Decoding PCI DSS v4.0 and Enhancing Security with DMARC: A Guide

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Decoding PCI DSS v4.0 and Enhancing Security with DMARC: A Guide

Does your business involve your customers making card payments? If yes, this one is for you!

Now that digital payments have become the backbone of most businesses, you cannot afford to let any unauthorized entity snoop in on your transactions or your customers’ card details. They could use this information to unleash havoc on your business by either committing fraud or pulling off data breaches that compromise sensitive customer information.

With the situation only getting worse with each passing day, it is crucial to know that implementing the latest security measures to safeguard your payment processes and your business’ integrity is now a non-negotiable thing. To make the digital space a little less daunting for your customers, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) has made it mandatory for organizations that process card transactions to comply with the fourth edition of the PCI DSS—  PCI DSS v4.0. A major update of this edition is that these organizations must authenticate their domains with DMARC by 2025. 

As the losses associated with card fraud exceed 30 billion U.S. dollars, this alarming situation calls for a proactive approach like complying with the PCI DSS v4.0. 

Let us dig deeper into this latest update and learn more about how the PCI DSS v4.0 will impact your business

What is PCI DSS?

Before we get into the how and why, let us start from the basics—understanding what the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is. 

As you already know, the payment card industry isn’t really immune to fraud and cyber-attacks. Looking at the severity and the frequency of cyberattacks targeted at cardholders, the key players of the card industry, such as  Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover, came together to create a defense mechanism against these types of attacks and ensure the integrity of card transitions. This is what gave rise to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

types of attacks

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The main objective of PCI DSS is to reduce the risk of card data breaches by requiring businesses to adhere to best security practices, such as maintaining a secure network, protecting cardholder data, implementing strong access control measures, regularly monitoring and testing networks, and maintaining an information security policy.

What Makes PCI DSS v4.0 a Significant Update?

PCI SSC released the latest iteration of PCI DSS, which is PCI DSS v4.0, on March 31, 2022. This monumental move introduced some notable updates that align with the ever-evolving threat landscape and technological landscape

Let us take a look at the new provisions of PCI DSS v4.0 that were released to effectively protect cardholder data.

Enhanced Flexibility and Customization

The PCI DSS v4.0 offers flexibility to organizations to implement tailored solutions instead of strictly adhering to prescribed methods, the only condition being that they should meet security standards. This is done to encourage more and more organizations to innovate while maintaining a secure environment for cardholders. 

Stronger Authentication Measures

The fourth edition of PCI DSS focuses on authentication and encryption, which are integral aspects of protecting cardholder data. The reason why PCI DSS v4.0 prioritizes authentication protocols is that it is one of the most reliable ways to tackle the increasing sophistication of cyber threats. 

Integration of Emerging Technologies

PCI DSS v4.0 recognizes that stagnancy in technology adoption cannot wage against the evolving card-based cyber threats. As a result, it opens the scope for integrating new and emerging technologies while complying with the standard norms. This way, the organization does not miss out on innovation and security. 

Emphasis on Continuous Monitoring and Testing

The latest edition of PCI DSS reinforces the notion that comprehensive security is a continuous effort rather than occasional checks. By making regular monitoring and testing a crucial aspect of PCI DSS v4.0, organizations are compelled to acknowledge that unless they monitor and test their security measures regularly, they cannot ensure that their payment systems are adequately protected against potential breaches.

Regular Reporting and Accountability

Without accountability, even the most robust security protocols can become ineffective, and PCI DSS v4.0 recognizes this. This is why the latest security standards emphasize streamlining the compliance process instead of leaving it to chance. 

robust security protocols

Who is the PCI DSS v4.0 For?

The simple answer to this is— every organization involved in handling card payments in any capacity! Whether you are a merchant, processor, acquirer, issuer, or service provider, the new standards by the  Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council apply to you.

Here’s a closer look at who needs to comply with PCI DSS v4.0:

  • Organizations that are involved in storing, processing, and transmitting cardholders’ data.
  • Entities that may not directly handle the merchant side of transactions, but their role involves managing credit and debit card operations.
  • Any third-party company that provides services managing cardholder data on behalf of other businesses
  • Any business or individual whose actions can affect the security of the cardholder data environment, even indirectly

What is the Role of Email Authentication in PCI DSS v4.0?

The basic premise of version 4.0 of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is improved fraud prevention, and since emails are the most common vectors for breaches and fraud, it makes sense for PCI DSS v4.0 to prioritize email authentication.

Here is how PCI DSS v4.0 steps in on email security through some specific measures: 

Strong Access Controls for Email Systems

PCI DSS 4.0 requires organizations to develop strict access controls over their email systems through robust measures like multi-factor authentication, complex passwords, regular reviews of the email ecosystem, etc. This step ensures that no one gains unauthorized access to your digital space and reduces the potential chances of email-borne attacks.

Protecting Saved Card Details

The PCI DSS v4.0 ensures that cardholder data stored within email systems is safe and encrypted using relevant access control measures. So even if someone tries to breach the system, the cardholders’ details are safe and out of their reach. 

Responding to Email-Related Security Alerts

Proper monitoring and responses to email security-related alerts are important aspects of PCI DSS v4.0. This means that organizations must review their system logs on a regular basis to detect any sign of suspicious activity, which would make responding to potential threats easier and more efficient. 

email-related security alerts

Mandatory Implementation of DMARC

One of the most important requirements of PCI DSS v4.0 is the implementation of Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), a protocol that plays a crucial role in the fight against email spoofing and impersonation

Why is DMARC Authentication Important for PCI DSS v4.0 Compliance?

It is no surprise that DMARC provides a robust defense against serious cyber threats by simply verifying that only authorized senders can use your organization’s domain to send emails. But how is it relevant for organizations that process payments? Broadly speaking, DMARC significantly reduces the risk of malicious actors sending fraudulent emails on your behalf and gaining unauthorized access to sensitive payment information.

DMARCReport infographics

Here’s how DMARC can make PCI DSS v4.0 compliance all the more secure and effective:

Protection Against Fraud

When sending transaction or payment-related emails, you cannot afford to have someone else, especially not an unauthorized person, send emails on your behalf. This is where DMARC comes into play! This authentication protocol ensures that emails sent from your domain are genuine, preventing fraudsters from deceiving your customers and gaining access to sensitive payment information.

Enhanced Email Deliverability

Apart from preventing email frauds like phishing, DMARC also helps to improve email deliverability— the ability of emails to reach the recipient’s inbox without being blocked or rejected by the receiving server. Maintaining seamless communication with your customers is important, particularly for transaction confirmations, notifications, etc. and you certainly wouldn’t want such important emails to end up in the spam folder. This is why DMARC is mandatory for PCI DSS v4.0 compliance.

spam folder

Seamless Compliance with Security Standards

By including DMARC as a part of your security efforts, you not only mitigate the risk of grave card fraud but also show your customers and key stakeholders that your organization prioritizes security and adheres to the highest standards

Less Risk of Financial Fraud

DMARC helps protect your business from the financial fallout of data breaches. By ensuring only authorized senders can use your email domain, it reduces the risk of cyberattacks like phishing. This simple step can prevent hefty fines from regulators, avoid legal troubles, and protect your reputation. 

Compliance Made Easy with DMARCReport

While there is ample time until March 2025 to implement DMARC, the sooner you employ this authentication protocol to comply with PCI DSS v4.0, the better. After all, why would you want to rush up the process when you can refine and optimize your DMARC policies with early implementation? 

Get in touch with us at DMARCReport to secure your email channels effectively, protect your customers’ sensitive card data, and establish a strong stance on cybersecurity.

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