You do all the right things for your small business: You provide exceptional customer support, have a quality product, genuinely care about your customers and have worked hard to exceed their expectations. But one thing you might not have thought about yet is point-of-sale security and how it can affect your relationship with your customers.

A security breach can happen to the best of us; in fact, it has. Hackers have successfully broken into POS systems for stores like Subway, Target and Neiman Marcus. It’s a common occurrence, and we’re not always surprised to hear about another big company losing sensitive customer data to hackers.

As a respected small business owner, you can’t afford to lose the trust of your customers. Put security systems in place now to protect your customers’ valuable information and your business’ reputation.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recommended a series of guidelines for merchants to help keep their point-of-sale systems safe. Keep these security practices in mind.

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Maintain a Secure Network

Having a secure network is the first line of defense to prevent a hacker from breaching your POS system. The easiest way for someone to infiltrate your network is by obtaining employee credentials. This can be done through keylogging Trojans, cracking employee passcodes and other password extraction methods.

To avoid this, train your employees on best practices for keeping passwords safe:

  • Use long passwords that include a series of letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Require employees change passwords often, preferably every 90 days.
  • Show employees how to detect malicious emails and what to do when they come across one.
  • Warn against sharing login info and credentials.

Always Have Up-to-Date Software

Keep your software updated with current security methods and protocols. Currently, 75% of point-of-sale systems are running on Windows XP—a service no longer supported by Microsoft. This means Microsoft is no longer developing patches for vulnerabilities found in this operating system. Merchants using this platform (or any platform before 2011) need to seriously consider an upgrade to a more secure system.

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Restrict Access

Restrict access to both the point-of-sale system as well as to the network. While it is virtually impossible to avoid every vulnerability and be completely hacker-proof, the iPad iOS has taken strides to enhance security.

iPad-based POS systems are used by small business and big retailers alike. Here are a few of the unique protocols it has in place:

  • iOS places strict dividers between applications to prevent a hack on any one app from affecting the other applications on the same device. For example, if one employee opens an email with a virus in it, other applications on the device are protected.
  • Through strict code signing, Apple ensures all applications on its devices are secure.
  • No outside security software is needed: All applications have built-in protections against malware, viruses and other hacking methods.
  • If a hack on the system is successful, the POS system remains untouchable because only one application is able to run at a time. This makes iOS a unique system that protects itself from malicious attacks.

The good news about POS intrusions is that most are preventable. Look for a secure system that supports updates. A small business owner should consider two main features when on the lookout for a point-of-sale solution: a secure iOS-based system and the exclusive use of PCI-DSS-compliant hardware. Both are available in a solution like QuickBooks Point of Sale.

A secure network, the right software, hardware and protocols allow POS security to be an afterthought for business owners. With security off the front burner, you can get back to focusing on all of the things you love doing that make your small business great. For more ways to keep your business secure, check out our article on protecting your business against data theft and fraud.

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