Archive for the 'Requirement 4 – Log payment application activity' Category

15
May
11

Doctored Credit Card Terminals

It was announced this week that the Michaels retail stores breach was much larger than originally thought.  However, to those of us in the PCI business, this breach should not have been a surprise.  This sort of breach has been going on for quite a while.

Now before everyone goes out and pillories Michaels for their bad luck, I would like all of you to consider how you would have detected such a situation?  The bottom line is that for most of you, you would have been just as clueless until the FBI and Secret Service turned up at your doors.  So be careful about getting too sanctimonious.  More on how to detect these attacks later.

Regardless of what the PCI SSC has said in the past, credit card terminals are not the “dumb” devices as portrayed by the PCI SSC.  With the introduction of the PA-DSS v2.0, there was an indication that the PCI SSC had finally come to their senses and recognized this fact by having the software that is used in credit card terminals finally certified under the PA-DSS standard.  Let us face it, certain credit card terminals are just as sophisticated as netbooks, use a Linux or Windows Embedded OS as a base and have their own software development kits (SDK).  Not exactly the specification for a “dumb” device.

Another point that should not have been a shock is the fact that the terminal was used as the attack vector.  Those people advocating end-to-end encryption fail to remind people that wherever the endpoints are will become the new attack points.  As a result, the Michaels attacks will become a very popular attack vector once end-to-end is implemented.

Wait a minute, the terminal will become more popular for attacks?  After all of last year’s belly who about end-to-end encryption, I can tell you that merchants are under the impression that end-to-end encryption gets them out of being breached.  It is people like Bob Carr, CEO of Heartland Payment Systems, that are the biggest neglectors of explaining the whole story behind end-to-end encryption.  End-to-end encryption just moves the attack points, in this case out to the terminal at the merchant’s location.  Worse yet, it also makes security of the merchant’s endpoint even more difficult than it already is because the techniques used in doctoring terminals can easily go unnoticed.

Early attacks on terminals were crude and, for the most part, remain this way.  Typically, USB thumb drives are soldered into the terminals.  This attack approach requires the criminals to swap out the doctored devices periodically to obtain their contraband.  Fortunately the “electricians” used to doctor these terminals are usually not good at their tasks.  As a result, only a few of the doctored terminals actually work and collect usable track data.  To get their doctored terminals into retail locations, the criminals hire on as night custodians or other overnight stock help and swap the devices during that time.

But times change.  The criminal element gets smarter and begins doctoring terminals using software, not hardware.  After all, these devices are just small computers.  So now the device is programmed to collect the data and then transmit it during the overnight to a server on the Internet or, worse yet, a server that has been compromised on your own network.

So what can a merchant do to counteract such attacks?  Actually, quite a bit.

  • Put serialized security tape on all of the seam openings on your card terminals and check it at least daily to ensure that it is still in place and that the serial numbers match.  When the tape becomes worn, replace it and record the new serial numbers.  If you ever notice the tape missing or the serial numbers do not match, take that terminal out of service.  Contact your acquiring bank or processor and obtain a terminal directly from them to replace the potentially tampered with unit.
  • Use only reliable card terminal vendors.  I know that merchants are under tremendous cost pressures, but are these savings really in your best interest when you are leaking cardholder data on every transaction?  Probably not, particularly when customers start complaining and your legal costs start ramping up.  However, even trusted vendors can become a bad source of equipment, so keep this in mind.
  • Do not trust anyone that just shows up to replace your card terminals.  If you did not ask for service, no acquiring bank or processor is going to be proactive replace terminals unless they notified you.  Be very skeptical of any service person that appears out of nowhere to “fix” your terminals.
  • If your terminals are on your network, monitor your terminals for when they are disconnected.  In most organizations, terminals are rarely disconnected, so any such alert would be an indication that something abnormal has occurred and should be investigated.
  • Monitor your external network connections and connections from the terminals to devices that should not be in your cardholder data environment (CDE).  Any traffic from the terminals outside your network or to devices not in your CDE is probably someone leaking cardholder data from your terminals for their criminal use.  If you see such activity, notify your local FBI office immediately and ask them if you should stop the traffic.  At this point, you should also probably get a computer forensic analyst involved to begin gathering documentation on the attack.

These are just some ideas on how to address this situation.  You may have additional options available to you because of the way your organization is configured.  However, you need to begin considering this new attack vector as one that will only get worse.

08
Nov
09

Credit Card Terminals And PCI Compliance

Here is a point of confusion that even I do not completely understand.  Mainly because I do not understand why there is any confusion to begin with.  I am writing about this because the PCI SSC and the card brands need to provide guidance on what applies in regards to credit card terminals and PCI compliance.  The credit card terminal industry also needs to wake up and get on board with security before they end up in the PCI compliance dog house.

There seems to be a huge disconnect between the various standards and how they apply to credit card terminals.  In a thread on the SPSP Forum, there have been discussions regarding the fact that credit card terminals are required to meet the PCI DSS standard.  Yet I have seen terminals that store primary account numbers (PAN) unencrypted and violate other PCI DSS and PA-DSS requirements.  If you ask the terminal vendors, they claim that the only standard they need to worry about is the PCI PTS.  Hello?

Requirement 3.4 of the PCI DSS is the most troubling of the lot, the storing of PANs unencrypted.  I have seen numerous terminals that store PANs unencrypted.  Press the vendors on this issue and they come back with the following.

  • The PANs can only be displayed one at a time.
  • You have to be in administration mode to view the PANs.
  • The PANs cannot be printed out.
  • The PANs are stored in memory, not on a hard drive.
  • The PANs are cleared when the end-of-day (EOD) process is run.

In a couple of instances of which I am aware, the terminal vendor has told everyone that the terminals that are storing PANs will be fixed by August 2010, but not sooner.

Okay.  So you will rely on a compensating control to meet requirement 3.4.  In my opinion, none of those aforementioned bullets are sufficient to meet the requirements of a compensating control.  Big deal that the PANs can only be displayed one at a time.  The fact that you need to be in administrative mode is nothing, as most of these devices only have two modes, end user and administrative.  And to run EOD or do anything else, you need to be in administrative mode.  Storage is storage, memory or otherwise.  Logging of access to these devices is not available.  None of these conditions rise to going above and beyond, so a compensating control is not even possible.

Then there is compliance with the PA-DSS.  This is a really sore spot with terminal vendors.  They claim that the PA-DSS does not apply to them and point to the following on page vii of the PA-DSS standard.

“Hardware terminals with resident payment applications (also called dumb POS terminals or standalone POS terminals) do not need to undergo a PA-DSS review if all of the following are true:

  • The terminal has no connections to any of the merchant’s systems or networks;
  • The terminal connects only to the acquirer or processor;
  • The payment application vendor provides secure remote 1) updates, 2) troubleshooting, 3) access and 4) maintenance; and
  • The following are never stored after authorization: the full contents of any track from the magnetic stripe (that is on the back of a card, in a chip, or elsewhere), card-validation code or value (three- or four-digit number printed on front or back of payment card), PIN or encrypted PIN block.”

First, I do not believe there is such a thing as a “dumb” credit card terminal any more.  They all have memory and software and, in most cases, have complete software development kits for application development using languages such as Java, C++ and the like.  In some cases, these terminals are as powerful as a netbook.  Yet, somehow the PCI SSC and the card brands have missed this point.

Most of these devices have only one ‘secure’ account.  And that account is shared with every support person around.  Anyone remember PCI DSS requirement 8.5.8 regarding shared accounts?  Whoops!

Then there is that first bullet regarding the terminal having NO connection to any of the merchant’s systems or networks is where I run into the most problems.  We see a lot of these credit card terminals with serial or USB connections to POS solutions.  In most cases, the terminals are only retrieving the amount of the purchase from the POS solution and telling the POS solution that the transaction has been approved or declined.  But there are also a lot of instances where the data flows from the terminal through the POS to and from the processor.  That does not include the number of terminals that are connected to LANs for access to the processor.

The “rub” in all of this is that the software that drives these terminals is the same regardless of whether they connect to a POS solution or network.  Talk to any software engineer from any terminal vendor and they will tell you that the underlying software for each family of terminals is the same, regardless of the options used or installed.  So, if the terminals are not connected to a POS system we can ignore the fact that these terminals are not PA-DSS compliant.  But if the terminals are connected to the POS, then all of a sudden, they need to be PA-DSS complaint.  What kind of nonsense is that?  In my opinion, they need to comply with the PA-DSS regardless as this is cardholder data processing software.

So, where are we in all of this?

Is the software application in the terminal PA-DSS certified?  No!

Is it supposed to be certified?  Yes!

And the vendors’ responses?  You are misinterpreting the standard.

Pardon?  Exactly where have I misinterpreted the standard?

It’s BS like this that allow people to point at the PCI standards and say they are inconsistent and stupid.  Well, I hate to say it, but in this situation, it is inconsistent and a bit stupid.  All of you at the PCI SSC, the card brands and terminal vendors – get a clue before this becomes the next big exposure point.




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