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A Tale of Two Merchants: Data Security Awareness, Activity Gaps Persist Between Brick-and-Mortar and Ecommerce

The last four years have been marked by continued growth in small business data compromise, yet small business owners are still missing the point of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a newly released research report reveals. The report, “A Tale of Two Merchants: The Fourth Annual Survey of Level 4 Merchant PCI Compliance Trends,” is co-sponsored by ControlScan and Merchant Warehouse to continue the annual study of Level 4 merchants’ progression in understanding, achieving and maintaining PCI compliance.

The 2012 study uncovers a stubborn, multi-year trend of minimal growth in data security awareness and overall indifference in small merchants’ perceived risk of breach. For brick-and-mortar merchants the trend is even more disturbing, because their levels of awareness and concern fall well below those of the survey’s ecommerce merchant respondents.

“Just under half of this year’s respondents indicated they are unaware of the PCI DSS,” said Joan Herbig, CEO of ControlScan. “That finding, combined with the fact that 79% of respondents think their business has little-to-no risk of breach, indicates a serious disconnect between Level 4 merchants and the ISOs and acquiring banks serving them.”

More than 600 merchants responded to this year’s survey, providing continuing insight into their perceptions and attitudes toward PCI compliance and data security best practices. Overall, most respondents familiar with the PCI DSS rank security as “medium” or “high” among their organization’s overall priorities; however, only 50% have actually validated their PCI compliance. Ecommerce merchant respondents are above the average at a 70% completion rate, while brick-and-mortar merchants are below the average at 45%. When all 603 survey respondents are included in the calculation, the overall PCI compliance rate for these Level 4 merchants drops to 30%.

“The four years’ worth of data now in place show that Level 4 merchants have an urgent need for education and hands-on support to effectively protect their businesses from data thieves,” said David McSweeney, Executive Vice President, Operations, Merchant Warehouse. “Small merchants require more personalized outreach and scalable solutions that make sense and are affordable for their business.”

The survey research report discusses the concerns raised by the ongoing complacency of Level 4 merchants in general, as well as the security risks Level 4 brick-and-mortar merchants face if the awareness-and-action gap persists between them and their ecommerce counterparts. ISOs and acquirers will benefit from the report’s insights and merchant commentary, as well as the practical action steps ControlScan and Merchant Warehouse recommend.

To access a copy of the survey research report, please click on the following link:

ControlScan and Merchant Warehouse are hosting a joint Webinar to be held on November 15, 2012 to present the study's findings. Click here for more information and to register.

About the Survey

The ControlScan/Merchant Warehouse Fourth Annual Level 4 Merchant Survey was completed in August 2012 by 603 Level 4 merchants who represent a mix of ecommerce, retail stores and mail order/telephone order businesses.

About PCI Compliance and Security Provider, ControlScan

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, ControlScan is an expert provider of Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance and Security services designed to meet the unique needs of small to mid-sized merchants and the acquirers that serve them. The company’s flexible solutions, easy-to-use online tools and personalized support significantly simplify PCI and security for its clients. In addition, as an Approved Scanning Vendor and a Qualified Security Assessor, ControlScan is positioned to help merchants meet compliance requirements and maintain secure business environments for their customers. For more information about ControlScan and its cloud-based solutions visit or call 1-800-825-3301.

About Merchant Warehouse

Merchant Warehouse is a recognized leader in payment and program acceptance solutions and merchant services. The company enables merchants, agents, POS developers and VARs to achieve strategic business advantage through the delivery of current and emerging payment, offer and program solutions and merchant services that dramatically enhance the merchant-customer experience. Merchant Warehouse is one of the fastest growing innovators of payment solutions in North America. For more information about Merchant Warehouse, please visit or follow the company on Twitter @MWarehouse.

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