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What Startups Need To Know About PCI Compliance

60% of businesses that undergo data loss due to a breach never survive for more than six months after the event. While some will close shop due to their loss of customers, others find it hard to handle the costs of trying to survive the breach. Sadly, it can be even tougher for a startup to survive such disasters, especially if it hasn’t yet attracted a good market share.

Among the best ways to steer away from data breaches would be to comply with industry-wide regulations, and the PCI DSS tends to be among the most important ones. Compliance with it ensures that your business can handle the payment data of customers with care. The question is, what should you know about the regulation to be compliant?

Here is a brief introduction into all you need to know about PCI DSS compliance:

What Is PCI Compliance?

PCI DSS is a set of payment data security rules that were created by the top credit card brands to protect the interests of all stakeholders. It aims to not only protect businesses from the losses that can stem from a data breach, but also protect customers from having their data compromised. It also helps such credit card brands keep their businesses afloat by keeping cyber-criminals away from payment data.

Ideally, any business that stores, processes, or even distributes credit card payment data is required to be compliant with the regulation. This will also include your vendors as long as they have access to your payment data. The regulation comes with 281 requirement and 12 objectives that businesses need to achieve.

The Levels of PCI Compliance.

Merchants who are looking to be PCI compliant will belong to four PCI DSS levels of compliance. All levels come with their compliance requirements, and the lower levels are less strict than the higher ones. Your business will belong to level 1 as long as it deals with above 6 million annual credit card transactions. If your business undergoes any payment-related security breaches, you will fall into this group despite the number of transactions you handle annually.

Level 2 businesses, on the other hand, are those that handle 1-6 million annual credit card transactions. Level 3 merchants are businesses that deal with less than 1 million transactions but more than 20,000 annual transactions. Finally, level four merchants handle less than 20,000 transactions annually.

How to Achieve Compliance.

Ideally, you need to meet all the guidelines for your level to achieve compliance. Level 1 merchants have to follow a more stringent path to compliance in comparison to the rest. The one thing that is unique to this level is that the merchants have to work with a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) to undergo an annual Report on Compliance (ROC). Everything else is similar for all other levels.

Regardless of the level you belong to; you need to fill a PSI DSS questionnaire annually, get your network scanned, and present an annual attestation of compliance. The questionnaire lists a couple of yes or no questions that you need to tick yes to prove compliance. In case your answer is no to any of the questions, you should include a statement outlining when and how you plan to implement the ad hoc security controls. All these documents should then be presented to your merchant acquirer.

Compliance Is an Ongoing Process.

Every day, cyber-criminals are looking for ways to circumvent security controls. While the security tools that helped you achieve PCI DSS certification can help safeguard your payment data today, there is no guarantee that they will suffice tomorrow. As a result, compliance should never be a once and done task.

Instead, you should keep watch of where your business lies compliance-wise. For instance, in case any security system needs some updates, you should make them. It will also pay to be on the lookout for any changes in the PCI DSS regulations, as ignorance will never be an excuse for non-compliance. A great way to ensure that your business is keeping up with the compliance requirement is to hire a compliance officer. Their role should be to concentrate on the different regulations your business needs to follow and ensure compliance.

The Cost of Non-Compliance.

Non-compliant businesses often have to pay hefty fines if an audit proves that they are non-compliant. If you manage to evade being caught, the security loopholes left behind by non-compliance can easily lead to a data breach. Once a cyber-criminal manages to leverage your security vulnerabilities, your business is bound to lose both customers and investors.

It will be costly to regain the lost customers, not to mention, ensure that your business remains afloat.  Even worse, facing a data breach will automatically place you in level 1 of PCI compliance, which is more expensive to achieve than the rest of the levels. Simply put, it is less costly to focus on compliance than to ignore it.

Startups have the highest risk of being involved in a data breach. What’s even worse is that a single successful breach can easily cripple your business. As long as you can focus on remaining PCI compliant and improving data security, you can reduce the chances of such disasters striking your business.

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Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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