If you run an e-commerce site, you might already consider your customers’ privacy and security a top priority. However, keeping track of all regulations and compliance laws around consumer safety can feel impossible. Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance can help you avoid the harmful consequences of data security issues.
In this post, we’ll explain PCI compliance and how it can improve e-commerce safety. Then, we’ll discuss the importance of adhering to industry regulations and guidelines for e-commerce and provide some tips for complying with PCI. Let’s get started!
An Introduction to PCI Compliance
Businesses that transmit payment information on their servers must keep customer data safe. Companies are responsible for taking preventive measures, but many don’t know how to do so or to what extent.
This is where PCI compliance comes in. The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) created the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) to minimize the risk of data breaches involving credit card numbers. This set of standards ensures that merchants securely collect, store, and process their clients’ credit card information:
In total, there are 12 core requirements that e-commerce businesses must adhere to, including:
- Installing and maintaining a firewall
- Implementing strong password protection
- Protecting cardholder data
- Encrypting transmitted cardholder data
- Protecting systems against malware and performing regular updates of antivirus software
- Updating software regularly
- Restricting access to cardholder data
- Implementing unique IDs for accessing data
- Restricting physical access to cardholder information
- Creating, tracking, and maintaining access logs
- Testing security systems regularly
- Creating and documenting security policies for all personnel
These standards are not set in stone, and there are updates every few years to the security protocols. As an e-commerce business, you are obligated to uphold these guidelines. Failure to do so could put your company at risk for expensive data breaches or result in fines and penalties.
Why PCI Compliance Is Vital for E-Commerce Sites
E-commerce stores or websites that accept and process credit card payments on their servers need to comply with PCI standards. This holds true even if you run a small business or your company only processes one monthly payment.
If you fail to adhere to the requirements, there could be repercussions for your business down the road. Consequences of non-adherence include:
- Monthly fines and penalties of up to $100,000
- Damage to your business’s reputation
- Increased risk of data breaches
- Legal action
Online privacy and security are also essential to maintaining a trusting relationship with your clients. Safety measures that protect against fraud risks and cyberattacks can help your customers feel confident to make purchases on your site without having their data stolen.
It’s important to note that WordPress and WooCommerce are not PCI-compliant by default. If you use either of these platforms for your e-commerce site, you’ll still need to take action to meet the required standards.
How to Comply With PCI Guidelines (3 Tips)
Now that you know what PCI compliance is and why it’s crucial for your e-commerce business, let’s look at how you can take action. Note that this list is not comprehensive — there are several measures you’ll need to implement to comply with PCI guidelines. However, these three tips can help to get you started!
1. Use a Third-Party Gateway
If you’re running a WooCommerce store, you can address PCI compliance by using a third-party payment gateway such as PayPal, Stripe, or Authorize.net. Many third-party service providers have safety measures in place that adhere to PCI regulations.
These payment gateways process credit card information for you, which helps take some of the responsibility off your plate.
For example, if you use Stripe, it has a feature called Stripe Elements that transmits all credit card information on its servers:
This means that the data doesn’t pass through your WooCommerce store’s servers. Stripe also provides a full explanation of PCI compliance on its website.
It’s important to note that although using a third-party payment gateway can lighten your responsibility, it won’t cover all PCI bases. You’ll still need to follow other measures to be fully compliant.
2. Install a Firewall
A firewall is a network security system that monitors traffic based on predetermined safety rules. Essentially, it ensures that no one can access your systems without your permission. Since a firewall is required for PCI compliance, this is one of the first security measures you should consider implementing.
Some WordPress hosting companies provide built-in firewalls with their plans. You can check directly with your provider to see if this is the case for your e-commerce website.
If not, there are other options available, such as ZoneAlarm Free Firewall:
If you’re using a network firewall, you can configure it to run only the necessary traffic for maintaining your daily operations. This will help protect both you and your customers from cyberattacks and other security breaches.
3. Avoid Cheap Hosting Plans
You might feel tempted to choose the least expensive WordPress hosting option to cut costs. For example, an unmanaged shared hosting service is cheaper because numerous websites are housed on a single server.
The downside to this setup is that it’s not as secure as other hosting plans. If another site on your server is compromised, it could affect your client data. Plus, you’ll be in charge of maintaining your site’s security.
Therefore, we recommend opting for managed hosting with built-in security settings. These plans are typically more expensive than shared options. However, the provider will handle security protocols, backups, and other essential tasks to secure your data and take some of the workload off your plate.
For example, WP Engine offers managed hosting specifically built for e-commerce businesses:
Along with being PCI-compliant, its WooCommerce hosting plans include some extra security features to protect both you and your customers. These include:
- Platform protection against unauthenticated file system access
- Managed Web Application Firewall (WAF)
- DDoS mitigation
- Encrypted global network routing
- Federated identity solutions
These added safety measures can reduce overall security risks. Plus, WP Engine doesn’t store cardholder information, and its Acceptable Use Policy forbids you from doing so as well.
PCI compliance is vital for your e-commerce business. Ensuring that your online store adheres to PCI guidelines can keep your client’s credit card information safe. Compliance will also help you maintain a good reputation and avoid legal issues down the road.
Do you have any more questions about PCI compliance for e-commerce sites? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.
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