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Higher education faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to credit card security and PCI compliance. As compared to other businesses, higher education institutions operate with multiple units, departments, and campuses — each that accepts and processes a number of different transaction types. The result is a highly complex web to untangle to remain compliant with PCI DSS standards. 

It’s also no surprise that colleges and universities make ripe targets for bad actors looking to breach systems and steal valuable information. Ensuring the security of systems across sprawling campuses can be a tall order and any vulnerabilities — including bad data security habits — can result in a costly breach. 

Despite the many obstacles universities face, there are best practices that can help them prepare for PCI audits. We’ll explore some of these below.

Outsource Payments

Outsourcing payment processing and management to specialists outside of the university can streamline operations and improve security across the board. Outsourcing credit card processing to a PCI-compliant third party can reduce scope and make it easier for universities to maintain compliance.

Working with a qualified assessor can also be beneficial. A security assessor can analyze your current systems and processes to identify any security weaknesses or vulnerabilities and provide a roadmap to address them and achieve PCI compliance. 

Working with an outside expert to help manage processors and other payments service providers can further reduce scope and improve operational efficiency. University treasurers often have their hands full with a wide range of responsibilities. Few are PCI experts. Working with a trusted partner that can manage the requirements of PCI DSS compliance can be a cost-effective way to ensure compliance and security in payments. 

Train Staff, Students, and Employees

Training people about security best practices is an underutilized tool in higher education. With data breaches running rampant, training staff, students, and employees about common and popular fraud schemes can go a long way in enhancing security. 

When it comes to PCI compliance, higher education institutions should train staff on credit card security best practices. This includes teaching people that card data should not be stored or sent or received via email. Users should each have their own unique user ID for payment systems along with strong passwords that are updated regularly.  

Tap into Technology

Relying on technology to help with PCI compliance. With P2PE SolutionsPoint-to-Point Encryption (P2PE) technology, the customer’s credit card data never enters your merchant network. Instead, data is immediately encrypted and stored within the processor’s network. The encrypted data is then turned into a token to be stored on the merchant’s network. This enables the token to communicate with the encrypted data housed in the processor’s network to get the charge approved through the bank. 

This means that even if hackers were able to breach your network, the data would be unreadable and have no value if successfully stolen. In addition to the security benefits, P2PE also simplifies PCI compliance for university merchants. 

Arrow Payments is happy to help with all your PCI compliance needs. Our team of seasoned professionals has deep experience in helping universities with all matters relating to PCI compliance. Contact us for a free consultation today to keep your university safe and secure. 


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