September 6, 2019 Last updated September 6th, 2019 1,205 Reads share

Startups: Getting to Know PCI DSS

Startups PCI DSSImage Credit:

Startups: Getting to Know PCI DSS

There’s so much that startup entrepreneurs need to do to survive in the competitive business world. Be it looking for finances, designing products, or establishing your startup’s corporate structure; the bucket list of a startup entrepreneur is always full. PCI DSS compliance is something that most startups overlook as they build their business and scale operations.

Whether you undertake payment processing or not, you should be conscious of everything related to your PCI DSS compliance environment. This entails protecting cardholder data from breaches as well as ensuring that your company adheres to all provisions of the PCI Security Standards Council.

Since it’s your responsibility to ensure that cardholder data is protected, you may face penalties if consumer data is compromised. The following tips can help you know how best to go about issues pertaining to PCI DSS compliance.

Understand What Data Needs to Be Protected

As a startup entrepreneur, the first step that you need to take towards PCI DSS compliance is understanding what information needs to be protected. It is fallacious to think that you only need to protect financial data and related information such as credit card numbers.

You also need to ensure that personally identifiable information, which can get linked to your customers, employees, and vendors is safeguarded. For instance, analyze how cardholder data travels in your system, and who handles it. Being clear on how information moves within your computer network helps you ensure that it is protected at every stage along the way.

Fortifying Your Network

To fortify your cybersecurity posture, consider using network segmentation as one of your defense strategies. Network segmentation entails dividing a large computer network into several smaller subnetworks, which are isolated from each other. It proves to PCI DSS auditors that you are committed to safeguarding company data from unauthorized access. Arguably, the most significant benefit of keeping different parts of your networks isolated from each other is the fact that it slows down cyber attackers.

With a segmented network, you get extra time to secure your network further in case of an attack. If hackers intrude a segmented network successfully, it will take them more time to leave that segmented part of your system and get what they are looking for. Network segmentation also ensures stronger data security. When you segment your networks, it will be easier to protect sensitive data on your company’s internally-facing assets.

Network segmentation makes it easier for the IT department at your company to implement a policy of least privilege. This is all about restricting access to the firm’s most sensitive systems and data. With such a plan in place, your data and systems will be protected against insider and outsider attacks even when users’ access credentials get compromised.

Avoid Storing Data

It’s easier for your startup to achieve PCI compliance if it doesn’t store sensitive data. If possible, consider using an e-commerce system that doesn’t store data once customers have been charged.

In case you can’t avoid storing data in your system, access should only be accorded to specific individuals. Similarly make it clear to employees why they should protect customer information, as well as the potential consequences that your business faces if you fail to protect the data.

Implement Firewalls and Other Data Security Measures

Another strategy for achieving PCI DSS compliance is setting up firewalls on your computer systems, more so those that are involved in payment processing. You can safeguard your computer systems against breaches by having multiple layers of protection. This will act as your first line of defense against hacking attempts.

You also need to understand that firewalls are not “set and forget” security measures. They must be appropriately configured besides being regularly checked to ascertain that they still offer sufficient defense to your computer systems. It’s also advisable to point-of-sale machines and computers frequently for skimming devices or rogue software.

Implement an Incident Response Policy

When a data breach occurs, you need a plan that will help you revert to secure operations within the shortest time possible. The plan should stipulate roles, contact strategies, and communication requirements that come into play in case of an incident. It should include legal measures to take as well as public relations strategies that will help you weather the storm.

With such an incident response strategy in place, compromised situations will be expertly handled on time. Ideally, your company needs a forensics specialist on a retainer basis to gather evidence and act as an expert witness. Given that most startups face financial limitations, you may not be able to afford a full-time forensics expert. Hiring one on need basis can come in handy.

Tokenize Card Data

Tokenization can help you protect data collected during credit card transactions. It provides the maximum level of security against data breaches. If hackers intrude your system and all account numbers are tokenized, there will be minimal exposure.

Tokenization entails replacing sensitive information with mathematically irreversible tokens. This way, unique codes with no intrinsic value will be left on your system. Taking this measure as one of your payment solutions not only protects your system from intruders but also helps you save time on your PCI compliance exercise.

PCI DSS compliance may seem like an annoying hassle, especially to startup entrepreneurs who have so many tasks to undertake. Nonetheless, the exercise has lots of positive outcomes and can help your company to grow and mature. Having the certification proves that you’ve dedicated time, energy, and resources into your company’s risk management effort.

Before embarking on your compliance effort, you should consider the number of financial transactions that you process, the number of employees that you have, and the type of business that you run.

You should perceive PCI-DSS compliance as a business opportunity rather than a threat to your startup. This will help you to abide by and fully satisfy the requirements of the PCI Security Standards Council. Since compliance is not a one-off undertaking, your systems should be regularly audited to ensure that they are up-to-speed with the ever-changing regulations.

Ken Lynch

Ken Lynch

Read Full Bio