information through your Internet connection.

4.      Know your PCI compliance level

While the PCI requirements have the same bottom-line – to protect card issuers and cardholders – the minimum levels of security that different merchants must meet when storing, processing, and transmitting cardholder data are different from one business to another. Knowing the level where your business falls is the first step to guaranteeing that you operate within the prescribed threshold.

5.      Stay abreast of the latest PCI DSS requirements

Since its inception in 2004, PCI DSS has evolved through different versions, with the latest being version 3.2.1 of May 2018 (the first being version 1.0 of December 2004). To remain compliant, it is critical that you familiarize yourself with the requirements in the most current PCI DSS version since each subsequent version, published by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), contains critical updates to the previous version.

Conclusion

Whether you’re big or small, in the service or product market is notwithstanding. You have to remain PCI compliant to avoid facing heavy fines associated with noncompliance. Not to mention the costly fallout that you could suffer in the event of a breach, both in terms of damage to your brand and loss of revenue. Fortunately, you have this guide to help you prevent any of that from happening.