If your business processes credit card payments, you must comply with federal security standards to prevent fraud, hacking, and various other security vulnerabilities and threats, or risk losing this ability and being audited or fined.
Any company or government agency that processes, stores, or transmits payment card data must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, a set of requirements to enhance data security. Some of the PCI standards are common sense, such as building and maintaining a secure network through common practices and not using vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords.
In 2007, TJX Companies, a discount retailer of apparel and home products with stores such as TJMaxx and Marshalls, reported one of the largest data breaches ever, with an estimated 45.6 million credit and debit card numbers stolen from one of its systems. The cost was severe for the retail giant, whose settlement required it to pay an estimated $65 million to MasterCard and Visa card users. The settlement with the Federal Trade Commission also requires the company to retain independent auditors to asses its security every other year for 20 years.
The TJX breach reveals what can happen to a company that fails to comply with the PCI DSS. Data security analysts criticized TJX for collecting too much personal information, keeping it too long, and relying on weak encryption technology to protect it.
The following 12 security guidelines are mandatory for any organization that processes credit cards:
- Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
- Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters.
- Protect stored cardholder data.
- Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open public networks.
- Use and regularly update antivirus software.
- Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
- Restrict access to cardholder data by a need-to-know basis.
- Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access.
- Restrict physical access to cardholder data.
- Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data.
- Regularly test security systems and processes.
- Maintain a policy that addresses information security.