How To Make Sure Your Ad Agency Is PCI Compliant

ensure ad agency pci compliant Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards compliance



Ad agencies play a critical role in today’s online world. They connect businesses to customers and help improve efficiency in daily operations. But as your agency attracts more clients, you’ll be faced with multiple compliance regulations. 

Data security compliance is one of those requirements. In particular, PCI DSS was introduced to protect cardholder data during digital transactions. When your clients pay for the services that you provide, they expect their payment information to remain secure. Being PCI compliant means that you’ve taken significant steps to prevent breaches in cardholder data. 

Understanding PCI Compliance 

Many agencies proudly display being PCI Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 compliant. But what does this mean? PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards) was put in place by major credit card companies to streamline payment processing. 

In particular, PCI puts forth guidelines that your ad agency should adhere to when handling cardholder data. These best practices help ensure the safety of the entire credit card ecosystem. Furthermore, they help you secure your network, encrypt sensitive data, and avoid costly data breaches. 

Because hackers are developing new strategies for penetrating your systems, you can’t afford to be left behind when keeping your customer data safe. PCI compliance also boosts client confidence and allows you to save costs when processing payments. 

To help you establish and maintain PCI compliance, here are specific steps you should take for your ad agency. 

1. Start By Finding Out Your Level Of Compliance 

PCI compliance is organized into four levels. Level 1 is the highest, applying to agencies that process over 6 million credit card transactions in a year. Level 4 is the lowest (for companies handling under $20,000 in transactions), and levels 2/3 lie in between. Each level has different compliance requirements. 

For example, Level 1 compliance will require robust network security and annual external audits. For ad agencies within this category, proper planning will be critical to compliance. You’ll need to complete regular internal scans, an attestation of compliance, and an annual inspection. You may also consider hiring a PCI expert to ensure that your agency maintains continuous compliance against credit card risks. 

2. Assess Your Risk Environment 

Having an in-depth understanding of your risk environment is critical to compliance. Regardless of your agency’s size and operations, you should complete a risk assessment to understand the threats you face. By identifying, categorizing, and planning for each type of risk, you’ll be better prepared to meet the compliance requirements set forth by PCI DSS. 

3. Have Proper Internal Procedures 

Compliance starts from within. This means that your daily operations, workplace policies, and employees will directly impact whether you’re compliant or not. Develop internal procedures that align with PCI guidelines for your agency. In this way, you’ll be able to define roles and expectations without going over budget clearly. For example, when handling credit card payments from clients, your agency isn’t allowed to store CVV security codes (the 3-digit code at the back of the card). 

You should plan for your employees to request this code during every transaction, and track performance to identify any breaches in policy. 

4. Encrypt Cardholder Data 

PCI DSS requires encryption as part of compliance. In particular, you should encrypt cardholder data whenever it’s being transported over an unsecured network. Encryption prevents hackers from using sensitive customer information even after gaining unauthorized access. In this way, you’ll minimize financial loss and have an opportunity to secure your systems after a breach occurs. 

5. Store As Little Information As Possible 

As a best practice, PCI DSS recommends that you should store as little credit card information as possible. This minimizes the level of risk that your agency faces when processing payments, and you also get to save on costs by securing less information. Other common best practices also apply to stored data. Make sure you use strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and antimalware tools. 

6. Do You Need An Auditor? 

Depending on your level of compliance, you may need to have your systems reviewed by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA). QSAs are professional PCI auditors who understand all aspects of compliance. They check to ensure that your payment processing steps are in line with the current requirements while providing advice on how to maintain a compliant environment. 

QSAs can also help you determine requirements for internal scanning, quarterly network scans, and annual report preparation.

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