January. The last of the holiday parties are winding down, gift card redemptions are driving sales, and you finally get some much-needed rest before starting the Valentine’s Day planning.

But 2020 will add a new wrinkle to your priority list.

On January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer update or provide support for Windows 7.

You may be asking yourself: “Why should I care about this?” Allow me to explain.

Credit and debit cards have become the primary source of payment for consumers across all industries. This can be a great thing for your business. Along with speeding payments, less cash on hand is less opportunity for theft reducing security concerns.

But while physical security concerns may be reduced, digital security becomes more important.

Most restaurant owners use integrated payment solutions that are part of their point-of-sale (POS) system.

This makes it very easy to reconcile and settle payments. But this also means that credit card data passes through, and in many cases, is stored directly on your POS hardware.

This data includes sensitive information that, in the wrong hands, can be used to make fraudulent charges.

To a cyber thief, this information is as good as cash. But this is not your cash – it is your customers’, making your responsibility to protect their information even more important.

Your cash is probably locked away in a strong safe, but what about your customers’ data?

The truth is, data breaches can ruin your business’s reputation and be costly to resolve. To help with this, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) has created a set of Data Security Standards (DSS) to ensure the safety of your customer card data, as well as the protection of your business.

If you’re wondering what all of this has to do with Microsoft and Windows 7, let me put it all together.

PCIDSS Compliance standards dictate that only computer operating systems that are currently supported by the vendor (in our case, that’s Microsoft) and still receiving security patches can achieve PCI compliance. While this is only one piece of achieving compliance, it is an important one.

A full list of compliance requirements can be found on the PCI Standards Council website: https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/

Some of you may be wondering if this whole PCI thing is mandatory and what happens if you don’t act or comply.

PCIComplianceGuide.org addresses this in their FAQ Section.

Q26: What if my business refuses to cooperate?

A: PCI is not a law. The standard was created by the major card brands Visa, MasterCard, Discover, AMEX and JCB. At their acquirers’/service providers’ discretion, merchants that do not comply with PCI DSS may be subject to fines, card replacement costs, costly forensic audits, brand damage, etc., should a breach event occur.

With a little upfront effort and cost to comply with PCI DSS, you greatly help reduce your risk of facing these extremely unpleasant and costly consequences.

So, what does all of this mean to you?

Quite simply, it means you must act to replace any Windows 7 operating system in your payments and POS environment.

Whether your payment and POS systems store card data locally, or if the data just passes through the system, the Windows 7 Operating System provides you with no path to PCI compliance as of January 14, 2020.

So, what should you do now, you ask?

While PCI Compliance, understanding your responsibilities and separating fact from fiction is hard, the next step is easy. Contact Midwest POS Solutions today.

Midwest POS can help you understand your system needs as well as best practices to ensure your path to PCI compliance is clear for the sake of your business, your reputation, and your customers.

We can also assist you with your operating systems. Midwest POS Solutions can help understand which hardware in your environment is running – not just Windows 7, but any other unsupported operating system – and can help you plan your move to Windows 10.

A full system analysis is just a phone call or email away. Contact us at support@midwestpos.com or by phone at 765-778-4080 to start the conversation!