Imagine becoming the victim of a data breach, such has been the case with Target, Home Depot, and other retailers. It was a crisis of massive proportions for those brands that still impacts their reputation today.
In many ways, it never had to happen if they had been more diligent with their watchfulness of security and had they adhered to the compliance framework that is established to stop data breaches.
So, when you ask why it is important to be PCI compliant, that’s part of the answer right there. However, there is more to it than that.
What is PCI Compliance?
The PCI Security Standards Council was formed in 2006 by the five credit card brands as a way to combine their compliance programs into one overriding standard for data security.
There are 12 requirements included in PCI compliance that explain the reason for data security and how to ensure it.
Some of the standards include the requirement to build and maintain a secure network, regularly monitor and test that network, and protect cardholder data. A business must also have a vulnerability management program in place and determine what type of access control measures can be implemented to minimize who has access to the card data.
This is for credit cards only because debit cards are slightly different in terms of processing and how they are handled. Besides merchants, financial institutions and payment processors also must follow these requirements.
Why You Need to Be PCI Compliant
The simple fact is that PCI compliance is mandatory. There are no options on whether you do part of it or skip it entirely. If you process any payments with a credit card, you will be dealing with data that is governed by these PCI standards. This is a globally recognized mandatory action that retailers and businesses must adhere to.
There are consequences for not being PCI compliant. Besides the risk of data breaches and the damaged reputation you can face should this happen to your business, there are fines and lawsuits that are possible because of this lack of compliance. Card brands are fining any retailer they find that is not in compliance.
Because the data breaches have become so public, even the government is getting involved, especially when they have reason to believe that terrorists could be using some of the stolen credit card data to fund their efforts.
The FTC may also be joining in with their own right to audit your business, which is something you just don’t want to have happen.
Consumers are also becoming savvier about understanding that there are standards that need to be followed, so they will want to see proof that you are PCI compliant or they may not choose to do business with you anymore. This loss of business is another reason why you must ensure compliance.
How to Become PCI Compliant
While the PCI Security Standards Council provides for specific information on becoming compliant and gaining a certificate and level classification, it may help to work with a payment processing company that can educate and guide you through the process of what is involved, providing the systems and solutions to ensure that compliance for you.
Of course, it’s important that you also create your own policies and procedures for some of the 12 requirements, including training your staff to understand the reason for becoming compliant and how this can be accomplished.
By taking control over the PCI compliance process, you can also dictate how to monitor your transaction process and elevate the level of security you have to protect this cardholder data.
The companies that have been able to maintain PCI compliance are among thousands every day that don’t have to deal with a data breach and all the horrible consequences that go with it.
Although the larger retailers managed to recover despite the loss of millions of dollars and a hit to their brand, a small business might as well consider themselves done if a data breach happens to them because of the financial and reputational damage.
It’s just not worth skipping out on compliance when it is so much easier to become compliant than face the risk otherwise.