Starting your own online business is one of the most rewarding experiences an entrepreneur can have. But with so many competing priorities to consider when launching, where should you focus? Everything from funding, to product design, to team management and customer service are essential for success. But a key consideration that may not be immediately obvious is finding the right payments infrastructure.

With online fraudulent activity and data breaches on the rise, one way to set your business apart is to build trust with your customers. No matter how good the product is or how buzzy the marketing plan may be, your audience needs to feel protected. This is where prioritizing your online payment security matters.

We previously covered the essentials of online payment security from a consumer lens. In this guide, we’ll cover how to ensure online payment security if you’re an online business owner, or managing a small business team. We answer all of your questions from getting started to how to apply security measures that’ll maximize your customers’ experience, including:

  • How to choose a payment processor?
  • What is the most secure online payment method?
  • Can you add a virtual card to PayPal?
  • How to ensure online payment security for business owners?
  • What is the importance of keeping your team informed?

With this knowledge, you can feel confident that you’re on your way to building a secure and customer-driven business.

How to choose a payment processor?

One thing to look for when starting an online business is ensuring the payment processing methods you use follow network rules and payment regulations. As a business owner, if you don’t know what’s involved in payment processing, you can run into significant legal issues. To mitigate these more complex aspects of starting a business, find the right payment processor that truly understands your needs and can craft a custom solution with online payment security measures in place.

Payment processors manage card transactions and act as intermediaries between the merchant and any financial institutions involved. Many provide additional services such as security solutions, PCI compliance assistance, and customer support. When choosing a payment processor, there are a few things to look out for:

Encryption

Encryption is essential for the safety of transmitting any private information. Using a string of code, encryption masks information so that it appears to be random data and is difficult to decode. Some popular forms of encryption include public key encryption and symmetric key encryption, which should be evaluated when setting up your websites and transaction tools.

Public key encryption encrypts data into two different keys, and makes one of the keys available for anyone to use. To decrypt the public key, it must use the private key. And to decrypt the private key, it must use the public key. This type of encryption is widely used when securing websites, such as making HTTPS possible for your business websites.

On the other hand, symmetric key encryption requires both the private and public key to be used together to encrypt and decrypt messages. This is used for bulky database encryption, and commonly used for payment applications where the PII needs to be protected to prevent identity theft and random number generation.

Secure Socket Layer (SSL)

One of the most important aspects of online businesses is creating a trusted environment where customers can feel confident making purchases. SSL is used to prevent online security breaches when transmitting data online and to ensure that any requested and submitted data actually gets delivered. Proper SSL certification serves as a visual cue to your consumers that your connection is secure.

Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol (S-HTTP)

S-HTTP provides enhanced security that allows merchants to send a certificate that authenticates users using public-key encryption and digital signatures. S-HTTP is more likely to be used over SSL when the server represents a bank, and requires authentication from a user beyond just a user ID and password.

Secure Electronic Transaction (SET)

SET is a collaboration between Visa and Mastercard that ensures the safety of all parties involved in electronic payment transactions. Its protocols restrict revealing any credit card and PI information to merchants and prevents message modifications to be made when transmitting data.

Compliance Programs

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security regulations created by Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, and JCB International in 2004, and has paved the way for the operational and technical standards that all financial firms must accept when processing online transactions. Overall, the goal of PCI DSS is to create a secure environment for sensitive card details, and to decrease fraud and online security breaches. You do not need a PCI scan if your website never touches any payment data. But if you take any forms of payment onsite and/or financial information is passed through your website, PCI compliance is mandatory.

There are also simple features you can add to ensure the online payment security of your business. For instance, creating a secure login screen can ward off potential fraudsters and other threats. A great example of this is PayPal’s “security challenge” screen. When you try to log in, you must verify you’re not a bot before you can proceed to the actual login page.

Requesting a digital signature for verification purposes is another way to filter out any unwarranted visitors. E-signatures or CAPTCHA programs are a few examples that are meant to prevent automated systems from collecting your customers’ emails and login information.

These are just a few examples of what to look for when evaluating payment processors and the start to ensuring your business's online payment security practices. When your customers see that you have additional security measures like these in place, they’ll be more inclined to trust the safety of your website and your business.

What is the most secure payment method online?

Payment processors can help you choose which types of online payment methods to accept, but it’s also important for business owners to understand what their consumers need. Popular online payment methods that consumers use to shop include credit cards, debit cards, wire transfers, ACH, and alternative methods like payment apps and mobile wallets.

Of these, credit cards and debit cards are two of the most secure payment methods for consumers to use when shopping online. Both types of cards have a host of security features and fraud protection tools in place, like encryption and fraud monitoring, that keep customer information safe.

While credit cards and debit cards offer these types of protection guardrails, they don’t fully protect consumers from online data breaches or the aftereffects of a compromised card. If a bad actor steals a consumer’s card information, consumers are left with the full responsibility of needing to call their bank's customer service to remedy fraudulent charges, requesting a replacement card, and waiting days for the new card to arrive. For some banks, this process could take up to seven days or sometimes require a fee to expedite! Once the new card arrives, users then need to go back to every merchant that’s tied to the compromised card and update their billing information.

In this case, it’s advantageous for you to encourage virtual cards as a way for your consumers to shop. Virtual cards act as a layer of protection by providing additional security benefits that traditional credit and debit cards don’t have. With Privacy’s Virtual Cards, users can add spend limits per transaction, generate random card numbers at every place they shop, and lock their cards to merchants. Consumers are immediately notified in the case of fraudulent activity, and can close the compromised card on their own. Instead of needing to wait a week for a new card to arrive, they can generate a new virtual card on their own terms. Additionally, if their compromised card was locked to a specific merchant, they only need to update the billing information on that one merchant’s website. A virtual card is not only the most secure online payment method, but also the most convenient for your consumers.

Can you add a virtual card to PayPal?

PayPal services more than 1.6 million websites and processes about 41 million transactions a day! With its massive reach, PayPal compatibility should always be top of mind when exploring which payment methods to accept. In order to mitigate any risk or breaches outside of your control, encourage your consumers to double up on security habits, like paying with virtual cards when shopping with alternative payments like PayPal.

Fortunately, PayPal accepts virtual cards as funding services, and can be an easy way for your consumers (and yourself!) to double up on online payment security measures when shopping online. To add a virtual card to PayPal, simply connect your account’s funding source to a Privacy Card that’s locked to PayPal. Should your PayPal account be compromised, you’ll be alerted immediately and can close the card to prevent any further abuse.

How to ensure online payment security for business owners?

Keep in mind that virtual cards are not only reserved for your consumers. They are also powerful additions for any small business owner managing their finances. With so many remote and independent team members who rely on online payments these days, virtual cards are a way to consolidate your online transactions and track simple employee spending.

For example, say you’re managing a team of three and need to provide a $400 monthly lunch stipend for each member. With Privacy Virtual Cards, you can generate a different card for each employee and set a $400 monthly spend limit on each card, locked to the online food delivery service of the employee’s choice. This way, without needing to manually comb through everyone’s billing statements at the end of each month, you can guarantee that your employees aren’t overspending or taking advantage of the stipend, all in real-time.

Virtual cards are an easy way to ensure online payment security not only for your internal team members, but also for business management. Consider all of the freelancers, agencies, and merchants that you may be spending with to scale your business. Track all of your online business expenses in one place instead of having to hunt down invoices and receipts. Review Privacy’s Pro and Teams plans that have card creates and spend limits tailored to your needs.

What is the importance of keeping your team informed?

Consumer awareness is integral to keeping your business website safe from fraudulent activity and hackers. It’s also important that your team members are aware of any kinds of malicious trends and practice safeguards that ensure online payment security. Some popular hacking strategies to watch out for:

  • Phishing. We’ve discussed this previously from the perspective of an online shopper through websites, mobile, and even social commerce platforms. Hackers will often pose as legitimate websites or businesses to extract payment information from consumers. On the business end, bad actors will often frame themselves as employees or agency members asking for private company credentials. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to educate your team members on how to detect phishing attacks and provide the proper training.
  • Spoofing. Similar to phishing methods, hackers also send fictitious emails that include fake links and websites that’ll record keystrokes for data, like login information and card details. As a business owner, it’s important to keep track of what these bad actors are targeting, and to share information about these attacks with your consumers.

In early 2021, attackers attempted to impersonate PayPal and sent an email to users telling them their account had been flagged and limited. In the email, it appeared that clicking a link would bring the recipient to paypal.com, but the attacker had used a concealed link that actually led the unlucky victims to a phishing page. The phishing page looked identical to the PayPal login page, but the concealed link recorded all of the inputted credentials, which the attackers then used to log in to accounts and steal funds.

In this example, making sure that your team members are aware of this situation will help you get ahead and prevent similar attacks from happening to your consumers, especially those heavily reliant on PayPal. You can also send out email alerts or post notes on your media pages that’ll keep your customers informed. Extra safety precautions like these will help your customers feel more secure and informed.

Online payment security in practice

With so many things to consider, to monitor, and to execute when you’re starting a business, your business’s online payment security should be something you naturally feel confident about. Armed with the right payment processor that can manage the more complicated parts of payment security and compliance, you are able to dedicate more time and energy into building an amazing product or service for your customers.

Likewise, always consider what can make the customer journey easier for your target audience. What will build trust from your users? What will make them feel secure about making a purchase? How can you nurture an informed and educated environment that’ll prevent fraudulent activity from happening? Encouraging your customer to shop with virtual cards and doubling down on additional online payment security practices can give both you and your business a leg up in finding success.

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