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7/31/2008
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Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
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Credit Card Compliance And Security: New PCI Information Resource Worth A Visit

How much do you know about your business's compliance and security responsibilities for credit card data and other information involved in the transactions that your bank executes for you? Think compliance is completely the responsibility of the financial institution? Think again.

How much do you know about your business's compliance and security responsibilities for credit card data and other information involved in the transactions that your bank executes for you? Think compliance is completely the responsibility of the financial institution? Think again.PCI -- Payment Card Industry -- Data Security Standards are too often thought of as applying to the financial institution that processes a business's transactions and not to the business itself.

Wrong, says David Taylor founder of the PCI Knowledge Base, a site that launched earlier this year to provide an online clearing house for PCI information and, just as important, a forum and networking site to discuss PCI-related issues.

Taylor's fundamental advice for small and midsize businesses is that they first familiarize themselves with PCI standards, which do apply to them, and also familiarize themselves with the contracts governing their business relationship with the financial institution that processes their transactions.

"A lot businesses think that their contractual relationship is with Visa or MasterCard," Taylor says. "It's not. The relationship is with the acquiring bank or institution, not the card company." (American Express, he notes, does have direct relationships with individual businesses.)

A review of that financial institution contract will make clear not only what your data security and preservation responsibilities are, but can also reveal areas where savings might be possible.

"Assign someone to be in charge of the relationship with the institution," Taylor advises, "and have that person thoroughly review the contract, communicate with the institution, examine and, if possible, re-negotiate rates, fees and fine structures [for non-compliance.]

Avoiding those fines -- remaining in full PCI compliance -- is likewise a matter for study and vigilance.

"If you're one part non-compliant, you're completely non-compliant," Taylor warns.

Achieving full compliance -- thoroughly understanding what data must be preserved, what need not be, among other things -- should prompt a thorough review of your business's data handling policies.

Taylor invokes World War II-era advice on gasoline conservation, adapting the "Is this trip necessary?" to modern questions of "Is this data necessary?"

He strongly advises as well that businesses deploy access logging and alerting technologies, but do so guided by a variation of the same question: "Is this logging necessary?"

Noting that many of the objections to logging revolve around system resources and demands placed upon them, Taylor points out many of the objectors are logging everything, rather than only those accesses and events that directly relate to compliance and security.

The PCI Knowledge Base offers free registration which gives you access to -- and participation in -- a variety of forums

Particularly interesting and valuable are the weekly 15 minute PCI webinars, each addressing an aspect of PCI compliance. Coming up in a couple of weeks, for instance, a look at how to go about negotiating rates and other charges with the acquiring institution that processes your transactions.

A free site full of information that might save you money? Sounds like a winner to me: stop by the PCI Knowledge Base and take a look for yourself.

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