Dealing with compliance issues can be confusing, but they’re an important and necessary aspect of business security. PCI compliance sets the standards and guidelines that companies like yours must use to manage personal data attached to credit cards. 

Although unfortunate, credit card fraud is still a prevalent issue around the world. In fact, in the United States alone, billions of dollars are lost as a result of credit card fraud every year. 

From Q1 2019 to Q2 2020, reports of credit card fraud spiked by 104%, according to the FTC. This isn’t simply about people getting their physical credit cards stolen, either. 

Most types of reported fraud involve criminals stealing personal information and opening new credit card accounts, which they then abuse. 

In addition to being a tragedy for all victims involved, such data breaches can be devastating for the companies who were responsible for the private customer data: damages to reputation, loss of confidence from customers, significant fines, and a potential stream of lawsuits to deal with are among the negative consequences. 

Being PCI compliant isn’t a guarantee that such breaches will never happen, but avoiding compliance gives cybercriminals yet another opportunity to exploit lackluster data security. 

This article will leave you informed about what you need to know in order to maintain PCI compliance and protect your customer’s personal payment information. 

What is PCI Compliance?

PCI stands for Payment Card Industry. PCI compliance refers to the standards created to make sure that the credit card industry and relevant businesses secure their private customer data (credit card numbers, addresses, etc.) in a uniform way. 

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a list of requirements that aim to guarantee that all companies that process, store, or transmit credit card information do so in a secure environment. 

For most businesses, PCI compliance is something that tends not to cross their minds.

Many may mistakenly believe that, unless they’re directly handling customer payment information, they don’t need to think about compliance. But in reality, PCI compliance is much more involved and touches businesses of all kinds.

There are multiple levels of compliance, and those different levels require different degrees of precaution. 

For instance, at a lower level, your business may interact with consumer credit card data as a third party without storing it. 

This includes businesses that take payment information over the phone, on your website, or whenever a customer physically swipes their card through a point of sale (POS) terminal. The requirements for compliance are generally less strict in these scenarios. 

But if your business were to actively store payment information in your databases, you’d have to meet more rigid compliance standards and take greater precautions.

Some payment providers will take care of much of the back-end work that goes into compliance, and in those cases, your business won’t have to worry about it. 

However, you still have to maintain and monitor the state of your business’s compliance and report back to your merchant services provider that compliance scans are taking place.

In other words, even if you’re a small business, there is a lot to consider with PCI compliance, which is why most businesses end up offloading much of this work to third-party providers or MSPs to handle these issues.

Why PCI Compliance Matters

There are three primary reasons why PCI compliance matters to your business. 

  1. If your business handles customer payment information either directly or indirectly, your business has an obligation to maintain compliance; avoiding compliance will inevitably lead to fines.

    For average small businesses, these monthly fines usually range between $29–99 per month, which may not sound like much, but it can add up quickly if not attended to. If your business experiences a data breach and you’re found to be non-compliant, however, the fees could escalate to anywhere between $5,000 to $100,000 per month. Regardless, these fees can all be avoided if you maintain compliance. 
  2. Maintaining PCI compliance is a great way to keep your data security in check, which supports your ability to operate within laws surrounding data privacy, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Gramm Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA).
  3. Your customer’s private payment data matters, and when you fail to maintain compliance, you’re putting their well-being at risk. Data breaches tend to be devastating for all parties involved, and it can take years for a company to repair reputational damage. 

You might think that the three reasons above would provide enough incentive for businesses everywhere to maintain compliance, but data suggests otherwise. 

The 2020 Verizon Business Payment Security Report (PSR) indicated that only 1 in 4 global organizations maintained compliance that year. 

Given the plethora of high-profile data breaches that have occurred over the last few years, it’s no surprise the average consumer is becoming more aware of how their private data might be abused and are more demanding that businesses take the proper security measures.

Keeping Your Cardholder Data Secure

Maintaining PCI compliance is about more than just following rules and regulations. 

Your customers cardholder data is confidential, and with data becoming an increasingly hot issue in the digital world, prioritizing PCI compliance will help your business thrive into the future. 

As you’re no doubt aware, maintaining PCI compliance takes a lot of time and energy. It’s possible for your company to build your PCI compliance from the ground up, but that approach takes a lot of attention away from actually running your business. 

It’s for this reason that many businesses rely on third-parties and MSPs like Commprise to take care of this aspect of their businesses. When you work with us, you get more than a set-it-and-forget-it experience. 

We provide tailor-fit solutions and work with you to weather any storm or technological disruption that comes your way. With our IT Security and Compliance Auditing services, you’ll get a clear picture of all your IT systems, network, and data.