“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.”

President Obama’s State of the Union Address last week covered a myriad of important topics, from foreign politics to modern medicine, and within his long address (transcript can be found here), he touched on an important topic relevant to the electronic payments industry.

I agree with the President on the statement he made, referenced above. Cyber security is indeed an imperative standard that needs to be upheld, and if ample protection isn’t enforced, not only will untold opportunities be hindered, but untold opportunities for identity theft, fraud, and other pilfering will develop.

As Ellen Richey, Vice Chairman of Risk and Public Policy for Visa, put forth in her response to the State of the Union, it is important for the government and the private sector to collaborate and combat these issues as a united front.

While the major Card Brands like Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express help regulate the electronic payments industry by instating rules and policies for cardholders, it is truly the Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), and those a part of that association, who help regulate the industry. Through a set of industry standards, the ETA Guidelines on Merchant and ISO Underwriting and Risk Monitoring, merchant services providers, the Card Brands, and acquiring banks can monitor merchants for unsavory behavior and fight fraud and identity theft to protect the public.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS) that the Security Standards Council requires merchants to be compliant with is another important regulation that protects the consumer and ensures that merchants are running a business that is safeguarded against data breaches and other bad business practices.

So indeed, our economy will be left vulnerable if these protective measures are not taken seriously, and if the ever-evolving identity theft and money laundering isn’t met with a more modern defense system, good businesses, merchants, and consumers will fall prey to these deceptive practices. It is vital to stay proactive as a business owner and consumer and ensure that you are protected.