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What You Need to Know to Protect Cardholder Data During Online Sales

Ray Moorman

Merchants have a lot of responsibilities to consider when it comes to owning their own business. One of the most important is credit card processing; with this task comes the obligation to protect customers' sensitive information. Ecommerce has become a popular way for enterprises to continue interacting with consumers and give clients another way to purchase products and services. However, it is just as important - if not more - to protect cardholder data collected during an online sales transaction as it is with an in-store point of sale system.

The following are some ways companies can ensure customers' cardholder data is as secure as possible:

Build a secure network
As people continue turning to ecommerce sites to complete purchases, it is crucial for merchants to make sure their systems are updated and protected from external hackers. Outsiders will take advantage of any network weaknesses and use them to their advantage to steal sensitive customer and company data.

Merchants should educate both their employees and their clients on the importance of using a secure network. A company policy instructing workers of best practices - including not using enterprise systems to send personal emails or log into social media sites - can help people understand what actions could potentially harm the entire business. (1) Companies can also add a notice about purchasing from a password-protected wireless internet network, instead of one that's open, for their safety.

These actions will assist companies in building a trustworthy reputation. Consumers who know businesses are looking out for their well-being are more likely to return to purchase again.

Achieve and maintain PCI compliance
One of the most important tasks merchants should undertake to protect cardholder data is adhering to the Payment Card Industry's Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). The PCI provides actionable mandates merchants must follow when storing, transmitting and processing credit card information. Although it is not a federal requirement to follow these standards, businesses can avoid hefty non-compliance penalties by adhering to the codes.

The PCI DDS is intended to help businesses proactively protect customer account data. It includes requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design and other critical protective measures. Following the PCI DSS will help protect cardholder data, as the guidelines are comprehensive and frequently updated to safeguard against company vulnerabilities and potential new hacks.

Complete vulnerability scans
While the PCI DSS requires frequent tracking and monitoring of networks, companies can take their protective measures further by invoking scheduled and unplanned vulnerability scans. (2) While some merchants complete these examinations personally, others rely on the POS system provider to run these tests. In fact, some POS terminal vendors actually include this type of support in their payment packages, as well as PCI compliance assistance programs.

When searching for a new POS system, merchants should look for companies that offer a broad selection of features and protections. Choosing a payment processing and POS provider that promises PCI adherence, as well as additional vulnerability precautions, can take some of the stress off business owners and put the job in the hands of an expert. POS system vendors can more efficiently locate sources of weakness and quickly find a solution to the problem.

Create privilege guidelines
Businesses typically employ many workers over time. As companies amass employees, they gain more customer information as well. However, not every staff member requires access to the same level of data. It's critical for merchants to determine and distribute a policy for access within their network.

Company leaders should create a system for privilege assignment. Supervisors and the human resources team can work together to understand what level of access is necessary for employees fulfilling different roles within the organization. The procedure should also include a plan for when workers are terminated or transferred. The last thing enterprises want is for a person who is no longer working for the company to still be able to gain entry to the company's database. In addition, switching departments or company locations may require different privileges.

Furthermore, merchants should develop a procedure for safely eliminating customer data from their network. This policy should include the amount of time a consumer's information can remain unused in the system before being deleted in a secure manner. For both clients and employees, once the materials are no longer necessary, they should be eradicated from company records.

Online sales are becoming more common as customers flock to ecommerce sites to make purchases. While this behavior is beneficial for companies, merchants must ensure their consumers' sensitive data - especially cardholder information - is protected. By adhering to PCI mandates, creating an access privileges policy, completing vulnerability scans and building secure networks, business owners can help ensure their organization and its clients are safe from information breaches.

  1. http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217484
  2. http://www.enterprisefeatures.com/data-breach-how-to-prevent/

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