05 February 2016

Security Breaches and Your Small Business

The Start-Up television series features entrepreneurs from across the United States who face tough challenges making their dreams into reality.  Getting a business off the ground can be an emotional ride for an individual “wearing many hats” and trying to find a balance between family and business. The mobile food truck business “Gouda Girls,” featured in season one (episodes available at PBS.com), is a great example of the risks involved and how starting a business will change your life.  It can be scary getting loans, purchasing equipment for the business, managing social media, working long hours, and making the right decisions to ensure success.  Every detail is important, but let’s face it - an individual can’t be a salesmen, tech guy, accountant, graphic designer, and social media expert all at the same time.  It’s true many entrepreneurs do well on their own, but what if something slips through the cracks?  Do you have a support system around you?  Is there an expert you call for help?

In today’s world of security breaches and fast moving financial transactions between a business and its customers, there is plenty of room for error, and sometimes a mistake can be devastating to a business - especially a young start-up.  Mobile businesses need solutions that can help them speed up their workflow and maximize their time in a day.  For example, the Gouda Girls set up their location each day, prepare the menu, shop for ingredients, cook the food, and still manage to give great customer service.  During the craziness of the day there is always money flowing back and forth between the company and customer, and it is easy to forget how important it is to make sure things are secure. 

Credit card and financial institutions have been hit hard in recent years with fraudulent activity, forcing them to change the way money is exchanged.  New mandates have tightened up security but are evolving so rapidly it leaves many business scratching their heads.  “Am I up to date on my technology”?  “Are my credit card transactions secure”?  We sat down and talked with Aliki Liadis-Hall, Director of Underwriting and Compliance for North American Bancard, the company pioneering payment processing technology.  North American Bancard (NAB) recently launched its new PayAnywhere Mobile reader to enable merchants to accept contactless payments, like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. The PayAnywhere offering includes the mobile payments solution PayAnywhere Mobile and mobile point-of-sale solution PayAnywhere Storefront.  While mobile payments are getting extremely popular, it is important that a business educate itself on the recent developments in payment transaction technology.

Aliki explains, “we have all received those new chip-enabled cards in the mail recently, right?  But what is the purpose”?  EMV, which stands for “Europay, Mastercard, and Visa,” is the technical standard for smart payment cards as well as the payment terminals and automated teller machines that accept them.  The new chip-enabled cards store data on integrated circuits rather than the old magnetic stripes.  The goal of the chip is to authorize transactions that are initiated by the cardholder at the point-of-sale terminal; this means the cardholder and card must be present during the transaction.  This protects the credit card’s data such as card number and verification data.  “Let’s say you buy a dozen of roses at the local flower shop and the flower shop becomes a victim of hackers who accessed the shop’s credit card records; this leaves the business and their customers in a vulnerable position. If the flower shop was using EMV technology, hackers could not access credit card information because it is encrypted.” 

While a data breach in your personal credit card data may be covered by your credit card company, it is different for a business.  If your business does not have the new EMV technology and your credit card data is breached, you may be on the hook for that money. North American Bancard’s PayAnywhere products are equipped to keep you up to date to make sure you are protected from malicious attempts on your data. With PayAnywhere, smaller merchants now have access to the same technologies “big box” stores use to keep their data secure. PayAnywhere will give you some peace of mind, knowing that you don’t have to worry about your payment processing system.  Imagine how many transactions the Gouda Girls process in a day, along with the amount of work they do!  Having that piece of mind would be a great benefit.

North American Bancard handles every aspect of payment processing for anyone from small merchants who just need a card reader to larger operations that see thousands of transactions a day.  Aliki explains “Our primary focus tends to be on small to medium size businesses because that is where we provide the most value.  Small and medium size businesses are looking for solutions, for a way to grow their business... NAB has all the products and tools to help them not worry and be successful at what they do.”  Service-based industries, boutiques, cafes, and artisans can all benefit from NAB’s services.  “Any kind of business which offers in-home services or uses a fleet of workers will find our service is more secure.  We close the gap on security and it’s just a better way of doing business.”  

Drawing on her years of experience, Aliki finishes out the conversation with a few tips on frontline protection for your business:

1. Watch Out for People Trying to Hurry You

If a customer is at your register or terminal and are rushing you, that can be a red flag.  Someone who is committing a crime may be in hurry to get in and out of the store.  Do not forgo your payment policies just because someone is in a hurry.

2. Make Your Business PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant

PCI is the standard for organizations that handle credit card payments and is the standard mandated by the card brands.  PCI is a great first step to developing policies in your business for the people who handle monetary transactions. 

3. A Secure Environment

What are you doing with that old credit card machine when switching over to your new payment system?  Make sure the wrong people do not have access to your payment system.  Password protect your network and router, do not leave computer screens unlocked, and make sure your employees do not have access to information not pertinent to their job.

4. Avoid Writing Credit Card Numbers Down on Paper

It may be unavoidable if your payment system crashes or is down, but if you do have to write down credit card numbers, make sure there is a policy in place so you know what to do.  A credit card written down could easily end up in the wrong hands.

5. Develop Your Payment Policy

Companies like North American Bancard offer round-the-clock support to answer questions you may have about how to handle payments.  Their website portal can be a great tool as a starting place for your payment policy template.

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