If you are currently an E-Commerce customer you are going to need to be aware of the current PCI-DSS compliance standards.  If you are a customer using the POLARIS Virtual Store or accepting payments online you may be required to also adhere to PCI Compliance issues.  Please contact us at (610) 450-6072 if you have any questions.

The following are some frequently asked questions regarding PCI Compliance.

Q: What is PCI?
A: The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements designed to ensure that ALL companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.  Essentially any merchant that has a Merchant ID (MID).

The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) was launched on September 7, 2006 to manage the ongoing evolution of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards with focus on improving payment account security throughout the transaction process.  The PCI DSS is administered and managed by the PCI SSC (www.pcisecuritystandards.org), an independent body that was created by the major payment card brands (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and JCB).

It is important to note, the payment brands and acquirers are responsible for enforcing compliance, not the PCI council.

Q: To whom does PCI apply?
A: PCI applies to ALL organizations or merchants, regardless of size or number of transactions, that accepts, transmits or stores any cardholder data. Said another way, if any customer of that organization ever pays the merchant directly using a credit card or debit card, then the PCI DSS requirements apply.

Q: What are the PCI compliance deadlines?
A: All merchant that stores, processes or transmits cardholder data must be compliant now.  However, as a Level 4 merchant, you will have to refer to your merchant bank for their specific validation requirements and deadlines.  All deadline enforcement will come from your merchant bank.

Q: What is a Level 4 Merchant?

A: Any merchant processing fewer than 20,000 Visa e-commerce transactions per year, and all other merchants -- regardless of acceptance channel -- processing up to 1M Visa transactions per year.

* Any merchant that has suffered a hack that resulted in an account data compromise may be escalated to a higher validation level.

 

Q: If I only accept credit cards over the phone, does PCI still apply to me?
A: Yes. All business that store, process or transmit payment cardholder data must be PCI Compliant.

 

Q: What are the penalties for noncompliance?
A: The payment brands may, at their discretion, fine an acquiring bank $5,000 to $100,000 per month for PCI compliance violations. The banks will most likely pass this fine on downstream till it eventually hits the merchant. Furthermore, the bank will also most likely either terminate your relationship or increase transaction fees.  Penalties are not openly discussed nor widely publicized, but they can catastrophic to a small business.

It is important to be familiar with your merchant account agreement, which should outline your exposure.

 

Q: What constitutes a payment application?
A: What constitutes a payment application as it relates to PCI Compliance? The term payment application has a very broad meaning in PCI.  A payment application is anything that stores, processes, or transmits card data electronically.  This means that anything from a Point of Sale System (e.g., Verifone swipe terminals, ALOHA terminals, etc.) in a restaurant to a Website e-commerce shopping cart (e.g., CreLoaded, osCommerce, etc) are all classified as payment applications. Therefore any piece of software that has been designed to touch credit card data is considered a payment application.

 

Q: What is a payment gateway?
A: Payment Gateways connect a merchant to the bank or processor that is acting as the front-end connection to the Card Brands. They are called gateways because they take many inputs from a variety of different applications and route those inputs to the appropriate bank or processor.  Gateways communicate with the bank or processor using dial-up connections, Web-based connections or privately held leased lines.

 

Q: What if a merchant refuses to cooperate?
A: PCI is not, in itself, a law. The standard was created by the major card brands such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, AMEX, and JCB. At their acquirers/service providers discretion, merchants that do not comply with PCI DSS may be subject to fines, card replacement costs, costly forensic audits, brand damage, etc., should a breach event occur.

For a little upfront effort and cost to comply with PCI, you greatly help reduce your risk from facing these extremely unpleasant and costly consequences.

 

Q: What does a small-to-medium sized business (Level 4 merchant) have to do in order to satisfy the PCI requirements?
A: To satisfy the requirements of PCI, a merchant must complete the following steps:

  • Identify your Validation Type as defined by PCI DSS – see below .  This is used to determine which Self Assessment Questionnaire is appropriate for your business.
  • Complete the Self-Assessment Questionnaire according to the instructions in the Self- Assessment Questionnaire Instructions and Guidelines.
  • Complete and obtain evidence of a passing vulnerability scan with a PCI SSC Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).  Note scanning does not apply to all merchants.  It is required for Validation Type 4 and 5 – those merchants with external facing IP addresses.  Basically if you electronically store cardholder information or if your processing systems have any internet connectivity, a quarterly scan by an approved scanning vendor is required.
  • Complete the relevant Attestation of Compliance in its entirety (located in the SAQ tool).
  • Submit the SAQ, evidence of a passing scan (if applicable), and the Attestation of Compliance, along with any other requested documentation, to your acquirer.
  • I’m a small merchant with very few card transactions; do I need to be compliant with PCI DSS?

All merchants, small or large, need to be PCI compliant. The payment brands have collectively adopted PCI DSS as the requirement for organizations that process, store or transmit payment cardholder data.

 

 

* The above questions/answers courtesy of http://www.pcicomplianceguide.org.