Now that we have touched on all 12 PCI DSS requirements, let’s have a final look at what this means for merchants in the ever changing world of information security. No matter how long a merchant has been in business I would be shocked if they have never heard of PCI compliance. However, after speaking with so many merchants I understand why so many want to run for the hills when they hear those words. I think the biggest fears today with merchants in regards to PCI compliance are time and money. Implementing a compliance effort, especially on your own, will increase overhead and take up a considerable amount of time with zero revenue generated. This can be true in the beginning, but once you get into the behavior of network security, physical security and critical data handling PCI will blend into your everyday business operations and not be so daunting. By choosing to not meet PCI compliance requirements you are leaving your business vulnerable to a possible compromise which would likely end up costing much more than an initial PCI program, or even worse, costing you your business.
Technology is constantly evolving. As a business owner you need to have a serious focus on keeping your customers’ critical information secure, not only to satisfy PCI requirements, but also to keep your business protected. At the end of the day, it is ultimately the merchant’s sole responsibility to adhere to the PCI DSS. Acquiring banks and processors have started to levy fines on merchants who are not PCI compliant and have even been known to take away the ability for some to accept credit/debit cards as a form of payment until the merchant can validate compliance.
We started this blog series well over a year ago. We covered many aspects of PCI starting with basic terms, going all the way through processes and procedures in hopes of better informing merchants of network security and PCI compliance. In my opinion, a merchant should strive to make PCI a regular part of their business operations instead of looking at it as a minimum requirement that must be checked off a list. Just as technology is advancing, so are the malicious individuals that would like to gain access to your network and make off with your customers’ cardholder data. (more…)
Requirement 12 of the PCI DSS: Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel
Here we are at the 12th and final requirement of the PCI DSS. What a journey this has been. Looking back, we discussed creating a secure network starting with a firewall at the perimeter, all the way down to limiting users’ access and having unique usernames and passwords for your staff. The final step is to create an information security policy that will guide you and your staff through all of the processes and procedures of your business with security in mind. Think of the information security policy as your rules and expectations of your staff. It is pertinent that everyone in the company, from top to bottom, understands the guidelines spelled out in the information security policy. Let’s take a look at a few of the requirements in the PCI DSS that your information security policy needs to cover.
The very first point specified in requirement 12.1 is to establish, publish, maintain and disseminate an information security policy that addresses all PCI DSS requirements. I believe that if this requirement is followed properly you will be setting yourself up to have true, consistent behavior in regards to security and not just a check box approach.
This brings me to the most important part of an information security policy: Training. Requirement 12.6 reads:
Implement a formal security awareness program to make all personnel aware of the importance of cardholder data security.
I feel that having a proper training program set up for your employees is one of the biggest factors in successfully implementing a security policy. If personnel are not educated about their security responsibilities, the security guidelines you have established may become ineffective through errors or unintentional actions. The weakest point of an organization’s security is the end user. If the end user is not trained or educated on security best practices, then critical data will be much harder to protect. (more…)
Requirement 11 of the PCI DSS: Regularly test security systems and processes
Requirement 11 is one of the more technical requirements of the PCI DSS that focuses on testing the Cardholder Data Environment (CDE) for vulnerabilities. Some of the steps in this requirement will not be able to be completed by the merchant without some outside assistance.
To help you to better understand this requirement, I am going to first explain Requirement 11.2.2, which reads:
Perform quarterly external vulnerability scans via an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV), approved by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC).
An Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) is an organization approved by the PCI SSC which performs vulnerability scans on merchants’ CDEs. External vulnerability scanning is a specific test that looks for weaknesses in a network’s perimeter that can be exposed or exploited by malicious individuals looking to gain unauthorized access into the network. The PCI SSC has a specific list of rules and guidelines that an ASV must comply with in order to be certified by the PCI SSC to perform external vulnerability scanning for merchants in the pursuit of PCI compliance. Currently the PCI SSC has a list of over 130 certified Approved Scanning Vendors that can be found at the PCI SSC’s website. Having these external vulnerability scans run each quarter is only the beginning of what a merchant will need to do to meet requirement 11.
Now that you understand what external vulnerability scanning is, let’s go back to Requirement 11.2.1 which talks about internal vulnerability scanning. (more…)
Requirement 10 of the PCI DSS: Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data
Requirement 10 sounds like a daunting task and at times it can definitely feel that way if you do not have the necessary logging mechanisms in place. In this installment of the SAQ 101 blog series we will go over what a log is, what needs to be logged and how logging can help to determine the cause of a possible network breach. Without proper logging data, determining if, how and when your network has been compromised can be next to impossible.
The first base we need to cover is what logging is in a network security sense. Logging is essentially a form of monitoring. It is important that you have the ability to see all activity that occurs within your network and who is in your network at all times. For example, if someone unsuccessfully tries to login to your workstation by guessing your password, that will create a log as a failed login attempt. Merchants are required to keep track of all logs as well as check logs on a daily basis in order to maintain PCI compliance. Regularly monitoring your logs is crucial and can be the difference between a breach lasting just a couple hours or a couple days, weeks or even months.
Requirement 10.1 states, “Establish a process for linking all access to system components (especially access done with administrative privileges such as root) to each individual user.”
It is critical to have a system that links users to the system components they access, especially for those with administrative privileges. This system generates audit logs specific to each user and provides the ability to trace any suspicious activity back to the user that was involved. This information is invaluable for post-incident forensics investigations. (more…)
Requirement 9 of the PCI DSS: Restrict physical access to cardholder data – Part 1
The first eight requirements focus on how to secure your network and keep users limited to only the resources they need based on their job and role within the business. Requirement 9 discusses how to physically secure your environment from malicious individuals that want to steal your physical or digital data.
Requirement 9 reads, “Restrict physical access to cardholder data.”
If you process, transmit or store credit/debit card data it is very important to limit physical access to specific areas of your environment. Only allow access to the minimum amount of personnel whose job functions require they have access to such areas. The keywords here are “physical access”. It is not referring to electronic access.
Requirement 9.1 states: “Use appropriate facility entry controls to limit and monitor physical access to systems in the cardholder data environment.”
Most merchants have a back office and in this back office lives the POS server. Your POS server most likely contains all the transactions you have run in the past day or two, possibly even the last month. You should not allow all your employees to have access to the office that computer is in. (more…)