If your business has anything at all to do with storing, managing, or transmitting customer or employee data of any kind, you inevitably run the risk of becoming a victim of a data breach. That is why the institutions that make up the Payment Card Industry Council have come up with a set of standards every company who deals with data must adhere to. Are you ready to pass the annual audit to determine whether you correctly follow these Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), more commonly known as PCI compliance?

Put your expert team in place.

PCI compliance is an ongoing process, one that cannot be accomplished in a matter of hours or days, and then abandoned until the next audit rolls around. To do it right, you need a dedicated team for whom data security is their highest responsibility. Ideally, you should confer a title such as Data Security Specialist upon the most qualified member, and then make sure that everyone on the team is aware of and accountable for their individual PCI compliance-related duties.

Assess your risk.

Data breaches happen when cybercriminals bypass your security barriers in order to steal intellectual property, sabotage data, or steal someone’s identity. Therefore, the more you understand about your IT infrastructure, and the controls and practices that keep it safe, the better positioned you will be to identify and address vulnerabilities before they are exploited.

Once you map your infrastructure, your next task is to prioritize your risks. Some issues may be relatively minor and can be put off until later. Other risks, however, may be critical and must be corrected or minimized right away. As you prepare for your PCI audit, the more preventive work that you can do, the smoother your assessment will go.

Close the gaps.

After your official PCI audit, you will receive a thorough evaluation as to the deficits in your data security controls and practices. However, preparing in advance will give you a chance to obtain the funding and human resources needed to correct the problems you have identified. Although your PCI auditor may still find areas of concern, you may well have addressed most of them before the official assessment even starts.

Document your work.

You could put in infinite hours improving your PCI compliance until your company’s digital fortress is virtually unassailable. However, all of your labor will come to nothing if it is not thoroughly documented. Your PCI compliance auditor as well as managers, investors, and other stakeholders should be able to see what you are doing to ensure that you are providing secure payment processing and data storage. In addition, your records should clearly demonstrate the steps you are taking to guarantee that your security measures are being constantly updated in keeping with changes in the digital threat landscape.

Hire a consultant.

Before the “real” audit happens, many companies opt to get another layer of third-party feedback. A Quality Security Assessor (QSA) firm can conduct its own gap assessment that may pinpoint other areas to be corrected. By the time you read through their report, you will know what will be required for you to pass a full-scale PCI compliance audit.

Safeguarding the data you manage and transmit is a no-brainer. Robust infrastructure, controls, and protocols will protect your digital profile, shield information from theft or tampering, and protect the reputation of your company. Instead of dreading that PCI compliance audit, prepare for it assiduously so that you can benefit from its findings.

Contact NAB today and see how easy it is to get the merchant services you deserve.

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