When it comes to choosing an integrated payment partner for your solution, there’s a lot to consider: do you go with a familiar company? Or, a fresh option? Ideally, you want something that’s perfect for your business, but often solutions are either more than you need (at an exorbitant price), or not enough.

More often than not, money tends to drive these decisions. But there are other things you should ask yourself before picking the right payment processing engine for your solution. Perhaps the most important question should be:

“What can your payment processing partner do for you?”

Your business deserves more than “adequate” service, and that’s where we come in. With decades of experience advancing technology and putting clients first, Sphere is the natural choice for credit card processing. With Sphere, you instantly connect your customers with the most comprehensive, secure, end-to-end payment processing solutions. Let’s take a look at the top three benefits of integrating payments with Sphere.

  1. Sphere Helps Drive Your Business Revenue

Shouldn’t your payment processing partner do more than just meet your immediate needs? Sphere does. We help drive your business, providing you with more than just a point-of-sale system—in step with you as you grow.

Our products and services have all the payment features you need today and tomorrow, including:

  • Virtual Terminal
  • Transaction Security
  • Open API
  • Data Storage
  • E-Commerce Payment Pages
  • Reporting and Reconciliation
  • Mobile Payment App
  • Automated Recurring Billing Acceptance

Our applications support all major payment types including:

  • Credit Cards
  • Debit Cards
  • PIN-less Debit
  • ACH/Electronic Check Payments
  • Purchase Card (Level II and Level III) Processing
  • And More

Our systems integrate seamlessly with your current software requirements and adapt as you grow. The same thing doesn’t work for everyone; that’s why we offer custom options that work for you.

The right partner can make a world of difference. And in this competitive market, you should only trust the very best. We are an expert in our field, and we can help your business generate more revenue through technology and credit card processing.

  1. Strong Technology That Adapts

Technology is evolving quickly, and your payment processing system needs to be ready to change. Remember before credit cards had chips and certain outdated POS systems required awkward workarounds to make transactions work? Experience is everything, and your business needs a payment processing engine that’s future-proof.

Whether your software accepts payments through a single channel or many — Sphere can adapt to your business. With multiple integration options, and APIs in a variety of languages, it’s easy to get started.

There’s a growing need for a platform that can support more than just “basic” payment support. At Sphere, we understand the importance of flexibility. Businesses need integration that’s quick and efficient to support the way you do business today, as well as in the future. With our frictionless merchant application for credit card processing, we make it easy for your customers to sign up. To us, you’re a priority. We provide payment support that won’t slow you down.

  1. Manage Your Risk

Risk is never fun to talk about (and it’s even less fun to experience). Trust is an integral part of business, and a reputation of being secure and reliable is a necessity. Sphere helps you manage your risk by securing your data. We offer multiple methods to protect payments, including: validated point to point encryption, tokenization and hosted payment pages.

Get comprehensive risk management and security that allows you to defer much of the cost, risk and threat involved with handling cardholder information.

Wrap Up

Payments shouldn’t be a hassle, nor should getting the support you need to resolve any issues that may arise. That’s why integrated software vendors who are specialists in these and other industries partner with us:

  • Healthcare applications
  • E-commerce & Shopping Cart Developers
  • Membership management software
  • Bar and restaurant applications
  • Software Vendors

It’s time to take the complexity out of integrating payments. Accept payments your way with Sphere. Our payment processing solutions are designed for ease of integration with third-party software. Speak with the Partner team today.

By Heather Mark, Ph.D., CCEP, Director, Compliance & Security

Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can leverage payments as a way to provide a more comprehensive suite of services to their customers and doing so also provides revenue opportunities.  But with that comes some responsibilities that are unique to payments, such as compliance with the Card Brand regulations.  Understanding those responsibilities, and the role that ISVs can play in maintaining the security and soundness of the payments ecosystem, can help ensure a strong, long-lasting, and mutually beneficial payments partnership.

So are ISVs expected to become payments experts?   Not at all. Choose your partner wisely and they can help you navigate payments, leaving you to the stuff you do best.  That said, there are a few things ISVs can do to demonstrate that they take seriously the compliance and liability aspect of the payments space.  Why would you want to do that? Because it’s the right thing to do for your customers, partners, and your business.

First, know your customers.  Payments partners, whether a payment facilitator or an acquiring bank, will want to understand the full business opportunity.  That means the risk as well as the reward.  What does your average customer look like?  Do you have a specific vertical to which you cater?  In that vertical, what are the risk trends (e.g., if you provide a platform to sell luxury goods on a peer to peer basis, what is the percentage of counterfeit goods that are sold, or attempted to be sold, on your platform?).  Any controls that are in place to monitor and potentially mitigate these known risks should be well-documented. Is your customer base subject to seasonality? Knowing that can help in monitoring for anomalous, suspicious behaviors. This type of information allows payment partners to garner a more complete understanding of the potential risk profile of the merchants being onboarded to their system.

Secondly, document your practices and policies.  You may not need to have robust anti-money laundering policies, but you will need to have an information security policy.  You may also need to address behaviors or practices that are prohibited or restricted on your platform, and how you monitor for those activities.  These documents don’t need to be huge volumes that address every contingency, but they should be commensurate with the size and complexity of your organization.  It should also account for whether or not your platform handles toxic data (data that would damage your company or your customers if its leaks, like personally identifiable information).  One side note: there are multiple places online that allow companies to download policy templates.  These are good tools and allow companies that may be new to policy development to have a jumping off point, but that’s all they are – a jumping off point.  Make sure to customize these templates so that they make sense for your organization.

Finally, know the regulations that impact your vertical.  If you provide billing software for healthcare, you should be familiar with HIPAA/HITECH and the impact that those regulations have on your business.  While your payment partner may be very familiar with those regulations, you should be the expert on how those regulations impact your business.  Perhaps there are nuances that you can share with your payment partner that can improve your experience with them and they can better support your compliance initiatives.

One of the things that most new entrants into the payments world lose sight of is that compliance doesn’t simply mean compliance with regulation.  It also means compliance with the Card Brand Rules, sometimes referred to as the OpRegs.  The Card Brands have complex standards that they expect all members of the payment ecosystem to uphold.  This includes things like preventing people from misusing the payments systems through fraudulent or illegal transactions, laundering funds, counterfeiting goods or services, or processing transactions in a way that is non-compliant (for example, charging a convenience fee on a face to face, or card present, transaction.)  Merchants and service providers alike are expected to comply with these rules and to prevent their systems, platforms, or channels from being used to circumvent those rules.

And, don’t forget about PCI DSS…Speaking of compliance, you will need to understand the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).  This standard is required of all entities that store, process, or transmit cardholder data.  The PCI DSS sets a minimum standard of security controls around payment card data. All merchants must comply with the standard and validate compliance, irrespective of their interaction with cardholder data.  The way in which they validate will vary according to how they accept payments and the volume of payments that they accept.  Service Providers, the category into which most ISVs will fall, may have to validate compliance, depending upon how they interact with the cardholder data. It is important to know that the acquiring bank is the ultimate arbiter of who must comply and how.  If an ISV is determined to be a service provider, it must validate with either an onsite assessment by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) or by completing the Self-Assessment Questionnaire D-Service Provider. (Note: this paragraph is an exceptionally brief discussion of the PCI DSS and by no means covers all of its nuance.  For more information, visit www.pcisecuritystandards.org).  The short story here is that, compliance with the PCI DSS helps elevate security in the industry at large, and mitigates the risk to you and your customers.

Adding payments to your software application doesn’t have to be intimidating or overwhelming from a compliance perspective. Choose your payment vendor carefully and they can do the heavy lifting. Make sure you understand the role that ISVs can play in maintaining the security of the payments ecosystem and your compliance footprint.

Interested in partnering? Contact Us

By Dr. Heather Mark

The healthcare industry is, as most know, a heavily regulated industry. Government regulations detail how data is to be collected, shared, and protected.  It details how patients can access their data.  The way that research is conducted, how it is reported and a multitude of other factors.  Layering in the protection of payment card data can seem overwhelming.  Particularly given the size and complexity of health care networks – physicians’ offices, laboratories, hospitals, and clinics.  Fold in a sprinkling of online bill pay, as well, and one can see how the prospect of complying with the PCI DSS, as well as other regulatory mandates, can be overwhelming.  But PCI DSS compliance can be made more manageable by employing scope reduction strategies.

First things first, though.  What is scope reduction?  To understand this, one must understand what is defined as the Cardholder Data Environment, or CDE.  The CDE is defined by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) as the “people, processes, and technologies that store, process, or transmit cardholder data or sensitive authentication data.  ‘System Components’ include network devices, servers, computing devices, and applications… [and] any other component or device located within or connected to the CDE.”  So, the scope of the CDE is any device or person that has access to cardholder data and any device connected to that component.  For many organizations, in healthcare and beyond, that scope can seem fairly daunting.  The objective of scope reduction is to minimize the number of components that come into contact with the cardholder data.  By reducing the number of components that contact cardholder data, an organization can reduce its scope. This serves the purpose of reducing the complexity of the CDE, the cost and complexity of the PCI DSS assessment, and the work factor involved in maintaining compliance.

So, how can an organization reduce their scope?  The first step is to know where and how payments are accepted.  Questions that can help in that process include:

  1. Where does your health system physically accept electronic payments?
  • Registration
  • Front Desk
  • Call Center
  • Pharmacy
  • Parking
  • Radiology
  • Emergency Room
  • Gift Shop
  1. How do you accept payments in these locations?
  • In Person
  • Online
  • Kiosk
  • Mobile
  • IVR
  • EHR Software
  • Other
  1. Does your EHR system offer a secure payment integration?
  • Yes
  • No
  1. Does your payment integration support?
  • Tokenization
  • Validated Point to Point Encryption
  • Hosted Payment Page for secure online transactions
  • Secure recurring billing and installment payments

It is also important to determine whether or not you have appropriately segmented your CDE to prevent bringing your entire organization into scope.  In other words, if your payment environment is connected to your corporate environment, without firewalls, routers or other appropriate measures in place to act as a DMZ, you could end up having to manage PCI compliance for every part of your network. Per the PCI DSS, “Without adequate network segmentation (sometimes called a “flat network”) the entire network is in scope of the PCI DSS assessment. Network segmentation can be achieved through a number of physical or logical means, such as properly configured internal network firewalls, routers with strong access control lists, or other technologies that restrict access to a particular segment of a network. To be considered out of scope for PCI DSS, a system component must be properly isolated (segmented) from the CDE, such that even if the out-of-scope system component was compromised it could not impact the security of the CDE.”

Another strategy that can be employed to reduce the scope of the CDE is to reduce the number of cardholder data touchpoints in the environment.  The more the input of cardholder data can be reduced, the greater the level of scope reduction.  Any number of solutions can be employed, but here is a brief description of the most effective means* of reducing interaction with cardholder data:

  • Hosted Payment Pages – merchants can accept payments through the use of a hosted payment page. The Payment Page is hosted by a PCI DSS validated, registered service provider.  The payment information posts directly from the consumer to the service provider, bypassing the environment of the healthcare provider.
  • Tokenization – in this solution, the payment information is replaced with a randomly generated value that used to represent the payment mechanism. The healthcare provider can still use that token to process subsequent payments, as may be useful for patients on payment plans, reporting purposes, patient payment analysis, and chargeback or dispute purposes.  The benefit here is the reduced payment data footprint within the organization.
  • PCI Validated Point to Point Encryption (P2PE) – a P2PE solution is one in which the cardholder data is encrypted from the point of interaction (swipe, dip, entry) all the way through the processor. The payment is processed, but when the authorization response is sent to the healthcare organization, the payment data is replaced with a token.

As technology continues to evolve and healthcare organizations find new ways to connect with and serve their patients and communities, it is important to remain mindful of the potential risks that those new technologies may present.  By implementing the above solutions, healthcare providers may find a strong balance between patient service and data security.

*The amount of scope reduction benefit for each of these solutions can vary depending upon the specific environment and the way in which they are implemented.  It is highly suggested that all organizations consult with their Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) and/or their Acquiring Bank to determine the exact nature of the benefit afforded by these solutions.

By Dr. Heather Mark

On March 19, 2019, well-known and respected security researcher and reporter Brian Krebs, posted an article with the headline, “FaceBook Stored Hundreds of Millions of User Passwords in Plain Text for Years.”  The article states, “According to Krebs, “The Facebook source said the investigation so far indicates between 200 million and 600 million Facebook users may have had their account passwords stored in plain text and searchable by more than 20,000 Facebook employees.” With that in mind, think about how many accounts you have linked to Facebook.

The news is a constant parade of security breaches in which user names and passwords are compromised.  It is easy for people to become numb to that, or to think that it’s “only” a username and password, not financial data. But how many of us use the same password, or a close variation, for several of our accounts, including our work passwords?  Take a look at this list of security breaches, and think about how many of those impact you, and how many times you recycled passwords for those accounts.

Though it can be convenient, reusing passwords does put you at risk for further compromise.  As criminals have become more sophisticated, they’ve taken to aggregating data collected from various breaches and extrapolating it to compromise accounts that you might not even know were in danger.  Do you use the same password for social media as you do for your bank account?  You might not be concerned if your social media password was compromised, but what if the hacker were able to discern your bank or financial institution?  Have you ever posted a complaint or comment about your bank? Do you check into your office on social media?

We’ve all read the stories about people using “password 123” or “changeme!” for their passwords.  Not only are those easy to crack, but they’re painfully ubiquitous.  Here are some quick, easy tips for creating a strong password:

  • Use phrases – think about a line from a favorite book, movie or song. Sometimes, that can actually be easier to remember and it’s inherently more complex.  Particularly if it uses punctuation.
  • Use “special” characters – When we think of “special” characters, we tend to default to the “!” or the “*”. They’re easy to remember.  But the poor semi-colon (“;”) is woefully underused.  As is ampersand (“&”) and the tilde (“~”).  Think creatively about which special characters you’re using in your password and how you’re using them.  For example, you can combine special characters to make emoticons.
  • Mix up numbers and letters – a creative mix of numbers and letters can make a password more difficult to guess. Try not to make obvious substitutions, such as using a ‘”3” instead of an “e”.
  • Use capital and lowercase letters – mix up your use of capital and lower case letters. You don’t have to follow grammatical conventions when creating strong passwords.  You don’t have to start a name with a capital letter.

Another important reminder is to change your password regularly.  It can be easy to forget that, particularly in the age of biometric authentication.  One trick that I use is to set a calendar reminder to change my passwords.  You can choose every 30, 60, or 90 days, but it’s best not to go past the 90 day mark.

It can be hassle to come up with and remember new passwords every 90 days, but using new, unique passwords is an important tool to protect yourself and your business. It pays to be smart!

Is PCI DSS Compliance Enough?

By Dr. Heather Mark

In the wake of yet another massive data breach, media outlets around the world are asking a lot of questions.  More questions, it seems, than are the victims of the data breach.  People seem to have become numb to loss of sensitive data.  But while individuals seem to carry on as though nothing has changed, businesses need to be cognizant of the consequences of data breach, beyond simply the penalties associated with a violation of the PCI DSS.  The consequences of data breach can be swift and severe.  In fact, a class action suit has already been filed against Marriott stating that the breach should have been detected four years ago.  Further, companies that fall victim to hackers can expect to play host to government regulators, state attorney generals, forensic investigators and other third parties for a significant length of time. So what is a company to do to protect its data?

I once had a self-proclaimed “grey hat hacker” tell me, “your company has to find and fix every single hole in the environment.  I just need to find one.  And I’ll spend 24/7 to do it.”  That demonstrates the reality that data security in the online world, our world, can be a tremendous task.  However, as with all types of crime, there are methods that can be employed to increase the work factor for criminals in compromising your environment and to make your business a hard, or at least a harder, target.  Those criminals looking for just an “opportunity” may determine that there are easier targets and move on.

The most obvious step to be taken is compliance with the PCI DSS. The Standard has been in place since 2006 and serves as an excellent baseline of security.  All companies that store, process, or transmit cardholder data (or can otherwise impact the security of the transaction) must comply with the Standard.   Though compliance must be validated once a year, it is important to maintain compliance throughout the year through the implementation of a robust compliance monitoring program. It will require ongoing management to ensure that a company doesn’t inadvertently fall out of compliance without taking a corrective action.  Further, failing to comply can result in financial penalties. It’s important to note, though, that PCI DSS only applies to credit and debit card numbers.  Its scope does not include any other form of potentially sensitive information.

As we’ve seen from countless headlines, data breaches don’t just involve payment card numbers.  They often include data such as email addresses, usernames, passwords, physical addresses, social security numbers and other similarly sensitive data that aren’t contemplated by the PCI DSS.  What should companies do then?  Well, the PCI DSS still serves as a useful launching pad.  But before determining how far to extend those protections and controls enumerated in that standard, it helps to conduct and exercise known as a data inventory.

Simply put, a data inventory is an exercise in which each functional area of the company examines the data that it uses and why, how it’s collected, stored and shared, and how the data is destroyed or disposed of when it’s no longer needed.  These exercises can be eye-opening and are extremely useful.  It is not uncommon to unearth data collection or use practices that were not widely known in the organization.  These data knowledge gaps can lead to critical holes in the control environment, exposing companies to risks of which there were not even aware.  More importantly, it can help organizations make informed, risk-based decisions about the type of information that it collects (i.e. do we, as an organization, need to collect this data element to fulfill our business objectives?  If so, what types of protections must we afford that data?  Is it ultimately worth the investment?) Once the data inventory is complete, you may find it helpful to see how or if it is feasible to extend PCI DSS controls that are already in place to cover these additional data elements and the larger data environment.

Further, it may be discovered during this inventory, that the organization may have additional regulatory obligations as a result of the data it collects.  For example, is the company storing data related to healthcare, education, or financial accounts?  Doing the inventory can assist and support the organization in its regulatory risk assessment.  Proactively identifying potential compliance gaps is always better than having such gaps identified by auditors, regulators, or clients. If these additional regulatory obligations are discovered, it can be helpful to map controls between those PCI requirements that the organization is meeting to the newly identified regulatory requirements.  There will still be gaps to be addressed, but by extending the PCI DSS control environment, organizations may be able to significantly reduce the cost of expanding those protections to other forms of data and other data environments.

Granted, the discussion presented here is more nuanced and robust than the constraints of a blog post may allow, but it does provide us all food for thought.  If the only data that is possessed by an organization is payment card data, then perhaps PCI DSS compliance is sufficient protection.  However, such an organization, to use the popular language of the day, is something of a unicorn.  Most organizations host a wide variety of data – data that is regulated and data that a company may simply want to protect, such as proprietary code, formulas, or business plans.  For those organizations, compliance with PCI DSS is just the tip of the iceberg.  I’ll leave you with this direct quote from the PCI DSS v 3.2.1: “PCI DSS comprises a minimum set of requirements for protecting account data, and may be enhanced by additional controls and practices to further mitigate risks, as well as local, regional and sector laws and regulations. Additionally, legislation or regulatory requirements may require specific protection of personal information or other data elements (for example, cardholder name). PCI DSS does not supersede local or regional laws, government regulations, or other legal requirements.”

Event Schedule 2019

The Sphere teams will be exhibiting at a variety of payments and industry events. Come visit us! We have exciting news to share about our products and services.

 

 

 

 

HIMSS19

February 11-15 | Orlando

Visit us at Booth #2679

GE WRUG

February 14-15 | Las Vegas

Collaboration of Revenue Cycle Epic Users (CORE) West

February 27-March 3 | Las Vegas

ACN International Training Event

March 9-11 | Sydney

ACN International Training Event

March 29-31 | Charlotte, NC

Collaboration of Revenue Cycle Epic Users (CORE) East

April 10-12 | Pittsburgh

OCHIN Learning Forum

April 16-18 | Portland