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Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offers numerous benefits to higher ed, including improved operational processes and better customer service. As remote education and hybrid models persist, VoIP has served a strategic role in enabling schools to maintain unified communications.  

The benefits are significant, to be sure. However, this technology also adds a new layer of complexity when it comes to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance, a standard that is seeing its most significant overhaul with the upcoming PCI DSS 4.0. Understanding the intersection of VoIP and PCI DSS is crucial for those managing payments and compliance within higher education.

VoIP and PCI DSS 4.0 Compliance: The Challenges

VoIP technology enables voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol networks. This is hugely beneficial for colleges and universities when it comes to cost savings and flexibility – but VoIP systems can also transmit sensitive cardholder data, which means they fall within the scope of PCI DSS.

One of the main challenges with VoIP is that it acts as both a data and voice service, blurring the lines of traditional PCI DSS controls. Colleges and universities that fail to realize their VoIP systems fall under PCI DSS compliance may be exposed to vulnerabilities. 

Navigating VoIP and PCI DSS 4.0

The PCI Security Standards Council is introducing PCI DSS 4.0 to address evolving risks and technologies, including VoIP systems. The new version is expected to uphold the six primary objectives of the previous PCI DSS iterations. The upcoming version also has an increased focus on security outcomes rather than prescriptive controls.

Word of caution: This does not mean organizations will have it “easier.” The requirements for security remain stringent and even those that take a customized approach will face as much scrutiny as those following a more prescriptive approach. As it applies to VoIP systems, this means a thorough understanding will be required to identify potential risks and apply controls that adequately address those risks. 

What to Keep in Mind From Previous Versions

The most recent version, PCI DSS 3.2.1, provides specific guidelines related to VoIP. For example, Requirement 1.3.5 restricts inbound and outbound traffic that is not explicitly necessary for the cardholder data environment, which would apply to VoIP systems transmitting such data. Additionally, Requirement 2.2.2 mandates the enabling of only necessary services, protocols, daemons, etc., which holds implications for VoIP systems.

As institutions anticipate PCI DSS 4.0, revisiting existing requirements is crucial. It would be beneficial to assess whether their current VoIP configurations comply with these standards and where adjustments might be needed.

The Path Forward

The PCI DSS and its applications to VoIP can be nuanced and complex. Universities must have an understanding of how the technology works, its role in payments, and where it falls within the scope of requirements. VoIP security and the protection of sensitive data is paramount. Conducting routine assessments of VoIP systems alongside ongoing IT training can ensure end-to-end compliance with PCI DSS.

PCI DSS 4.0, with its emphasis on flexibility and a risk-based approach, represents a significant shift. However, the primary goal remains unchanged: protecting cardholder data. As colleges and universities continue to embrace technologies like VoIP, keeping this objective at the forefront will be the key to successful PCI DSS compliance.

If you want to make sure you have your bases covered for PCI v4.0, we can help. Our team of experts has deep experience in PCI compliance and can guide you through the upcoming changes. Contact us today for a free consultation.  


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