Whether you are a large corporation or a small Internet business, you need to receive payment from your clients for your product or service. If you accept credit cards as a method of payment, then it is crucial that you are Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant.

PCI compliance is a security standard that helps to ensure that any business that processes, transmits, or retains credit card information details does so securely. It is especially important because clients and vendors need to know that they can trust you with their private and sensitive financial data. Trust inspires confidence, which can result in repeat customers and referrals for new ones. Additionally, being PCI compliant solidifies your brand with your partners, acquirers, and payment businesses – essentially anyone who helps you stay in business. Just think — one security breach can affect your ability to complete existing transactions and attract new ones.

Today, many businesses are rushing to ensure that they are PCI compliant in accordance with PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). PCI DSS represents a set of industry guidelines and tools to help ensure that sensitive client and vendor data is handled safely and properly, particularly to prevent, find, and address any security issues.

How do you know if you need to be PCI compliant? It comes down to this: if you have a merchant ID, then you need to be PCI compliant. But how exactly does a business become PCI compliant? Here are several steps to incorporate into your business strategy:

. Learn about compliance: Before implementing any compliance measures, make sure you know what you need to do. The PCI Security Standards Council provides comprehensive tools, resources, and other materials to help you determine the right type of security measures, detection systems, and actions for your specific business model.

. Understand the scope of your requirements: After performing your due diligence, you may understand all of the procedures you need to implement to be PCI compliant. However, these procedures take time, effort, and the appropriate resources to implement, and not every business can do so. Prioritize the tasks in terms of priority, affordability, and time.

. Benefit from experts: If you know what you need to do but do not have the resources to do so efficiently and thoroughly, consider using third-party vendors. In addition to implementing your PCI compliance plan, they will also stay current about new threats, have top-of-the-line security measures, and have 27/7 monitoring capabilities. Vendors can also review your plan to recommend additional solutions that are also affordable. 

. Encrypt data: To be PCI compliant, you must encrypt your data that you transmit and receive. Review all types of data to determine if, in fact, that they are actually encrypted, how well they are encrypted, and where that encryption can be fortified. Remember to monitor your encryption practices regularly to minimize threats.

. Review and redefine: Compliance is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing, dynamic process. As data compromises become ever more sophisticated, it can become difficult for you to stay ahead of the threats. Therefore, you need to review your procedures and strategies on a regular basis and tweak those areas that are becoming weak.

It is imperative that any business that handles sensitive credit card data be PCI compliant as soon as possible. Realizing that one size doesn’t actually fit all, you should analyze what steps you need to take, engage experts when needed, and monitor your solutions to keep ahead of the game.

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