Expert advice on choosing a reliable PCI-compliant service provider

We get paid for our services and products just like any other company. When starting a small business just building a customer base, you only accept cash or checks.

As your customer base grows, you’ll find that using other payment methods allows you to serve customers who order out of state and internationally. As a business owner, you must check all companies that offer electronic payment services, not just payment processing providers.

Every service provider must ensure an appropriate level of protection and secure processing of customer information.For this reason, you should work with a PCI DSS provider that offers debit cards, credit cards, and electronic payment services for various business activities.

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What is a PCI-Compliant Service Provider?

PCI DSS applies to entities that store, process, or transfer cardholder data or sensitive authentication data, including merchants, processors, acquirers, card issuers, and service providers. Approved by payment systems and administered by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards Board. Many companies are (Payment Card Industry) Compliant because significant credit card companies and payment brands (VISA, MasterCard, Discovery, etc.) process, store, and transmit card information for payment processing. However, many companies offer electronic payment services, each of which must be compliant and protect their customers’ personal financial information from data leaks and fraud. Any company that stores, processes, or transmits cardholder data is considered a service provider and must undergo audit compliance. Therefore, companies that affect the security of this data are also considered service providers.

Compliance with current requirements

The best and most effective way to narrow your search for compliant service providers is to check your status. This method ensures that the internal security controls required by the Data Security Standards Board are in place. As a global standard adopted by all credit card service provider brands and defined by regulation. To achieve compliance, service providers must establish the following internal control objectives:

  • Create and maintain a secure network;
  • Use robust encryption methods to protect cardholder data stored and transmitted over public networks;
  • Use a vulnerability management program to protect your applications, systems, and functions;
  • Implement strict access controls to prevent unauthorized access by employees;
  • Monitor secure networks to track access to cardholder data and regularly review security systems;
  • Develop and maintain an information security policy for all employees.

Choosing a PCI Compliant Service Provider

The best way to choose a provider is to check their compliance status. Each credit card brand has a list of registered service providers that meet all the criteria. Service providers reviewing their documentation should be encouraged. If your service provider cannot provide proof of an on-site assessment, working with another company is in your best interest. After reviewing, you can verify your security practices by asking the following questions and doing your research:

Has your business experienced a data breach?

How a company survives a data breach, and the extent of the damage can help determine whether a service provider can trust a cardholder’s personal information. Ask the company how many data breaches they have experienced and what steps they have taken to minimize data loss. You should also review the measures your service provider has taken to protect against identity theft for customers whose personal financial information has been compromised.

What steps are included in an incident response plan?

An incident response plan is a written set of steps an organization can take to detect a data breach, respond to the incident, and mitigate the impact of security risks. A detailed incident response plan ensures that procedures are in place to identify and eliminate potential threats as quickly as possible.

What types of background checks are performed on approved employees?

Employees who store, process, or transmit cardholder data must undergo an audit. In addition to conducting regular background checks when hiring employees, service providers must ensure that employees have the knowledge and experience to meet the necessary requirements. For verification, a more detailed inspection should also be carried out.

Does your company have any commercial complaints or advice from customers?

Not only must companies be prepared to advise their customers to demonstrate the reliability and safety of their operations, but they must also be alert to complaints and be prepared to provide information about complaints against them. This information allows us to be more transparent about how service providers handle complaints and issues.

The sphere of electronic commerce is actively developing all over the world. New online stores appear every day. Due to the rapid development of e-commerce, the number of fraudulent transactions is overgrowing. Cybersecurity issues are significant for merchants because online sales are directly related to the use of bank cards. Companies must comply with the credit card industry’s privacy standards to avoid exposing customers’ personal information and losing revenue. It defines the security rules that sellers must accept, process, and store payment data from buyers. Payment systems such as Discover, MasterCard, Visa, and American Express have developed. Anyone who trades at least once a year must follow these rules. This way, the retailer ensures the security of the card buyer’s confidential data when the card buyer pays online. For a company to receive a certificate, it must meet the requirements of the international payment system. These arre mandatory for all business owners, regardless of their income level or industry.

Certification level

Providers are assigned a PCI DSS level based on business type, number of transactions per year, and assets at risk. There are four in total, and they must undergo a compliance audit to receive a certain level of certification. After receiving the certificate, it is necessary to review it yearly and conduct a micro-audit for each position every quarter. Explore the four levels and the steps you need to take to prove your certification.

Level 1: To achieve Level 1, merchants must process more than 6 million transactions annually. Organizations that perform small transactions but have experienced security issues are also required to undergo a Level 1 audit. Each year, merchants must undergo a certification process to confirm their level. This step examines your organization’s infrastructure and makes recommendations for improving security.

Level 2 Applies to merchants who process more than 1 million credit and debit card transactions annually. To check this level, sellers fill out a questionnaire. However, since 2012, these questionnaires can be filled out only by employees with special training or specialists of audit firms. In addition, suppliers undergo a quarterly analysis to identify weak points in the organization’s information structure.

Level 3: This certificate is awarded to merchants who process between 20,000 and 1,000,000 transactions annually. Online stores fill out a quarterly questionnaire to confirm this, and a quarterly ASV scan may also be required. Upon completion, the provider receives a certificate of compliance (a document reflecting the results of the assessment).

Level 4: Level 4 certificates are issued to merchants who process fewer than 20,000 transactions annually. You can check your status with ASV quizzes and scans.

Author Profile

Adam Regan
Adam Regan
Deputy Editor

Features and account management. 3 years media experience. Previously covered features for online and print editions.


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