How To Improve Data Security And Storage

Personal information is one of the most sought after, most liquid commodities in this digital age. As consumers become more and more aware of the dangers of digital transactions the importance of data security and storage will become more and more pronounced.

Perhaps the biggest problem to face merchants right now is not that they are ignoring security measures. In fact, many of the merchants who have suffered some kind of security breach had spent huge amounts of time and resources on installing security systems. The problem was that these companies simply weren’t prepared to deal with every area of possible threat. Some avenues may have been completely blocked, but others were unknowingly left wide open.

As more of these stories reach the public notice, merchants will eventually realize that improved data security and storage is just good business sense. At that point we might be able to trust a business to implement those measures on their own. Until then, though, the major credit card companies will rely on the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) to encourage business to improve their security.

The PCI DSS is a list of 12 requirements that any merchant that stores, processes, or transmits sensitive information must conform to. These requirements can be considered the necessary steps to improve your own data security and storage methods.

Begin by controlling the traffic that has access to your system by installing a firewall. Firewalls are devices that control the traffic in and out of a system and can block transmission that don’t meet the specified security criteria.

The next step is to change all the vendor supplied passwords that may have come with your security systems. Most of these passwords have already made it into the hacker community and are the first things they’ll try as they attack your system. A merchant should change these as quickly as possible.

Once you have the cardholder data, you have to do everything you can to protect it. This includes encrypting all data and keeping stored data to a bare minimum. Physical and computer access to information and encryption keys must also be strictly controlled.

But encryption of data stored on a system is not enough on its own. Not only must data be secured on both end points, but cardholder data must also be encrypted in transit. This is due to the fact that if a hacker can’t get to your information while it’s on your system, they could try to intercept, modify, or reroute it as it is sent.

Threats to your information don’t only come from hackers. Viruses or accidents can crash or otherwise destroy your system, causing a loss of information. A merchant must install and keep anti-virus software up-to-date, and develop and maintain secure systems and applications. Or if you’re using third part applications you must make sure that you install and necessary patches and updates.

Access to cardholder data must be restricted to business need-to-know. A lot of trouble has happened in the past because too many people have access to a system. It’s in these cases that access has a tendency to spread.

For everyone who has access to the system, a unique ID must be assigned. By doing so it will be easier to identify the cause of any problems that might happen.