Your Helpful PCI-DSS Audit Checklist

Category: Growth Hacks



In 2019, global retail sales grew by 3.4% from the previous year to hit $21 trillion. Global eCommerce accounted for 16.4% of total retail sales at $3.46 billion. Ecommerce sales continue to grow, thanks to globalization and the internet. 

This growth also comes with a few challenges, among which is payment card fraud. In 2018, payment card fraud amounted to $27.85 billion and was expected to hit $35.67 billion in the next five years.

If you intend to pursue the e-commerce route, you’ll need to consider a few things, one of which is the payment method. How many payment alternatives will you offer your customers? Are the payment methods secure?

Your customers will offer you their financial data on a silver plate; they expect that it’s secure and confidential. To guarantee this, you need to prove that you’re PCI-DSS compliant.

What is PCI-DSS?

This is a set of standards formulated by the PCI Security Standards Council. This council is made up of major credit card companies who joined forces to create security standards that protect credit card data.

As a merchant, your compliance guidelines are dictated by the number of annual transactions. Merchants are grouped into four levels:

  • Level 1

This covers merchants who handle over 6 million transactions every year or have experienced a data breach.

  •  Level 2

Merchants who handle 1-6 million transactions annually.

  •  Level 3

Merchants with less than a million transactions but more than 20,000 annual transactions.

  •  Level 4

Merchants with less than 20,000 annual transactions.

Each of these levels has different compliance requirements. The more the transactions you process every year, the tougher the compliance requirements become.

PCI DSS Compliance Checklist

PCI has six control objectives that constitute twelve compliance requirements. These requirements are not subject to merchant levels; thus, all merchants are required to adhere to the compliance requirements regardless of transaction volume.

These control objectives include:

  1. Secure Network and Systems

This control objective has two requirements:

  • Protect cardholder data by installing and maintaining a firewall

Firewalls are barriers that protect your network by preventing security threats from accessing or spreading through your network. Firewalls act as filters that determine whether information passing from one computer to another is safe or not.

  • Limit the use of vendor-supplied passwords

Every system comes with security parameters, among which are passwords. These passwords are often easy to hack; thus, you should change them before you deploy the systems. Ensure that you update system configurations and security measures as you identify new threats.

  1. Protect Cardholder Data

Cardholder data refers to personally identifiable information that’s associated with a credit or debit cardholder. According to PCI DSS, cardholder data includes PAN, which is the unique payment card number used to identify the cardholder’s account and the issuer. The standards require that merchants encrypt the transmission of cardholder data and protect stored cardholder data as stipulated in the guidelines.

  1. Implement vulnerability protection programs 

Create a program to help you identify weaknesses in your payment card infrastructure system. Hackers will exploit these vulnerabilities to access your cardholder which you can mitigate by:

  • Implementing measures to protect your systems against cyberattacks such as malware.
  • Maintain secure systems
  1. Access control measures

Limit access to cardholder data by vetting everyone who needs access to this data. This is achieved by:

  • Restricting access to cardholder data

Only authorized personnel should have access to this data. Limit the privileges of everyone to a need-to-know basis and deny all other access unless authorized.

  • Authenticate access

Employees that have access to cardholder data should be assigned unique identification. They will use these identifications to access the data, thus making it easy to track how data is handled. Do not use group IDs; every member with access needs unique identification.

  • Restrict physical access to the data

Your onsite systems are also vulnerable to attacks or internal leaks; thus, you need to put measures in place to limit physical access to cardholder data.

  1. Monitoring and testing networks

Monitor your physical and wireless networks to identify vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to gain unauthorized access to your systems and data. To prevent cybercriminals from exploiting these vulnerabilities, you are required to:

  • Thoroughly track, analyze, and monitor cardholder environments in search of weakness.
  • Frequently test your system components, processes, etc. to ensure that you maintain security over time. 
  1. Information security

Your business needs a strong security policy that details the responsibilities of your employees towards protecting cardholder data.


PCI compliance isn’t a guarantee that your systems and data are safe; hundreds of companies have experienced data breaches despite being PCI-DSS compliant. Achieving compliance is merely a baseline. You need to meet the requirements as stipulated by the governing body and implement extra measures that protect your systems from emerging threats. You can never be too sure when dealing with cybersecurity, going the extra mile helps prevent cyber attacks.

About the author

Jordan MacAvoy is the Vice President of Marketing at Reciprocity Labs and manages the company’s go-to-market strategy and execution. Prior to joining Reciprocity, Mr. MacAvoy served in executive roles at Fundbox, a Forbes Next Billion Dollar Company, and Intuit, via their acquisition of the SaaS marketing and communications solution, Demandforce.


Helpful-Tips-to-Manage a-Remote-Team

Telecommuting has been gaining ground for quite some time and has become especially relevant during the present crisis. It has been estimated that nearly 50 percent of professionals are involved in telecommuting at one point of time or another. The concept of telecommuting is not only appealing to employees but also to managers. However, despite its obvious benefits, there are certain challenges associated with the concept. Here are some tips for you to handle your telecommuting team efficiently and get the best results.

Set the agenda

In order to have a successful remote team, it is important that the main purpose and goals are clear to every person in the team. As a manager, you should ensure that the goals are set in concrete terms and are clearly communicated. It is also imperative that the main or common goals are further subdivided into individual goals, so that every person in the team knows what his or her Key Result Areas are. Since remote teams do not congregate physically, the progress towards achievement of goals should be constantly measured. This can be done with the help of several online and collaborative tools. Setting up enforceable deadlines is also important to keep the entire team in line.

Regular engagements

Since remote working is still not a widely popular concept, it is necessary that the team imbibes feelings of belongingness and cohesiveness. In order to foster these traits, you should keep the team engaged. This can be done by carrying out regular meetings. Nowadays, there are several tools available for this purpose. Virtual meeting software such as Skype and Zoom can come to your rescue. Depending on the bandwidth and your requirements, you can schedule voice-based meetings or video meetings. It is advisable to plan some sort of communication every day to ensure that the entire team is working towards the same goal.

Instill team spirit and trust

The success of a remote team largely depends on the collaborative spirit and individual responsibility of the team members. In the telecommuting mode, it is difficult to constantly supervise your team. Therefore, in order to get the best possible performance, you should instill the concepts of individual responsibility and accountability. While group meetings are important for fostering team spirit, you should also conduct regular one-on-one meetings with your team members to provide them with proper guidance and feedback. Such regular interaction can be helpful for the appraisal process and for designing work processes.

Use the right tools

Telecommuting is on the rise, and so, there are newer tools coming up every day, to help you manage your remote team in a more efficient manner. While emails are good for keeping track and for regular communication, the constant back and forth mailing can become tedious after some time. It is therefore more advisable to use dedicated tools such as project trackers and meeting recording software. Project management tools such as Trello, Asana and Airtable are highly recommended in this regard. These software solutions can help you in aligning your entire team in terms of deadlines, accountability and expectations. You can also use these tools for commenting on the performance of your teammates and for reassigning tasks.

Provide proper feedback

In a remote setup, it is vital that you keep the team spirit up by keeping the communication channels open. The proper exchange of feedback is also important, along with a support system. Once you provide comments on your employees’ work, follow it up with helpful tips and guidance. With proper communication, you can ensure that the individual goals of your team members are in sync with your team goals. The process of evaluation can be further enhanced by setting up a proper communication strategy. You can schedule formal check-ins in advance to meet the requirements of your team members.

Final word

Remote working is the new normal now, and is set to become even more popular in the future. With the help of the above tips, you can ensure that your team is able to offer their best even from afar. The use of the latest technology and tools can help all of you accomplish goals in an efficient manner.



Affiliate marketing has proven its worth in promoting businesses. This concept is now being applied to online endeavors as well. Affiliate marketing involves using the brute force of individuals or companies to sell the products endorsed by them. Influencers may use various media such as videos, mobiles, social media and blog for promoting the products and services. These affiliates earn commissions as and when a person buys the products promoted by them. Here are some of the ways you can use this trend for promoting your e-commerce business. 

  1. Create a Niche Market: Affiliate marketing can be effectively used for creating a niche market for your business. This is done by increasing customer stickiness and loyalty. If you are using a social media celebrity as your endorser then they are likely to bring their fan following. Such followers generally are easily convertible into loyal patrons for the promoted products. It also helps you in creating a particularly targeted image of your product and business. This feature is especially helpful if you are introducing a novel product in the market.  
  2. Indirect Sales Promotion: Affiliate marketing can help you build your own sales promotion team without incurring hefty expenditures. With this indirect sales team, you can reap the benefits of an actual sales team and then some more. Affiliate marketing has proven to be highly successful in boosting the traffic to targeted websites. This in turn is helpful in expanding the scope of your marketing and adding to the revenue. Apart from generating higher traffic, affiliate marketing is helpful in improving the quality of traffic as well. This type of targeted promotion improves the conversion, offering you better bang for your advertising buck. Further, it is also more convenient to customize and alter affiliate marketing tools to suit the ever changing requirements of online businesses.  
  3. Economical: One of the most appealing features of affiliate marketing is its economy. Affiliate marketing does not require hefty outlay of funds as it does not require funding massive ad campaigns. It is also relatively simple to start and operate. Such marketing technique is highly concentrated thus ensures that you are able to tap your target market without spending an exorbitant amount of money. Affiliate marketing requires payment only when the sale is generated. This ensures that such projects have high return on investment in comparison to the investment made in traditional marketing channels. You can also design your commission tier system in such a way so as to ensure that each penny works the hardest for your brand. 
  4. Harness User Generated Content:  Employing user generated content for promotional purpose is amongst one of the hottest trends in the e-commerce segment. Affiliate marketing offers you ample opportunities to integrate user generated content to your sales promotion material. The scope of user generated content is ever increasing as more and more people rely upon social media for getting information about the products. These online information portals also provide reviews of the products which are then used by potential customers for making their purchase decisions. User generated content is important as it is a highly economical way of spreading awareness about your products and offerings.  However, you should be proactive to maintain appropriate quality of user generated content. 
  5. Choose Wisely and Track: While affiliate marketing can serve all types of businesses, it is important that you pay careful attention while choosing such channels. There is a wide range of such programs available, each of which caters to specific types of ventures. For this purpose, it is important to be clear about your end objective. You should also be clear about your target niche market, so that you can choose appropriate affiliate marketing channel. Some of the most prominent affiliate marketing channels currently available are Rakuten, Amazon Associates and Jex Ads among others. Once the selection and implementation is done, it is equally important to have proper tracking systems installed.  

Affiliate marketing has come a long way and offers a wide range of options. For optimal performance, affiliate marketing may be integrated with traditional marketing tools. However, affiliate marketing has high potential as a standalone technique as well due to its high versatility.



Invoicing is an important function in an organization as an efficient system ensures that the bills are collected promptly, leading to better liquidity in the market. Simplified invoicing system also ensures that your clients are assured that they are billed correctly. Integrated payment technologies may be used for this purpose of simplifying the process. Whether you run a small business or a big one, it is important that your invoicing and billing process is smooth and timely. Here are some of the pointers which may help you in simplifying the entire process. 

Fix the Terms: In order to simplify the process, it is important that the organization has clear terms and conditions related to invoicing. Once you have set the terms, you can proceed with communicating these terms to your clients so that there is no ambiguity on this front. Some of the most important variables which should be covered under the terms are the duration of billing i.e. whether the billing will be done on project basis or hourly basis and the duration within which the invoice is required to be paid. Further, the terms which need to be fulfilled before the payment is made should be included. 

Automate the Process: With the easy and economic availability of various tools, it is easier than ever to automate the process of invoicing. The process involves the transfer of data from invoices to electronic system and thereafter carrying out the task of interpreting and validating the invoices. Some of the other aspects of the process are approvals, payments, resolution and storage. The investment in Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP systems tends to pay for itself in a short duration of time as it brings about efficiency in operations. With the elimination of manual intervention, the firm can optimize its human resources. 

Choose Appropriate Payment Options: In order to keep your billing and invoicing process simple, it is essential that you choose your payment options carefully. With a plethora of options available, it has become more difficult for vendors to keep track. The businesses should ensure that they fully balance the pros and cons of providing a range of payment options to their clients. While it is imperative that you offer a wide variety of payment options so that your clients are assured of ease and convenience, it is also important that the selection is kept at a manageable level. The offering of multiple payment channels is also expected to boost your liquidity and reduce the chances of defaults. 

Integrate Different Variables: Invoices comprise a wide range of variables which may make the entire process complicated and time consuming. The integration of these facets are helpful in ensuring the efficiency. You can start by using integration tools for aggregating the expenses incurred for a particular project or a job. Such integration also helps in exercising proper control over expenses and thus keeping the project on a proper path. Timely integration of expenses ensures that you are able to send the invoice in a prompt manner. 

Pay Attention to Analytics: It is essential to keep proper track of your invoicing system. Once the system is automated, it becomes a lot easier to gather the data and then to compare it against the set standards to find out the deviations. There are several tools available for the purpose of collecting such data and then analyzing it. Various aspects such as time tracking solutions may help in making the process more efficient by providing relevant data. Time tracking solution is especially helpful in improving the productivity by generating detailed reports. These reports provide better communication to the clients about the progress of work and thus render invoicing more helpful to them. Analytics are also useful for the purpose of forecasting, which is helpful in planning. 

Overall, the importance of efficient billing and invoicing cannot be overemphasized. The automated invoicing process may be augmented by the addition of terms and conditions such as levy of penalty in case of late payments. The combination of such online and offline measures helps in making the system more amenable to your business. The installation of such system may require significant amount of resources in the beginning but it proves to be more efficient in the long run. 



Small businesses face many unique challenges such as problems related to payment processing. This issue can manifest itself in a variety of ways and thus requires careful intervention. It is crucial that a small business takes proper care of its payment processing system to ensure that there is timely and accurate collection of the payments due. Identification of different problems is one of the most important steps in this process, so here is the list of the top payment processing issues a small business may have to face: 

Data Security: With the increase in instances of cyber attacks and data frauds, it has become essential for a business to protect itself and its clients from such mishaps. An efficient payment processing system should provide robust protection against such data breaches. Any such fraud or leaking of important data can not only negatively impact the revenue and income of a business, it may also put strain on their position in the market. The businesses should ensure that their payment processing system adheres to Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS). Such compliance saves you and your business from liabilities which may arise from data breaches. 

Chargebacks: These expenses are one of the biggest challenges faced by the businesses with regard to their payment processing systems. Chargebacks are also known as processing fees and can form a big chunk of your overall expenses. There are many factors which influence such chargebacks. Some of the main causes which impact the volume of chargebacks are types of payment options, types of cards used and the size of transactions. Different types of businesses may be levied different types of charges. It is important to remain in constant touch with your providers so that you are aware of different chargebacks. Further, you may also try to negotiate the prices down. Such management of charges can have significant impact on your bottom line. 

Compliance and Regulations: As payment processing systems are becoming more complex, the regulatory requirements are also increasing to keep a proper check on them. These regulations are mainly enacted to safeguard all the parties involved in the payment processing cycle. However, these also tend to increase the paperwork. It is important that you comply with all the requirements laid by these regulations so as to ensure that you have proper recourse as and when there is any issue pertaining to such payments. The outlay required for meeting these rules is generally justified by the benefits granted through these regulations. 

Multi Channel Payments: In order to ensure that you are able to serve your clients in the best possible manner, it is important to offer a wide range of payment options. However, it also means that you have to deal with the terms and conditions attached with large number of such outlets. Multiple vendors may increase the complexity of your payment systems which may require increased outlay of resources. It is generally advisable to integrate such option payments so that they can be managed with relative ease. Further, the ability to control these multiple methods may also increase the efficiency of your operations. 

Payment Support and IntegrationAs payment processing is one of the most crucial functions, it is important that the business pays proper attention to this facet. The businesses should endeavor to keep the downtime to the minimal. There should also be proper backup system, so that your clients do not have to face any hardship if there is any breakdown in the services. You should define such terms and conditions with your service provider explicitly. The integration of various modes of payment and processing systems is important for ensuring efficiency. It is also helpful in keeping the costs down. Such integration allows for the installation of a dashboard which helps in centralizing the control measures. 

It is highly recommended to businesses that they pay proper attention to their payment processing systems. They should also be careful while selecting their payment services partners. The main focus should be on managing costs and expanding the portfolio of services offered. It is also important that the system is flexible so that it can accommodate frequent changes in technologies employed.