Understanding PCI Compliance for POS Transactions
With so many cases of consumer fraud stemming from inadequate merchant point of sale (POS) systems, there’s been a corresponding push towards POS PCI compliance. If it can happen to corporate giants that rely on large IT teams and expensive digital security measures, then small businesses have to practice extra care with how they approach securing their transactions.
- Does your business or client practice POS PCI compliance?
- Do you understand what it is and how it works?
Understanding PCI Compliance
PCI Compliance refers to adherence to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS. It’s a standard designed to reduce possible credit card fraud and includes a list of best practices and guidelines set forth by the major brand credit companies.
While PCI compliance is mandatory for merchants handling a high volume of card transactions, it’s also mandatory for smaller merchants. The problem is that many smaller merchants were able to get away with non-compliance or partial compliance due mostly to merchant ignorance regarding compliance requirements and the related risks that digital thieves pose to small and medium-sized business owners.
However, in the wake of the last few years’ string of data breaches, the Security Standards Council has tightened compliance mandates. This puts small business owners in jeopardy if they’re not within compliance standards. Therefore, it’s important to understand how you can implement protective measures for your business.
High-level Overview of PCI Standards
- Build and Maintain a Secure Network and Systems – Protect payment card data with a firewall. Do not use password and settings defaults that come with the original setup.
- Protect Cardholder Data – Protect cardholder data by encrypting whenever it’s being transferred on your system.
- Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program – Maintain all systems by keeping them up-to-date and free of malware or virus vulnerabilities. Most often this is accomplished with a locally installed antivirus solution or gateway firewall.
- Implement Strong Access Control Measures – Keep access to cardholder data to a strict minimum. Require user authentication for this access.
- Regularly Monitor and Test Networks – Always test the security systems and make sure that system access functions are working as they should.
- Maintain an Information Security Policy – Make sure that all employees know the security policy. Make sure the security policy specifically addresses information security and compliance.
Are You in Compliance?
It’s hard for many businesses to know authoritatively that they’re in compliance without some professional help.
You may think that the merchant service provider for your equipment took care of compliance. You may assume that the software you use with your POS equipment protects transactions. You may even assume that your insurance is enough to cover you in the case of a data breach.
But the truth is, none of these things by themselves brings you into compliance. For proof, all you need to do is peruse the 112-page Data Security Standard. Your POS PCI compliance needs to adhere strictly to the standard, but reviewing that document is a bit overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to seek solutions that can take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation.
Do You Need PCI Compliance?
Yes, you certainly need PCI compliance. It’s one of the few things that can help you avoid a cyber-attack or data breach.
Large retail corporations with millions of dollars available for security have been victims of data breaches. In many of these cases, it was discovered that at the time of the breach, the company was not in PCI compliance. That’s according to Ellen Richey, the CRO for Visa.
You should invest in compliance, and you need to practice it all the time, not just when an audit comes around. Taking steps to become PCI compliant can’t stop all things that can become a risk to you. But it is a security baseline, and it’s the minimum amount you should do.
If you’re not sure if your systems are adequately secured against digital thieves, it’s a sure bet that you need to look into network security options.
Protecting the Point of Sale
The one place where a lot of this PCI compliance conversation comes to a head is with your POS transactions. Your POS equipment connects to a backend, which is often where there is a weak link in overall digital security.
You can use secure software and patch your OS frequently. You can upgrade your virus protection on every PC or terminal on your network. But that POS transaction likely takes place over a piece of physical hardware. Is that checkout terminal in compliance?
What you need is a purpose-built solution to protect all of your transactions at the POS level. Start with a secure POS system to begin with. From there, employ the use of software that can work in conjunction with your hardware.
A solution like MDS Cloud Link works by filtering both incoming and outgoing web traffic off premise in the cloud, including POS transactions. This helps protect against unauthorized access to your network, as well as prevents malware and other threats from accessing the system. It’s a point of sale solution that will bring your equipment into PCI compliance. More importantly, it will protect your business, your clients, and the integrity of your brand.