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5 Reasons Why Businesses Must Make Payment Data Security a Priority The volume of digital transactions has gone up by almost 440% since 2016 and there is a massive shift in the payments ecosystem

By Nitin Bhatnagar

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Innovation in technology is rapidly changing the lifestyles of Indians and this is also seen in the way payments are made, be it for business or leisure. With the volume of digital transactions going up by almost 440% since 2016, there is a massive shift in the payments ecosystem, signalling enormous opportunities for entrepreneurs across industries. While this environment sets the stage for economic success, business leaders need to tread cautiously and take the necessary steps to secure the growing digital payments infrastructure to help prevent data thefts and breaches.

Here are five key reasons that emphasize why making payment data security should be a top priority for businesses:

Digital Payments are Building Momentum

Since the 2016 Indian banknote demonetisation, a vast number of Indian consumers have been adopting digital payment methods such as electronic fund transfers, card payments and mobile banking. In fact, as of April 2019, there are 884.7 million debit cards and 48 million credit cards in circulation in India, with over 3 million merchants in India accepting payments.

What's more, according to a recent report, the number of smartphone users in India is expected to rise by 84% to 859 million by 2022, from 468 million in 2017. As smartphone dependency increases, businesses are looking for payment solutions that provide them with, flexible and safe options for mobile payment acceptance, and allow them to best serve their customers.

Gain a Competitive Advantage

Consumers value the safety of their personal information. When your customers trust you, they are more likely to continue to do business with you. On the flip side, when customer confidence is lost, they seek out other companies. According to a recent survey conducted by PCI Security Standards Council, 67% of respondents believe the lack of awareness of secure cashless payment options is the biggest barrier for Indian businesses in adopting cashless payments methods. Moreover, 70% respondents think that Indian businesses are not prepared to increase cyber-attacks that may lead to payment data theft. If companies take the necessary measures to prioritise securing personal information that is collected and processed—such as payments data—they may gain a strong competitive advantage over competitors who do not prioritise this.

Avoid Payment Data Breaches that Damage the Business Ecosystem

Despite the growth of digital payments, businesses that operate without a secure payment infrastructure represent an opportunity for cybercriminals and hackers, who are well-equipped and relentless at finding avenues to steal data where the correct precautions have not been taken.

Every company should operate with an appropriate security framework to help protect their business from data theft. For smaller businesses and entrepreneurs, this is particularly important, as their efforts are understandably focused on business development and management, while critical checkpoints such as payment data security are often treated as secondary priorities.

Build Trust in your Business

A 2019 survey of business leaders in India has revealed that almost half of the respondents who experienced a security breach said there was a reputational impact on their business. It's clear that all business stakeholders—from investors to customers—value strong data security and lose trust in businesses that don't take it seriously. Companies that consider securing their consumers' payment data a primary goal will have the opportunity to strengthen the trust in their business, a key ingredient to success and continued growth.

Adoption is the Roadmap to Safe Commerce

With the evolution of technology, a growing number of sophisticated data breaches have been seen globally. Between June 2018 to April 2019, data breaches have cost organizations in India about INR 12.8 crore on average, and organizations that collect, process, transfer and store payments data are not exceptions to this.

With a strong payment security infrastructure, businesses can take advantage of the growth in digital payments by expanding both their own businesses, as well as the economy as a whole. Put simply, businesses today have the power to contribute to the growth and safety of an economy by implementing payment data security standards.

There are clear steps that can be taken to help them protect customer payment data and solutions available to help them. For example, the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) provides a foundation of security controls that when implemented and continuously monitored, offer the best protection for payment card data before, during and after a purchase is made. Any business that stores, processes and/or transmits cardholder data should continually apply controls specified in the PCI DSS.

A less-cash economy represents a fantastic opportunity for business growth in India. However, companies need to ensure that they are reducing the number of opportunities where cybercriminals can steal payment data. Business leaders that can effectively implement security standards and train personnel to maintain the standards will be tomorrow's captains of commerce. As the Indian entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani rightly emphasised during a video address at the PCI SSC 2019 India Forum, "The acceptance of digital payments technology by both merchants and consumers is vital for economic growth, but knowledge sharing and education about data security are vital to success."

Nitin Bhatnagar

Associate director-India at PCI Security Standards Council

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