Chances are, you’ve heard about the POS system security breaches that occurred within the past year— even major league names like  P.F. Chang’s, Michaels, and Target were victimized. When you heard these stories in the news, you were likely taken aback that these events were able to successfully take place. When you swipe your debit card or credit card in any retail store, you expect complete and total protection and privacy of your data.

During the  Target breach, for instance, hackers used memory­scraping malware software, which they installed on POS systems in Target stores prior to their data theft attacks. This type of software would capture the private data stored on credit card magnetic strips when cards were swiped at card readers. This data was then transferred to outside locations for credit card duplication and theft.

The biggest questions raised from this event are: was this avoidable, and how can it be evaded in the future? To know whether or not this could have been avoided, we would need to know what type of protection Target was utilizing for its POS systems prior to this event.

The fact that hackers were able to infiltrate these highly­secure systems is mind­blowing. It left many shoppers around the world feeling insecure about sliding their cards through any point of sale (POS) system. This is why it’s more important than ever to ensure the protection of private consumer data from third party breaches.

If it was that simple for these hackers to breach big time retailers like the brands mentioned above, the little guy ­­ the small to medium sized business owner ­­ could be at greater risk of third party breaches.

These breaches are both time consuming and costly to business owners. Not to mention, they can negatively impact your business’s brand and discourage potential and current customers from engaging and doing business with your brand. Luckily, there are a few steps business owners can take to further increase and enhance their POS systems’ security.

8 Ways to Increase Your Business’s POS System Security

  1. Card Reader Hardware­Based Encryption ­ Implementing hardware­based encryption on all card readers within your place of business, and not just within the POS software itself, will make it difficult for hackers to read card strips.
  2. Password Protection ­ Make sure to use strong passwords and immediately change default passwords. Set up alerts to notify you if passwords have been changed to ensure that no one but yourself has breached the system.
  1. Prohibit Remote Access ­ Completely prohibit remote access of your system.
  1. Firewall Protection ­ Installing a firewall to your POS systems can help you avoid unauthorized network access. This additional protection can protect your system from various types of malware, hackers, and viruses.
  1. Access Restrictions ­ Keep access to your POS systems limited to authorized personnel only to avoid exposure of the system and security breaches.
  1. Anti­Virus Protection ­ The more protection, the better. Along with protecting your system with a firewall and malware protection, you should consider adding a superior antivirus program. Look for a software that’s PCI­compliant (compliant with the Cardholder Information Security Program), as these usually have many of the security features discussed above (encrypted credit card numbers, the disability to retain magnetic stripe data, and password protection).
  1. Keep Your POS Software Updated ­ You’ll want to keep your POS system’s software updated at all times and ensure that necessary patches are applied in a timely manner.
  1. Prioritize Your Approach to Cardholder Data Security ­ When you own a point of sale system, it’s your duty to ensure that consumer data is protected at all times. The protection of consumer cardholder data security should be at the top of your company’s list of priorities. When you’ve made it a top priority, you’ll ensure that it remains secure to the best of your ability, enabling you to prevent third party breaches as much as humanly and digitally possible.

As with POS software, remember that it’s just as important to keep your firewall, malware protection, and virus protection programs up­to­date and monitored regularly. Implementing all of these security measures could reduce the likelihood and risk of third party breaches.

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