An Introduction to Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance for WooCommerce Stores

Is your WooCommerce online store Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant? 

Data breaches are common in the electronic commerce word. To buy products online, customers must submit sensitive cardholder data, such as their credit card information or debit card numbers, in the form of data.

However, there are hackers who specifically target this data for illicit purposes. They may use a stolen data record to steal a customer’s identity, or they may sell the stolen data record on the black market to the highest bidder. 

This is where the payment card industry compliance comes in. It can protect the data of your WooCommerce store’s customers.

What Is PCI Compliance?

PCI compliance involves following the data protection rules outlined in the standard of its namesake. This standard is set by the PCI security standards council. The PCI DSS compliance standard was created by a consortium of financial service providers in 2004 in response to the rise of payment fraud. Visa, Discover, MasterCard, and American Express acknowledged the need for new data protection rules to combat payment fraud, so they created the first PCI DSS compliance standard.

The primary purpose of the PCI standard is to protect an online business against payment fraud during the e-commerce transactions. Payment fraud can generally only occur if a customer’s credit card data is breached. Customers transmit cardholder data when buying products or services from an online store. The PCI standard consists of rules that are designed to protect customers’ data and, thus, lower the risk of payment fraud.

Why Is PCI Compliance Important?

PCI compliance is not required under federal law in the United States for an online business. Some states – Nevada, for instance – however, do require all online retailers to comply with the PCI standard. Minnesota doesn’t require full PCI compliance, but it does prohibit retailers from retaining payment-related data for longer than 48 hours after the time of authorization.

Even if your WooCommerce store isn’t based in a state that requires it, PCI compliance is still important in regards to online shopping. It will typically add features like shielding your e-commerce business from liability claims involving electronic commerce data breaches and storing card data.

With PCI compliance, your online store will have formal safeguards in place to protect customers’ credit card data from breaches. If a breach occurs, you can show that your business wasn’t negligent.

Your Site Without PCI Compliance

Failure to comply with the PCI standard may jeopardize your WooCommerce store’s merchant account. A merchant account is a privilege issued by a bank. If the bank determines that your WooCommerce store isn’t compliant with the PCI standard, it may revoke your store’s ability to store credit card data.

Not all banks will revoke your WooCommerce business’ merchant account in the event of noncompliance. Some of them may allow your store to keep its merchant account while charging a noncompliance fee. Noncompliance fees can quickly add up, but you can avoid them by complying with the PCI standard.

Your WooCommerce online store may lose the ability to accept credit card information and debit card payments if it doesn’t comply with the PCI standard. The PCI standard was created by some of the world’s biggest credit card providers. Therefore, they require retailers to comply with it. If online retailers can no longer accept credit card and debit card payments, they will struggle to get business and stay afloat in this competitive market.

Compliance Builds Trust for e-Commerce Businesses

PCI compliance fosters trust with customers. Customers will have greater trust in your online business knowing that their payment-related data is protected. They’ll notice the implemented safeguards, which will compel them to continue using your online store.

Noncompliance, conversely, may result in the loss of trust. Customers may stop trusting your e-commerce store upon discovering its weak or nonexistent safeguards.

How to Ensure Your WooCommerce Store Is PCI Compliant

There are several things you or your business can do to ensure that your WooCommerce store is PCI compliant. For starters, avoid using an unencrypted connection to receive credit card data from customers. The PCI standard requires the use of an encrypted connection on both private and public networks to conduct business.

Encrypted connections are achieved with Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). All HTTPS connections are encrypted. Customers can transmit payment-related data to your e-commerce store over an HTTPS connection, which will encrypt their data so that it can be breached during transit.

In addition to an encrypted connection, you should use a firewall. The PCI standard requires the use of a web application firewall. A web application firewall must be installed and configured to filter bad traffic. Web application firewall work by analyzing traffic packets and comparing the content of traffic packets to a set of firewall rules. If a traffic packet doesn’t pass the test, the web application firewall will reject it.

The PCI standard includes specifications for access controls. Each person who can log in to your online store and access payment-related data, for example, must have a unique user ID. Allowing multiple people to use the same user ID will result in noncompliance.

You should also change all default passwords to databases or other backend portals that contain payment-related data. The PCI standard prohibits the use of default passwords. Default passwords offer little or no protection against breaches. As a result, the PCI standard prohibits their use.

When choosing a payment processor, make sure it’s PCI compliant. Most WooCommerce stores don’t process payments internally. Rather, they use the services of a third-party payment processor. Using a payment processor means that customers’ payment-related data won’t travel through your WooCommerce store. When customers check out, they’ll be redirected to the payment processor’s own website where they can submit their credit card or debit card numbers.

With a payment processor, you can shift the burden of PCI compliance. The payment processor will be responsible for complying with the PCI standard. Your e-commerce store won’t receive or store customers’ payment-related data if it uses a payment processor. You can still implement its safeguards, but the burden of compliance will fall primarily on the shoulders of the payment processor. Of course, the payment processor with which you partner should be PCI compliant.

PCI compliance has become a hot topic in the e-commerce industry. While local retailers use it as well, online retailers are particularly at risk for data breaches. Ensuring that your e-commerce store is PCI compliant will lower the risk of breaches while protecting customers’ payment-related data.

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Amanda Nadhir

Amanda serves as the Head of Sales and Enablement for Pressable. She's worked in the tech space for well over a decade and has spent the majority of that time building/training/leading teams. She loves travel and adventure and when she's not working, you can find her spending time with her family, lounging pool/beach-side, playing tennis, working out, and meeting people/making friends all along the way!

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