Is your organization prepared for PCI DSS 4.0?

Designed to ensure that all companies securely transmit, store or process payment card data correctly, compliance to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) serves a critical purpose.

PCI DSS 4

Failure to comply increases the risk of a data breach, which can lead to potential losses of revenue, customers, brand reputation and customer trust. Despite this risk, the 2020 Verizon Payment Security Report found that only 27.9% of global organizations maintained full PCI DSS compliance in 2019, marking the third straight year that PCI DSS compliance has declined.

In addition to the continued decline in compliance, the current iteration of PCI DSS (3.2.1) is expected to be replaced by PCI DSS 4.0 in mid-2021, with an extended transition period.

But as we enter the busiest shopping season of the year, in the midst of a global pandemic that has upended business practices, organizations cannot risk ignoring compliance to the existing PCI DSS 3.2.1 standard. Failure to achieve and maintain compliance creates gaps in securing sensitive cardholder data, making easy targets for cyber criminals. And with the holiday season historically known for rises in cyber-attacks, organizations that fail to stay focused on compliance will represent the highest risk amongst any organization that handles card data.

So, what do organizations need to know about PCI DSS 4.0 and how can they proactively prepare for this update?

Rising risks and what’s new

The financial services industry has always been a prime target for hackers and malicious actors. Last year alone, the Federal Trade Commission received over 271,000 reports of credit card fraud in the United States. As consumers continue to prefer online payments and debit and credit card transactions, the prevalence of card fraud will continue to rise.

The core principle of the PCI DSS is to protect cardholder data, and with PCI DSS 4.0, it will continue to serve as the critical foundation for securing payment card data. As the industry leader in payment card security, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) will continue evaluating how to evolve the standard to accommodate changes in technology, risk mitigation techniques, and the threat landscape.

Additionally, the PCI SSC is looking at ways to introduce greater flexibility to payment card security and compliance, in order to support organizations using a broad range of controls and methods to meet security objectives.

Overall, PCI DSS 4.0 will set out to:

  • Ensure PCI DSS continues to meet the security needs of the payments industry
  • Add flexibility and support of additional methodologies to achieve security
  • Promote security as a continuous process
  • Enhance validation methods and procedures

As consumers and organizations continue to interact and conduct more business online, the need for enforcement of the PCI DSS regulations will continue to become apparent.

Consumers are sharing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) with every transaction, and as that information is shared across networks, consumers require organizations to provide assurance that they are handling such data in a secure manner.

Once implemented, PCI DSS 4.0 will place a greater emphasis on security as a continuous process with the goal of promoting fluid data management practices that integrate with an organization’s overall security and compliance posture.

While PCI DSS 4.0 continues to undergo industry consultation prior to its final release, potential changes for organizations to keep in mind include:

  • Authentication, specific consideration for the NIST MFA/password guidance
  • Broader applicability for encrypting cardholder data on trusted networks
  • Monitoring requirements to consider technology advancement
  • Greater frequency of testing of critical controls – for example, incorporating some requirements from the Designated Entities Supplemental Validation (PCI DSS Appendix A3) into regular PCI DSS requirements

The second request for comment (RFC) period is still ongoing, it is expected that PCI DSS 4.0 will become available in mid-2021. To accommodate the budgetary and organizational changes necessary to achieve compliance, an extended transition period of 18 months and an enforcement date will be set by the PCI SSC after PCI DSS 4.0 has been published.

Making good use of this time will be critical, so organizations should develop a thorough implementation plan that updates reporting templates and forms, and any ongoing monitoring and recurring compliance validation to meet the updated requirements.

Tips for achieving PCI DSS compliance

The best piece of advice is to first ensure full compliance with the current version of the standard. This will ensure a solid baseline to work from when planning for future updates to PCI DSS. When the regulation takes effect in 2021, organizations can begin internal assessment and preparation of their network for any new requirements.

PCI DSS is already known as being one of the most detailed and prescriptive data security standards to date, and version 4.0 is expected to be even more comprehensive than its predecessor.

With millions of transactions occurring each day, organizations are already collecting, sharing and storing massive amounts of consumer data that they must protect. Even for organizations currently in compliance with PCI DSS 3.2.1, it is critical to establish a holistic view of their data management strategies to assess potential lapses, gaps and threats. To achieve this holistic view and ensure readiness for version 4.0, organizations should take the following steps:

  • Conduct a data discovery sweep – By conducting a thorough data discovery sweep of all data storage across the entire network, organizations can eliminate assumptions from their data management practices. Data discovery provides organizations with greater visibility in the strengths and vulnerabilities of the network as well as a better sense of how PII flows through all repositories including structured data, unstructured data, on premise storage and cloud storage, to ensure proper data management techniques.
  • Enact strategies that promote smart data decisions – Once an organization understands how data flows through its environment and where it’s located, they can use these fact-based insights to enact policies and strategies that prioritize data privacy. Data privacy depends on employees, so organizations must take the time to educate employees on the role they play in organizational security. This includes training and continued network data audits to ensure no customer data slips through the cracks or is forgotten.
  • Appoint a leader to drive compliance – With the average organization already adhering to 13 different compliance regulations, compliance can be overwhelming. Organizations should look to appoint a security compliance officer or internal lead to oversee ongoing compliance initiatives. This person should seek to become an expert in PCI DSS, generally including progress towards 4.0 and all other forms of compliance. Furthermore, they can become the go-to person on ensuring proper data management practices.

It’s been nearly 15 years since PCI DSS was first released, and since then, consumers and businesses have substantially increased the amount of transactions and business activities conducted online using payment cards. For this reason, the importance of the PCI DSS remains just as critical for securing data as it ever was.

The organizations that leverage the PCI DSS as a baseline to achieve ongoing awareness on the security of their data and look for proactive ways to secure their networks will be the most successful moving forward, gaining consumer and employee trust through their compliance actions.




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