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Understanding the changes in PCI DSS 4.0 for higher ed is important as the clock winds down toward the deadline for implementation next year. In the world of payments, security is paramount. Customers expect the highest levels of security when transacting – and it’s integral that their personal and financial information be kept safe. Colleges and universities, and each of their merchant accounts across campuses and departments, are responsible for adhering to the standards of the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). 

The latest version of the standards, which will be mandatory beginning March 31, 2024, comes with several changes. PCI DSS 4.0 for higher ed will directly impact schools that have e-commerce checkout pages. Specifically, merchants that qualify for SAQ A must now undergo quarterly vulnerability scanning for e-commerce checkout pages – something not required previously. We’ll explore what this means for higher ed institutions. 

What is the Importance of SAQ A?

SAQ A is the simplest version of the Self-Assessment Questionnaire that merchants can use to certify their compliance with the PCI Data Security Standards (DSS). It is intended for merchants that have fully outsourced their e-commerce payment processing to a PCI DSS-compliant third-party service provider and have no electronic storage, processing, or transmission of any cardholder data. SAQ A has previously not required businesses that qualify for it to undergo vulnerability scanning. 

PCI 4.0 changes that, requiring businesses that qualify for SAQ A to undergo quarterly vulnerability scanning for their e-commerce checkout pages. The reason PCI versions evolve is to address new threats and vulnerabilities. This change reflects the increasing possibility and sophistication of attacks on e-commerce checkout pages – even for merchants that do not store cardholder data. Vulnerability scanning is critical to detect and address these vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.

How Does Vulnerability Scanning Work?

During vulnerability scanning, automated testing tools check for known security threats and weaknesses in a website or network. These scans can detect vulnerabilities like unpatched systems, outdated software, and weak passwords. Regular vulnerability scans allow merchants to identify and fix potential security issues before they can be exploited by hackers or malicious actors.

If merchants within your school or university are now required to conduct vulnerability scanning under SAQ A, it can still be a relatively easy process. The key is to connect with an appropriate third-party scanning vendor who can scan all relevant e-commerce checkout pages for scanning. The vendor will report the results of the scan to each merchant and provide recommended remediation actions. 

Arrow Payments Knows PCI 4.0

Our team of experts at Arrow Payments is well-versed in PCI DSS 4.0 for higher ed and has already begun to assist clients in identifying vulnerability scanning tools and partners. We understand this new requirement for vulnerability scanning for SAQ A e-commerce checkout pages can be daunting. But it’s an important step in maintaining the security of online transactions. If you qualify for vulnerability scanning under the updated requirements, reach out to us for a free consultation. 

Ultimately, regular vulnerability scans will help your university merchants stay a step ahead of potential security risks – and ensure that customers’ sensitive data is kept safe. 

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