The threats firms face today are more evasive than they were two years ago

Sowmyanarayan Sampath, Chief Executive Officer at Verizon Business

Despite Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance improving significantly in 2020, the cybersecurity threats firms face are more evasive than they were even two years ago, the 2022 Verizon Payment Security Report (2022 PSR) reveals.

As firms prepare to implement PCI DSS v4.0, the 2022 PSR provides insights to pivot and adapt to the new Standard. Verizon‘s logical approach to the strategic management of complex compliance challenges appears to be making a positive difference for businesses.

What were the findings of the study?

This year’s report found that, overall, PCI DSS compliance improved significantly in 2020, with 43.4% of all surveyed organisations maintaining full compliance, compared to 27.9 percent in 2019. Additionally, while over half (56.7%) of organisations surveyed failed their interim validation assessment due to one or more security controls omissions, the security control gap still improved substantially, from a high 7.7% in 2019 to a low 4.0% in 2020.   

The pandemic escalated online business activities and payment card transactions, but it also enabled the skillful exploitation of both existing and emerging threats and weaknesses within payment systems and processes. Further complicating the payment security landscape for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and other security practitioners, the PCI SSC recently instituted the most significant rewrite of the DSS since its release in 2004.

Design priorities for PCI DSS v4.0

CISOs and their teams need to apply a logical, coordinated process to evaluate requirements and constraints of PCI DSS v4.0. To help organisations within the payment industry simplify the complexity of these new measures and ensure data security, the 2022 PSR includes a “toolbox” of management models and frameworks useful for negotiating PCI DSS v4.0.

As the research report highlights, the challenges organisations encounter with data security and compliance management have identifiable cause-and-effect relationships.

The key to achieving ongoing growth and stability of security and compliance program performance is to find a way to focus resources on only the parts within the security environment that are currently limiting or blocking further improvement—the weakest links, system constraints or leverage points. As such, strategic planning, coordination and execution at an operational level is paramount for averting costly data breaches.

Potential impact of 5G on payment card compliance

The appeal of emerging technologies, such as 5G and edge computing, gained significant momentum when the pandemic exposed the weakest links of the financial services industry.

The speed and stability of 5G will continue to enhance the mobile experience for the payments industry—providing greater customer security through advanced biometric-based identification and verification methods. It also will provide more secure connections for video conferencing, with participants such as financial professionals and loan counselors.

Financial institutions will continue to find innovative ways to benefit from 5G features, open architecture and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) technologies. Security practitioners need to explore how the innovations might impact the PCI DSS compliance posture.

What were the executives’ thoughts on the findings?

While a significant step forward, security leaders need to focus their attention and resources on getting up to speed with these new requirements. Released earlier this year, PCI DSS v4.0 will go into effect in 2024. “Substantial industry feedback drove changes to PCI DSS v4.0,” commented Lance Johnson, Executive Director of the PCI Security Standards Council.

“Key changes to the standard focus on meeting the evolving security needs of the payments industry, continuously promoting security processes, increasing flexibility for organisations using different methods to achieve security objectives, and enhancing validation procedures.”

“Despite compliance improvements, we know that bad actors are out there and stronger than ever. Our own 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (2022 DBIR) found the financial sector continues to be victimised by motivated organised crime, with servers being involved in 90% of financial breaches,” said Sampath Sowmyanarayan, CEO at Verizon Business.

“As a result, working harder on your current strategy is unlikely to move the needle. To remain safe in today’s heightened cybersecurity climate, organisations will need to approach their objectives and goals at a project, program and strategic level,” Sowmyanarayan said.