Electronic payment processing technologies become more sophisticated with every coming year. But as the process becomes more complex, new gaps emerge, which can be used by fraudsters to compromise cardholder data. During pandemic-induced lockdowns, security of electronic payments has become even more relevant. That’s why every merchant or payment service provider prefer to integrate their platforms with a PCI payment gateway.
PCI compliance is a payment card industry security standard, intended to protect cardholder data during processing of electronic payments. All applications and hardware that “touch” actual card numbers have to be PCI compliant.
Meaning of PCI compliance for a merchant and for a payment gateway
There are 4 PCI compliance levels, which depend on your monthly processing volumes and amounts, and on your PCI exposure. PCI audit procedures range from self-assessment questionnaire completion for Level 4 merchants to $50K worth of actual auditors’ work, performed on annual basis, for merchants of higher levels.
A merchant can, technically, resort to some third-party tokenization service and stay out of PCI scope. It means that a certified third-party entity encrypts all card numbers and replaces them with tokens before they enter the merchant’s payment system.
However, a gateway provider, whose main functions are to ensure payment security, prevent credit card fraud, and harmonize the formats of payment data between the merchant and the processor/acquirer, must, surely follow PCI compliance requirements.
Credit card fraud resulting from non-compliance with PCI standards might result in heavy fines and even loss of business for the company.
Let us take a quick look at PCI requirements a business should adhere to.
PCI requirements to follow
In order to be PCI compliant, a business must follow a set of rules, which can be conceptually divided into six groups.
- Development and maintenance of a secure network; installation of breach-proof firewall configuration for card data protection; usage of secure passwords and other parameters in the payment system.
- Card data protection by a PCI payment gateway; secure card data storage mechanisms; encryption of sensible cardholder data before it is transmitted between entities.
- Gap analysis and vulnerability management procedures; regularly updated anti-virus protection software; security of all used apps and systems.
- Strict access control; authorization requirements (unique IDs for employees etc.); limited access (both virtual and physical) of personnel to sensitive card data.
- Ongoing monitoring and regular testing of communication channels and networks; tracking of access to sensitive cardholder data; system security testing.
- Strict information security rules.
PCI compliance and PA-DSS standard
Some of the listed requirements are closely interlinked with payment application data security standard (PA-DSS). It is targeted, primarily, at the company’s payment software. Technically, PA-DSS is a stronger standard, in comparison with PCI compliance. So, if all your software is PA-DSS compliant, then your company is automatically deemed PCI compliant by the auditors. However, PA-DSS certification is a tedious process, involving lots of development and testing efforts, as well as paperwork. So, PA-DSS requirements are more relevant for companies, that develop and sell payment software.
The role of a PCI payment gateway
In order to protect your company against PCI security violations, which may result in costly losses and heavy fines, it might make sense to delegate PCI compliance-related issues to your payment gateway provider. Thus, you will have a reliable partner to shoulder the responsibility for security of cardholder data. Moreover, you might be able to stay completely out of PCI scope, or, at least, significantly reduce your PCI exposure.
Some payment gateway software providers customize their products in a way that allows them to ensure the highest levels of card data security for their clients. For example, UniPay Gateway platform, developed by United Thinkers, includes a special module, UniBroker, designed for this purpose. UniBroker is an intelligent processor-agnostic traffic broker, intended to increase security of the entire UniPay Gateway solution and reduce PCI exposure by simplifying and limiting the cardholder data flow.
Large-size companies might handle PCI compliance-related issues themselves, while smaller merchants might prefer to delegate them to PCI payment gateway providers (and stay out of PCI scope). Presently, more and more payment gateway software providers are offering flexible and robust technologies to their respective customers. In the context of this general trend, an optimal PCI compliant payment gateway solution is the one that can develop with your business and adjust to any newly emerging needs.
Feel free to contact our payment specialists at unipaygateway.com to learn, how our PCI payment gateway technology can enhance the security of your operations, cushion your risks, and reduce your costs.