PCI University™ (pciuniversity.org) Gives Merchants Fighting Chance Against Credit Card Companies and PCI DSS Complexities

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New website’s easy video, risk self-assessment tool, and instant action device boost small/mid-size business owners’ protection from security breaches and financial destruction.

“If every bank, credit card processor, and POS company made it mandatory for their merchant customers to spend 15 minutes to watch our video and learn their PCI-Q risk levels, there would be a dramatic decrease in data security breaches.”

The failures by banks and Visa, MasterCard, and American Express to educate and protect businesses from the devastation of security breaches has prompted two experts to launch a new online service. PCI University™, including the unique PCI-Q™ Risk Assessment Tool (http://pciuniversity.org/) is designed to give business owners a chance to survive the unfair contract conditions imposed on them by the credit card companies, as well as the financial ruin resulting from a credit card security breach.

“Data thefts like those at Target, Subway, Michaels, Zaxby’s, Wyndham Hotels, Five Guys Burgers, Neiman Marcus, and even a credit card processor like Heartland Payment Systems get the headlines but they’re not the norm,” said Charles Hoff, a hospitality industry attorney and nationally-recognized speaker and litigator on issues involving Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). “Research from groups such as the PCI Security Standards Council as well as the 2012 Trustwave Global Security Report shows that the vast majority of breaches happen at small- to medium-sized businesses. And the credit card companies and banks have rigged the game so that they never lose. Their fines, penalties, and freezing of a merchant’s account can wipe out a business after just one breach. The business gets a black eye on its reputation and is stripped of its assets. We’re leveling the playing field with PCI University™.”

“For years, credit card companies have imposed PCI DSS on merchants who want to take payments by credit cards. The best practices and procedures in PCI DSS are intended to thwart hackers. But banks, point of sale (POS) equipment companies, credit card companies, and processors have failed to effectively educate and make merchants aware of these standards,” said Hoff.

“The merchants then get slammed with frozen accounts (stopping income), penalty payments, and crushing fines when a security breach occurs. Often merchants are surprised to know that PCI DSS requirements were buried in their credit card contracts and they have no right of refusal and no effective means to appeal. Adding to the problem is that the credit card companies dump mind numbing technical information on the merchants in the name of PCI DSS ‘education.’”

“Business owners can’t wade through white papers, webinars, and technical jargon. They’re consumed with the day-to-day challenges of running their companies,” said Hoff. “That’s why PCI University delivers in clear, plain English, with animations and quick presentations requiring no technical skills.”

At PCI University™ (http://pciuniversity.org/), in 15 minutes, any merchant (even those without technical know-how) can take two immediate steps to ramp up their PCI DSS understanding and security:

1)    Intro to PCI-Q™: Watch an easy-to-understand animated video that helps merchants grasp the basics of PCI DSS and their relationship with the banks and POS companies.

2)    PCI-Q Risk Assessment Tool™: An engaging, no-fee self-assessment that determines how vulnerable a merchant is to data security breaches. Using a scoring system (like a credit score), the self-assessment covers the most common mistakes that lead to the vast majority of security breaches. But the tool also lets merchants take instant action: by checking a box they get immediate access to vetted, reputable experts and vendors who supply whatever security measures are required to protect their businesses. Technology fixes and controls exist today and are readily available if merchants become aware of how and when to use them.

PCI University™ (http://pciuniversity.org/) is the brainchild of Hoff and Internet business and strategy veteran Josh Wildstein. Hoff worked on identity theft issues as a Senior Vice President at Equifax and has been deeply involved in PCI DSS issues for years in his role as a Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) Board Member and as the GRA’s General Counsel. He wrote the nationwide education brochures on PCI DSS for the National Restaurant Association and their state restaurant associations. Wildstein is best-known for his work building WebMD.com and other digital health information web companies and a number of software products. The colleagues saw the need for PCI University™ (http://pciuniversity.org/) after witnessing hardworking business owners devastated by Visa, MasterCard, and American Express in the wake of unexpected security breaches.

“We identified a serious problem that affects businesses in every sector of the economy and created an effective solution,” said Wildstein. “It’s a clean, simple, self-assessment that allows immediate action with one click. Best of all, there is no bias since we have no personal agenda and serve no masters at the credit card companies or POS providers. PCI University™ is built for the merchants.”

“We know from our research that half of all small business owners don’t even know that PCI DSS exists,” said Hoff. “If every bank, credit card processor, and POS company made it mandatory for their merchant customers to spend 15 minutes to watch our video and learn their PCI-Q risk levels via our self-assessment tool to grasp the fundamentals of PCI, there would be a dramatic decrease in data security breaches.”


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Charles Hoff

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