Navigating the Impact of PCI 4.0 on Retail Businesses

  • Team Omega
  • September 1, 2023

The world of cybersecurity is in constant flux, and the payment card industry is no exception. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure the safe handling of payment card information. As technology evolves, so do the standards that govern it. PCI DSS 4.0 represents a significant evolution of the standard, aiming to address the ever-growing challenges posed by cyber threats.

Increased Granularity

One of the standout features of PCI 4.0 is its heightened granularity. The standard provides a more comprehensive set of requirements compared to its predecessors. This increased detail means that retail businesses will need to pay closer attention to specific security measures.

In the past, businesses might have focused on meeting the minimum requirements to achieve compliance. However, with PCI 4.0, a deeper understanding of the security landscape and a more meticulous approach are necessary. New reports are not limited to IT departments but are required to include input from various business segments. There are also more stringent requirements around scanning. In the past, Level 3, 4, & 5 Vulnerabilities required a remediation plan. Now, even lower level vulnerabilities must have a remediation plan.

IT leaders responsible for PCI 4.0 should also understand the urgency around taking action now if they haven’t already. PCI 4.0 goes into effect in March of 2025, but the lookback period goes back to March 2024. Leadership teams should prioritize making changes now. This could include more rigorous scrutiny of network segmentation, access controls, and encryption practices.

Size of the Compliance Report

Expect your PCI compliance report to bulk up significantly with the introduction of PCI 4.0. While the exact page count may vary, it’s estimated that the report’s size will increase by nearly double (e.g., 312 pages to 532 pages in total). The form and format of the report have also changed, so it will be important not to expect the same template that you used in previous years to pass.

For retail businesses, this means preparing for a more extensive compliance reporting process. Adequate storage and efficient organization of compliance documents will become critical. The larger report may also require additional time and effort to compile, review, and submit for assessment.

Increased Costs

With greater granularity and a more comprehensive approach to security, retail businesses should anticipate increased costs associated with PCI 4.0 compliance. These costs can be twofold: financial expenses and man-hours.

Financial expenses may arise from the need to invest in updated security technologies and infrastructure. For example, if your organization may have already implemented an Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tool to endpoints within your Card Data Environment (CDE). Under the new requirements, all endpoints are required to run EDR. With these increased requirements around hosting additional security software and services, certain legacy hardware devices may come up short. Older devices that can’t handle the burden of running these additional security tools while performing their normal functions will need to be replaced. Legacy hardware will need to be replaced, incurring large costs for many organizations.

On the manpower front, the increased granularity of PCI 4.0 means that more meticulous attention to detail will be required. This could result in higher labor costs as security personnel spend additional time ensuring compliance. Additionally, the larger compliance report will necessitate more man-hours for documentation and review.

Timelines and Preparation

It’s crucial for retail businesses to recognize that PCI 4.0 demands a year-round approach to compliance preparation. This shift is significant, as it signals a departure from viewing compliance as a once-a-year event. In the past, many businesses may have adopted a mindset of, “We’ll tackle PCI compliance when the deadline approaches.”

With the new standard, such an approach is no longer viable. PCI 4.0 is a continuous process, and retailers need to be prepared for ongoing compliance efforts. A proactive stance throughout the year is essential to ensure that all requirements are met and maintained.

Vendor Default Settings

PCI 4.0 places a strong emphasis on upgrading vendor default settings. While this may seem like a routine task, it’s an area that hasn’t always received the attention it deserves in the past. For retail businesses, this translates to a need for a more in-depth examination of the security configurations of their technology and solutions. It’s not just about asking whether the default settings are secure enough, but actively determining if adjustments are necessary to enhance their security posture.

It’s crucial to understand that these default settings are essentially a baseline, often insufficient for optimal operation and security within a specific business environment. As no two retail environments are identical, it becomes imperative to customize these settings to suit individual operational needs. This process involves evaluating each setting’s appropriateness and modifying it to align with the latest security best practices, thereby contributing significantly to a stronger overall security posture.

Tailoring these settings to the unique contours of your business not only enhances security but also significantly hinders the efforts of potential attackers. By increasing the complexity of your security configurations, you effectively shorten the window of time an intruder has to operate undetected, a critical factor in safeguarding your environment.. Moreover, it’s advisable for businesses to develop a standardized template for setting configurations that aligns with their specific operational structure and security requirements. This approach not only streamlines the process of setting customization but also ensures consistency and comprehensiveness in addressing security needs across the organization.

Custom Control vs. Compensating Control

Understanding the difference between custom control and compensating control is paramount under PCI 4.0. Custom controls require businesses to develop and implement their own processes, while compensating controls are alternatives to meet compliance when standard controls cannot be met.

PCI 4.0 urges caution when considering custom controls. Even in large organizations, custom controls may be too expensive and time-consuming to develop and maintain. It’s crucial for retail businesses to evaluate the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of custom controls versus compensating controls.

The Global Perspective

While our focus has been on PCI 4.0 in the context of retail businesses, it’s essential to consider the global perspective. The payment card industry is international, and depending upon your specific location, there may be additional compliance requirements to secure card data beyond what PCI 4.0 outlines.

Retailers should stay informed about developments in payment card security standards beyond PCI 4.0. Similar, or even more stringent standards, may be in the pipeline for different regions of the globe.

Impact on Customer Charges

As retail businesses face increased compliance costs due to PCI 4.0, there may be discussions about whether these costs should be passed on to customers. While the decision ultimately rests with individual businesses, it’s a topic that deserves careful consideration.

Retailers should weigh the potential impact on customer loyalty and satisfaction when contemplating changes in pricing or charges. Communication with customers about the necessity of these changes and how they contribute to enhanced security can be crucial in maintaining trust.


PCI 4.0 represents a significant shift in the world of payment card security standards. For retail businesses, these changes demand a more detailed, proactive, and year-round approach to compliance. The increased granularity, larger compliance reports, and potential cost implications are all factors that retailers should be prepared for.

By understanding the nuances of PCI 4.0 and its impact on their operations, retail businesses can stay ahead of the curve in terms of payment card security. While compliance may require additional resources, the investment is essential in an era where cyber threats continue to evolve.

Ultimately, the goal of PCI 4.0 is to enhance the security of payment card data. By embracing these changes and adapting their practices accordingly, retail businesses can contribute to a safer and more secure digital payment ecosystem.