cybersecurity questions
Can your business be compliant without being secure?

When I’m meeting with prospective customers who are exploring their cybersecurity options, they often begin the conversation by asking how much they need to do to become compliant. Especially in the QSR industry, that question typically revolves around PCI compliance and being able to securely handle payment card transactions.

Yes, it’s always smart to prioritize compliance, but that’s not exactly the best way to approach your cybersecurity strategy. Yet you’d be surprised at how many people mistakenly equate being compliant with being secure.

When I do hear, “How much do we need to do to become compliant?” my typical response (offered as graciously as possible) is a return question: “Do you want to be compliant or do you want to be secure?”

There’s a tangible difference between the two but—generally speaking—if you’re secure, that means you’re usually well beyond compliant. After all, security must be holistic, whereas compliance typically applies only to a subset of your systems (your “in-scope” systems).

They Were Compliant but Still Not Secure
To put it more bluntly, don’t make the mistake of believing you’ve checked all the boxes to satisfy the card payment processors and equate that to having a secure business.

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Most businesses that experienced breaches during the past few years were compliant—but they obviously weren’t secure. Ransomware attacks on QSRs often start in a corporate headquarters location or in non-PCI networks, and then they branch out to impact other connected systems and parts of the business.

Even though the card companies care deeply about compliance, cybercriminals don’t. That’s precisely why your security strategy must extend beyond your compliance needs.

For QSRs, in particular, falsely equating compliance with security can leave you vulnerable to ransomware and other advanced cyberthreats. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Most QSRs are part of a highly distributed business model with multiple remote sites to manage.
  2. The majority of those sites lack dedicated IT staff, let alone a cybersecurity team.
  3. With ongoing labor shortages and lingering impacts from the pandemic, many QSRs are still playing catch-up in deploying a best-practice security infrastructure.

Combined, those three factors add up to an environment that’s susceptible to the cyberattacks that are prevalent throughout the QSR industry. Think about all the breaches you’ve heard about in the past couple years. Then double that number to get a better idea of all the breaches that never went public. That shows you just how much of a challenge the industry faces right now.

The Average Cost of a Data Breach Is Rising
Even conservative estimates indicate that the cost of a data breach continues to rise. There are both immediate and hidden costs of a breach, including:

  • Loss of business revenue
  • Operational downtime due to a shutdown
  • Damage to your brand’s reputation (especially if your restaurants are part of a larger brand)
  • The time and cost to recover from a breach
  • Regulatory fines and legal fees

You Don’t Have to Do It All Yourself
That said, I don’t want to make this sound like a doomsday scenario. If you’re serious about cybersecurity and willing to follow industry best practices, that will go a long way in protecting your business, your customers, and your brand reputation. You just need to determine how much you can do on your own.

If you’re not comfortable managing cybersecurity in-house, or if you can’t afford to hire dedicated cybersecurity professionals, you still have a lot of other options. From consulting and implementation services to threat monitoring and response, you can choose from a wide range of managed security services that will cover whatever you need.

After all, you’re in the business of serving diners, not sweating all the details on cybersecurity. Achieving PCI compliance might feel like a big accomplishment, but it’s only one aspect of keeping your business—and your customers—secure.

Learn how PDI can help you strengthen your security posture here.

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