Samuel Smalling l Jun 1, 2023 l Data Protection, Compliance

Safeguarding Cardholder Information: Why Data Discovery and Classification Matter in PCI 4.0

Terms and themes like "data privacy", “data protection”, "regulation", and "compliance" are well known amongst organizations operating in complex digital environments and have become a focal point for large enterprises operating with sensitive data. Alignment with regulatory mandates seems simple in theory. However, organizational stakeholders know all too well the challenges that arise with compliance—and furthermore the impacts they have on business continuity and operations.

More often than not, financial services organizations are very familiar with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). PCI DSS outlines and enforces measures for managing, possessing, or analyzing payment and personal data of cardholders. The regulation has gone through several iterations over the years, with the original version establishing a consistent framework for the security of payment card data and subsequent versions addressing the growth of security threats relative to the evolution of enterprise-level technology solutions.


PCI DSS v4.0 will partially go into effect in March 2024 and fully in March 2025, presenting complex challenges. Several updated measures have outlined new and updated requirements that organizations will have to solve: scope measurement, regular reporting, classification of data by risk, inventories of systems and applications, encryption requirements with quantum-resistant algorithms, stronger password requirements, and more.

And compliance with PCI DSS is no small feat. The coordination of numerous individuals, teams, and departments with different operations, strategies, and goals is a massive obstacle. Organizations and enterprises will have to task privacy, security, IT, operations, and business teams more so than ever to achieve compliance with PCI DSS v4.0 which will be a determining factor for future success.

Problem solved 

At this point, you may be asking yourself questions like "how do I mitigate noncompliance?" or "where do I even begin the journey to PCI compliance?". These questions are rational and fortunately, there is good news.

Let's start with an example; imagine you enter a maze. Yes, it is possible to reach the end after trial and error. However, what if you had a map? What if that map outlined dead-ends, hazards, and optimal routes that would have saved you time and resources while increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of your efforts?

comforte's Data Discovery and Classification serves as that map and helps organizations achieve PCI compliance—not just once, but continuously. The solution autonomously locates each sensitive piece of cardholder information--PANs, credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc.—that removes the risk of human error and only searching known data repositories. With technology that performs with unmatched accuracy and identifies new sensitive data elements as they enter a network, users can obtain a living blueprint of their entire ecosystem relative to sensitive cardholder data. As a result, organizations and enterprises gain a comprehensive understanding of the full data lifecycle with accurate measurement of sensitivity levels. Without a high-performing discovery and classification solution, it's immensely difficult to prioritize and apply protection strategies and financial services companies are more likely to face noncompliance blowbacks.

Time is of the essence 

With less than 2 years until PCI DSS v4.0 is in full effect, organizations must act now. Fortunately, comforte's Data Discovery and Classification offers a range of integration options resulting in quick deployments and fast time-to-market. Organizations that implement solutions that are complex, not easy to integrate, and resource-intensive could face noncompliance penalties—which isn't something to disregard as numerous examples have been seen in recent years.

Many of us remember the Equifax data breach in 2017 which resulted in more than $400m in damages for noncompliance penalties. Even more so, organizations can still be compliant and face risks. In 2018, British Airways was PCI compliant, but hackers still successfully attacked their network and nearly 400,000 individuals had their data compromised. The airline was originally forced to pay nearly £183m but was able to later lower that amount. Current PCI compliance violations can range anywhere from $5k to $100k on a monthly basis depending on the quantity, severity, and amount of time that has passed since the incident occurred.

Many organizations act too late over various fears and uncertainties. Fortunately, they don't have to. comforte's Data Discovery and Classification provides the path to compliance.

Start discovering; you'll be happy you did.

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