7 Ways to Protect Your Customers’ Credit Card Information From Hackers

Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Business Software, Business Start Up Advice, Credit Card Processing [ 0 Comments ]

Offering credit card processing is key for your small businesses to grow its costumer base. But equally critical is ensuring that your customers feel comfortable sharing personal information on your website.

For the 12th year in a row, identity theft was the top complaint received by the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 — with 15 percent of their 1.8 million complaints dealing with the issue. Plus, 64 percent of consumers believe they’re at risk for identity theft, according to a poll conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in 2012.

It’s no wonder that consumers are becoming more concerned about using credit and debit cards online. But you can help ease their worries and boost your reputation as a great site to do business on by taking extra security precautions.

Here are seven ways you can help protect your customers’ credit card information from hackers.

1. Set up a secure connection: To protect credit card and financial information received via the internet, make sure your web-hosting vendor can provide a a secure connection, like Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Consumers will recognize your site as a safe place to do business because the web address will say https instead of http, and a padlock icon will appear on the browser window.

2. Use firewalls and encryption: Protect your wireless networks from hackers by turning on the encryption and firewall settings on your wireless router. There are different types of encryption, but the WPA2 is considered the most effective. Create a wireless network password that is long and uses a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Most wireless routers contain a built-in firewall, but make sure to check that it is on.

3. Secure documents and equipment: One of the best ways to protect a costumer’s information from hackers is not to store it on a computer with internet access. However, if that’s impractical, make sure sensitive information and files on your computers are encrypted. Lock any paperwork or electronic storage devices (laptops, flash drives, disks, etc.) in a file cabinet or office when they’re not in use, and limit the number of employees who have access to the information. Disconnect your computers and other hardware when you’re not in the office (evenings, weekends, holidays, etc.) in order to protect it from opportunistic hackers. If possible, use an additional server to protect extra-sensitive information in the event your primary server crashes.

4. Destroy unneeded documents: If you have any documents or files that contain a customer’s personal information that you no longer need, get rid of them (and make sure they’re unreadable before you dispose of them). Use electronic wiping programs to ensure that electronic files are permanently deleted from your hard drive.

5. Use passwords: Make sure all computers can only be accessed with a password after they’ve gone into screensaver mode. Also make sure employees don’t use easy-to-hack passwords like social security numbers, names and obvious words (like “Password” as a password).

6. Hire responsibly: Check references and use background checks on employees who have access to sensitive information. Limit access to this information on strictly a “need-to-know” basis. When an employee leaves the business, protect sensitive information by changing passwords, getting new keys, and/or closing accounts.

7. Only work with reputable vendors. Look into the data security practices of any of the businesses you outsource to (think payroll, customer services, website hosting, etc.) to ensure they meet your level of security. Make sure all of your contracts with these vendors include  a security safeguard clause and that the companies are required to notify you in the event they experience any sort of security incident — even if it doesn’t directly involve your company’s information.

Sources: The Small Business Administration, FCC.gov and Chargify.com.

Photo courtesy of Stock.Xchng

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