4 Things ISVs Should Know About PCI DSS 4.0

Your ability to navigate PCI 4.0 changes is critical — both to strengthen your security posture and set your solutions apart in a crowded market.

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The future looks bright for integrated payment platforms as demand for seamless payment solutions continues to rise. With the integrated payments market estimated to achieve 14.6% growth by 2027, independent software vendors (ISVs) can capitalize on this momentum by integrating payment functionality into their own solutions.

However, applications and software that interact with financial data must adhere to data security standards (DSS) mandated by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). PCI DSS serves as the global standard for safeguarding cardholder data, ensuring merchants and other entities that process, store or transmit credit card data maintain secure environments. And the latest iteration of PCI DSS — v4.0 — requires significant changes in how these entities handle cardholder data.

Fewer than a third (31%) of payment data security professionals have a strong grasp of the v4.0 requirements. This gap underscores the urgency for ISVs to deepen their understanding of the new standards. Your ability to navigate v4.0 changes is critical — both to strengthen your security posture and set your solutions apart in a crowded market.

ISVs’ Role in PCI DSS 4.0 Compliance

Compliance with v4.0 is essential for maintaining trust with your merchant partners. If a merchant suffers a breach and your technology doesn’t meet PCI standards, you risk substantial financial losses and reputational damage. But if you design your technology and processes with PCI standards in mind, you can provide compliant solutions that streamline the validation process for your customers and enhance their operational security.

PCI DSS 3.2.1 sunsetted in March 2024, making way for v4.0 to become the new standard. While certain requirements of v4.0 must be implemented already, other complex and resource-intensive adjustments may be gradually implemented through March 2025. But it’s critical to start adapting to these changes now to avoid rushed efforts and optimize your compliance strategy.

1. Assess and adjust

The period from March 2024 to March 2025 provides an opportunity to benchmark your security infrastructure, processes and policies against the v4.0 requirements. Collaborating with qualified security assessors (QSAs) can help ensure compliance and identify areas of your strategy you may need to adjust.

For example, you may discover your current non-administrator authentication to the cardholder data environment (CDE) lacks multi-factor authentication (MFA) — a new requirement under v4.0. QSAs can help identify MFA solutions that comply with the updated standards. 

2. Embrace security beyond compliance

PCI DSS 4.0 emphasizes the importance of security as a continuous effort. Compliance under v4.0 isn’t just about ticking boxes, but rather ensuring security remains a foundational aspect of your operations. A security-first approach also requires collaboration with merchant partners for proactive threat detection and response.

To pinpoint and mitigate vulnerabilities before threat actors can exploit them, engage with merchants to conduct regular penetration and vulnerability assessments. You can also incorporate defensive measures like anti-malware software and intrusion detection systems into your solutions.

Additionally, entities will no longer perform high-level risk assessments under v4.0. Instead, the focus will shift to developing policies based on perceived risk for specific PCI-DSS security controls.

3. Explore the customized approach

PCI DSS 4.0 introduces a customized approach for validating certain requirements. While the traditional, defined approach offers a set of specific requirements and controls you must implement to achieve compliance, the customized approach allows you to achieve compliance in a more flexible manner with custom security controls.

This update enables you to implement security measures that are tailored to your customers’ specific operational and industry needs while still meeting the core intent of v4.0 requirements. For example, a customer might implement new technology to ensure stored cardholder data is protected per PCI-DSS 3.5.1 rather than the four methods available in the defined approach.

4. Reduce your scope of changes with PCI-validated solutions

You may feel overwhelmed by the number of future-dated requirements you still have to implement to achieve compliance. A strategic approach to simplify compliance includes the use of PCI-validated solutions. For instance, PCI-validated point-to-point encryption solutions not only align with the nuanced encryption requirements of v4.0, but also reduce the scope of compliance efforts by minimizing the amount of cardholder data your environment handles.

Considering only 21% of organizations are “very confident” in their ability to protect customer data, partnering with payment processors that use PCI-validated solutions is a more manageable pathway to securing cardholder data.

V4.0 Compliance: An Ongoing Effort

PCI DSS constantly evolves to reflect the threat landscape, so you must stay informed about the latest requirements and best practices. Given the complex nature of v4.0, you have to act promptly to ensure compliance. But remember, the journey toward compliance is an ongoing effort that demands close collaboration with your merchant partners to adapt, implement and maintain robust security measures.

Tim Barnett

Tim Barnett is the Chief Information Officer at Bluefin. Tim is an information technology veteran and has been with Bluefin since 2011. As CIO, he is responsible for Bluefin’s Infrastructure, DevOps, Security, Compliance, Development and Product innovation and initiatives for the ISV, P2PE, and Security verticals.


Tim Barnett
Tim Barnett is the Chief Information Officer at Bluefin. Tim is an information technology veteran and has been with Bluefin since 2011. As CIO, he is responsible for Bluefin’s Infrastructure, DevOps, Security, Compliance, Development and Product innovation and initiatives for the ISV, P2PE, and Security verticals.