Posts Tagged ‘PCI PTS

10
Jan
14

The Economics Of EMV

There are a lot of people out there that have apparently taken big swigs of the EMV Kool Aid and think that merchants and banks in the United States are all idiots for not believing in EMV.  Well folks, here is EMV by the numbers.  Unfortunately, the best set of complete numbers I could get are from 2009, but I know that the fraud percentages have not radically changed since 2009.

As this example will illustrate, EMV in the US is a non-starter, not because we do not like EMV, but because it makes no financial sense. While I am using Target as the example, these numbers are pretty much what most retailers (large or small) are looking at as they evaluate going to EMV.

  • Target had around $65B USD in revenue for 2009 as reported in their Annual Report.
  • For 2009, card fraud amounted to 0.11% according to a report from the US Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City report on EMV adoption. For comparison, card fraud in the UK (the best in Europe and the best for EMV countries) is 0.08%, a 0.03% improvement over the US.
  • We know that not all of Target’s revenue is in card transactions but I will estimate that 70% of revenue was card transactions (around $45.5B USD). Then Target has around $50M in losses related to card fraud for the year at 0.11%.  Therefore, assuming a 0.03% improvement in fraud due to implementing EMV, Target is saving around $13.5M USD a year.
  • Estimating between $50M to $100M USD to replace the POS (possibly), terminals and software to support true EMV (for comparison, Target is already spending an estimated $25M to $30M just on new terminals), Target gets a payback on that $13.5M USD savings due to EMV in around four to seven years.

I can tell you from experience that, if a merchant cannot get a three year or less payback, they will not even consider the investment. A two year or less payback is actually preferred and the only sure way for any project to get management’s consideration and approval.

But while the financials for EMV do not add up, there are also other factors that are causing retailers to question a conversion to EMV.

One of the largest is the fact that EMV does nothing to stem the fraud losses from card not present (CNP) transactions. Since most retailers are viewing eCommerce as their next new retail opportunity, the exponentially increasing losses due to CNP fraud does not improve the likelihood of converting to EMV. And with that larger focus on eCommerce and maintaining brick and mortar margins, there is also the concern regarding investing significantly in any changes to those brick and mortar operations that also hold back retailers from transitioning to EMV.

Another consideration is that a lot of retailers just upgraded their terminals a few years back to comply with the PCI PTS requirement. Most retailers like to get at least seven to ten years out of their technology investments. Had Visa and MasterCard played their cards right and coordinated their EMV push with the PTS changes, the US likely would have converted to EMV.

Finally, there are concerns about EMV even surviving given the advent of new payment technologies such as eWallets as well as Bitcoin and other new forms of payments. As a result, a lot of retailers are sitting on the sidelines while technology and payment methods sort themselves out before considering making any investments in new payment process capabilities.

That my friends are the cold, hard facts of why EMV is currently dead on arrival in the US.

01
Jan
13

How The PCI Standards Will Really Die

Welcome to the new year.  I hope the holidays have been treating you well and the coming year is good as well.

There have been a number of articles written about why and how the PCI compliance process will die.  It is not that I look forward to the PCI standards dying as they have brought a needed visibility to information security and privacy as well as the fact that PCI keeps me gainfully employed.  However if things stay on their current trajectory, the PCI standards will eventually die, but not for the reasons being quoted in today’s articles.  The real killers of the PCI compliance process will be the card brands and the PCI Security Standards Council.  Yes, the very folks that brought us the PCI standards will bring the ultimate demise of their precious set of standards.

The first death knell I see is that it is very easy to issue edicts from on high when you do not have to implement them.  Over the years, clarifications have been issued, quality assurance reviews performed, forensic examinations conducted and a host of other activities have resulted in “enhancements” to how the PCI standards are assessed and enforced.  Do not get me wrong, a lot of what has been done was needed and appreciated.

However, by the same token, some of what has come down has been a nightmare to implement.  Any QSAC not using some sort of automated system to conduct their PCI assessments will find it impossible to meet the current and any future documentation and tracking standards now required by the PCI SSC’s QA process.  Under the current standards, QSACs need to document who they interviewed and what the persons were interviewed about as well as tying documentation and observations to the tests performed.  Without some sort of automated process, these requirements are just too intensive to perform manually.

Documentation received and reviewed needs to have its file name, date of issue and a description of its purpose in the PCI assessment process documented.  The basic PCI DSS has a minimum of around 200 discrete documents that are required for the PCI assessment process.  The average we see for most of our engagements is over 600 documents which also include not only policies, standards and procedures, but configuration files, interview notes and observations such as screen shots, log files and file dumps.  You really have to question any QSAC that tells you they manually manage the process.  They either have an amazing and magically efficient project management process, they have very, very inexpensive staff (i.e., overseas labor) or they are short cutting the processes and producing a work product that does not comply with the PCI SSC QA program and have yet to be assessed by the PCI SSC (the most likely scenario).

Even using simple SharePoint or Lotus Notes solutions are not cheap when you consider the cost of the server(s) and the storage of all of documentation collected, which can be around 5 to 10GB per project, as well as all of the requisite system maintenance.  Servers and storage may be cheap, but it all adds up, the more clients you assess.  And speaking of the storage of documentation, the PCI SSC requires that documentation related to PCI assessments be stored for at least three years.  For those of us with electronic work paper management systems, this is not a problem.  However, given the amount of paper generated by these projects, those QSACs using the traditional paper filing methods will find a lot of shelf space taken up by their PCI engagements if they are truly following the procedures required by the PCI SSC.

All of this drives up the cost of a proper PCI assessment, more than I think the card brands and the PCI SSC are willing to admit.  It is not that I think the card brands and PCI SSC do not care about this situation, but more related to they do not have an understanding of the operational ramifications of their edicts.  The card brands and PCI SSC tread a very fine line here and to this point they have been heavy handed in the issuing of their edicts.  Going forward, the PCI SSC needs to ask the QSACs, Participating Organizations and ASVs to assess the cost and time impacts of these edicts so that they can be weighed against their benefits versus what is done now which is more of a procedural and proofing review.  If this is not done, there will soon come a point where merchants and service providers will push back hard and refuse to go through the process due to the cost and the amount of time involved to be assessed.

The next death knell is the inane process that is called the PCI Report On Compliance (ROC).  When the PCI SSC did not have access to the QSACs’ work papers, the current ROC writing process made some sense as there was no other way for the PCI SSC or the processors and acquiring banks to know if the QSACs had really done the work they were saying they had done.  However, all of that changed a number of years ago when the PCI SSC required QSACs to add a disclaimer to their contracts stating that the PCI SSC had the right to review all work products.  Yet even with this change, we continue to have to write an insanely detailed ROC, typically numbering in a minimum of 300+ pages for even the most basic of ROCs.

Unfortunately, there are QSACs out there that apparently have not been through the PCI SSC QA process and that dreaded of all states – Remediation.  As a result, they have much lower costs because they are not documenting their assessment work as completely as they need to and are not sampling, observing or interviewing like QSACs that have been through the QA process.  In addition, based on some work products we have seen, they also do not care about the quality of the resulting ROC as it looks entirely like a ‘find and replace’ of a template and makes no sense when you read it.  In talking to other large QSACs that have been through the QA process multiple times, the PCI SSC has indicated that they are monitoring the large QSACs more than the little QSACs because there is more risk with the large QSACs.  While true to an extent, we have encountered a number of smaller QSACs that perform assessments for large clients due to their much lower cost structure and their willingness to ‘overlook’ compliance issues.  If the PCI SSC does not go after these QSACs soon, there will likely be a number of breaches that occur due to the QSACs’ lack of diligence in performing their assessments.

I know of a number of QSACs that would like to see Bob Russo and the representatives of the various card brands to actually work as staff on a few PCI assessment engagements so that they can better appreciate the inordinate amount of work involved in generating a ROC.  I think they would be shocked at the amount of work effort they have driven into a process that is already too complicated and prone for error.

As it stands today, the ROC writing, review and proofing process is probably 50% to 60% of a good QSAC’s project costs.  To address this, the PCI SSC QA group tells QSACs to develop one or more templates for writing the ROC which, from what we have seen from some other QSACs, means a lot of mass ‘find and replace’ to speed the ROC writing process.  For the last few years, a number of QSACs have brought the ROC writing process up at the Community Meetings.  However the card brands continue to shoot down any sort of changes to the process.  As a result, the cost of producing a ROC is driven by the size and complexity of the merchants’ or service providers’ cardholder data environment (CDE).  These costs will only continue to rise as long as the PCI SSC does not allow QSACs to mark items as ‘In Place’ with only a check box and rely on the QSAC’s work papers versus the verbosity required now.  If this sort of process can work for financial auditors, it can work here as well.

A third death knell is the PCI SSC and card brands continuing to quote that the majority of breaches are the result of organizations not complying with the PCI DSS.  In discussions with a number of the PCI forensic examination companies, I am hearing that the card brands cannot believe the fact that more and more organizations were PCI compliant at the time of their breach.  The PCI SSC and card brands have apparently convinced themselves that the PCI standards are “perfect” and they cannot imagine that an organization could be breached unless that organization was not complying with the PCI standards.  There is no security standard that I am aware that totally prevent breaches.  So while the PCI standards are good baseline security standards, the card brands and PCI SSC seem to have forgotten that security is not perfect and that any security standard only minimizes the damage done when a breach occurs if the standard is truly followed.

And as organizations have gotten the PCI “religion,” the effort required to compromise them from the outside via traditional attacks has increased significantly.  As a result, successful attackers have changed strategy and work on social engineering their way past the bulk of an organization’s security measures.  The PCI DSS only has a little bit on social engineering in requirement 12.6 regarding security awareness training.  And even those organizations with the most robust of security awareness programs will tell you that, even after extensive security awareness training, human beings are still fallible and that some people still do very questionable things that continue to put organizations at risk, sometimes significant risk.  Even when you have the most diligent of employees, they still make mistakes in judgment from time to time.

Until the human element can be totally removed, there will always be a certain amount of risk that will never go away.  Again, the PCI SSC and card brands seem to not want to acknowledge the failings of the human element and appear to believe that technology is the savior based on the focus of the PCI standards.  However time and again, every security professional has seen very sophisticated security technologies circumvented by human error or just plain apathy towards security (i.e., “it always happens to someone else, not my organization” or “we’re too small to be a target”).

Until the PCI SSC and the card brands drop the “holier than thou” attitude toward the PCI standards and stop the public pillory of organizations that have been breached, there will continue to be editorial commentary regarding the pointlessness of the standards and ever more serious push back to complying with the standards.

These are the reasons why the PCI SSC and the card brands will be the ones that will kill the PCI standards.  At the moment, they are so far removed from the process; they do not understand how complicated and expensive the process has become which is why merchants and service providers are complaining about the ever increasing costs and effort related to the PCI assessment process.

The PCI SSC and card brands also seem to have forgotten that QSACs have to make money doing these assessments and, when you pile on clarifications and edicts that do nothing to streamline and simplify the process; you are only driving the costs of the process higher.  And higher costs only make merchants and service providers, who are on thin margins to being with, even more incentivized to use the much lower cost QSACs, driving the diligent QSACs out of the market, thus increasing the likelihood of breaches.

Again, it is not that I want the PCI standards to go away as I think they have brought a real benefit.  However, if these issues are not addressed, the PCI standards will end up going away.  I fear that, with them gone, there will be no carrot to ensure the security of cardholder information and we will end up back where we were before the PCI standards existed.

17
Mar
12

When Will The PCI SSC And Card Brands Stop The Mobile Payment Insanity?

This week PayPal introduced Here, their mobile payment processing application for Apple iOS and Android devices.  The good news is that PayPal Here at least appears to encrypt cardholder data, but that appears to be the extent of the good news.

If you pay attention to the latest Suzie’s Lemonade Verizon Wireless advertisement, you will see Intuit’s GoPayment solution on a tablet computer processing a payment.  In another bit of good news, the Intuit GoPayment solution is also encrypted.

But what is most disconcerting is that this is just another in a string of mobile payment processing solutions to be introduced with no way of knowing whether or not the security claims are accurate or can even be trusted.  This is because the PCI Security Standards Council halted last year the certification of any of these mobile payment processing solutions through the PIN Transaction Security (PTS) and Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS).  Do not get me wrong, the Council was in a tough spot and did not have a plan as to how to deal with these solutions, so the called a halt while they went back and reassessed things.

However the marketplace is not waiting.  So while the marketplace continues to deliver solutions, the merchant is left to their own devices to know whether any of these mobile payment processing solutions can be trusted.  And what I am fearful of is that small merchants, who are the marketing target of these solutions, will be put out of business should the device somehow be compromised or they lose a device.

So what are the questions surrounding the PayPal Here?

First, what is the encryption algorithm that is used?  I am guessing that they are using DUKPT, as that is common with these sorts of devices, but it is something that should be explicitly identified in their FAQ.  What PayPal currently says is, “… the PayPal Here card reader is encrypted and is backed by over a dozen years of experience of providing buyers and sellers the highest levels of security.”  If they are using DUKPT, can the key be changed?  Most of the mobile solutions I have seen do not allow for the key change under DUKPT which could be a problem.

Then there is the fact that you can manually enter a cardholder’s information through the iOS/Android application.  Given the fact that these systems are notorious for having keyboard loggers of industrial strength that means that any manual input will be recorded in the device.  I am guessing that would include cardholder name, PAN and expiration date.  However, if PayPal Here collects the CVV/CVC/CID value in manual entry that would be an extremely bad thing as the device will retain that until it overwrites it months later.  Again, there is no documentation to determine what is allowed to be manually entered, so we cannot assess how much risk this might introduce.

But the scariest feature of the PayPal Here is unrelated to credit cards; it is the remote capture of checks.  PayPal Here allows the merchant to scan a check and then submit it to their financial institution.  Again, given the data retention of these devices, I can only guess that the check images processed through the PayPal Here application will remain on the device until the space is needed which could be months.  The problem with all of this is that if people think credit card security was questionable, check processing security is nonexistent.  As a result, anyone with a modicum of knowledge could use the check information on one of these devices to drain every bank account stored.

Let us hope that the PCI Security Standards Council and the card brands quickly get back to certifying these applications so that merchants are not using insecure payment solutions.

24
Jul
11

End-To-End Encryption – The Rest Of The Story

Step right up folks.  I have something that will cure all of your problems with credit card processing.  It is called end-to-end encryption.  Yes, folks, it is the be all, to end all in security.  It will cure all that ails you, particularly those nasty data breaches.  Don’t be shy, just step right up and get your own version while supplies last.

Gee, when end-to-end encryption (E2EE) is put that way, it sounds great, almost too good to be true.  And you would be right; it is too good to be true.  But if you listen to the statements of the proponents of E2EE, they make it sound like once E2EE is in place, it is like the Ronco Showtime Oven, “Just set it and forget it.”

Now, do not get me wrong.  E2EE is not a bad thing, but it does have its own set of risks.  And it is those risks that do not get discussed that concern me.  The reason for my concern is that if you discuss E2EE with any merchant, most see it as this panacea, something that will get them out of the PCI compliance game altogether.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  If anything, E2EE may make PCI compliance even more daunting than it is today.

The first thing everyone seems to forget is that E2EE only removes those systems and networks that are between the endpoints.  That is because the data stream between the endpoints is encrypted and, therefore, out of scope for PCI compliance.  However, for a merchant, that means that the device that accepts the credit card is still in-scope for PCI compliance.  Bring this fact up to most merchants and they start complaining like no tomorrow.

That device might be as “simple” as a credit card terminal or as complex as an integrated point-of-sale (POS) workstation on a network.  However, since this device is an endpoint, the merchant or the merchant’s QSA needs to ensure that the endpoint is properly secured and cannot end up being a breach point.  Depending on the complexity of that device, that assessment might be very straight forward or very time consuming.  The reason the endpoint needs to be assessed is that security is only as good as its weakest link.  In the case of E2EE, the weakest links are the endpoints at which the data is encrypted and decrypted.

The next thing that seems to slip people’s mind is that fact that since the merchant has an endpoint, that endpoint is still a target.  Worse yet, because it is an endpoint, the level of sophistication likely required to compromise that endpoint goes up exponentially, meaning that any successful attack will likely be beyond the average merchant’s capability to readily detect.  The PCI DSS addresses this threat fairly well by requiring network monitoring, daily log reviews, anti-virus, anti-malware, firewalls and the like.  However, I can tell you from personal experience that your average merchant is not going to be equipped to deal with this new threat.

And what is the new threat?  The new threat is tampered with hardware and software.  If you think this is farfetched, think again.  It has already happened on a limited scale.  The doctoring of hardware is fairly straight forward to both accomplish and to detect.  Detection only takes looking inside the device and noticing something that does not belong.  However, doctored software is another story.  The concept of doctored software has been a concern in the health care industry since the start of using computerization for heart pacemakers.  While the health care industry has developed rigorous testing and certification procedures, the rest of the software industry has said there is no need.  That is, until now.  As the world further automates, the need for reliable, safe and secure software only increases because of the reliance people and organizations apply to that software.

So what can an organization do to stem this new threat after implementing E2EE?  Here are some thoughts.

  • Purchase your credit card processing equipment only from your acquiring bank or reputable vendor.  This is not a perfect solution to the problem, but doing this should be better than buying a used unit off of eBay or from Joe’s Guaranteed Card Equipment.  Yes, you may save a few bucks, but is that worth having every one of your customers that uses a credit card being compromised?  Probably not.
  • Ask your supplier of terminals or POS workstations about what they do to test these systems to ensure that they operate as expected and are not routing cardholder data to Timbuktu as well as your bank.  Ask them to provide those procedures in writing and review them to ensure they appear adequate.
  • Use serialized tamperproof tape on the seams and doors of your terminals and POS workstations.  Require that at every Manager shift change the new manager on duty is required to log their review of the devices, inventory the devices and notate if any have been tampered with.  If a device does appear to have been tampered with, it should be taken out of service until a new, secure device can replace it.
  • If using self-checkout systems, make sure to have those systems under both video and employee monitoring.
  • Upgrade your card processing devices to the latest devices.  Over the last few years, some of these devices have seen significant changes in their design that improves their tamper resistance.  This is particularly true of fuel pumps and certain types of terminals.
  • Review video monitoring if any manager notates that a device may have been tampered with to determine if you can identify possible suspects that may have tampered with the device.
  • Patch your devices as soon as possible to minimize their susceptibility to attack or compromise.
  • If the vendor of the equipment will perform updates, make sure that you or someone in your organization schedules the updates.  If anyone shows up at a location to “update” your equipment and it was not scheduled by your organization, contact law enforcement.
  • If updates will be done by the vendor remotely, make sure that someone from your organization initiates the remote access and they observe the remote update process.  At the end of the update process, the person should terminate the remote session of the vendor.

Even implementing these processes will not remove all of the risk.  Particularly the risk of having modified software introduced into your environment.  However, these processes will show a court that you attempted to conduct due diligence and tried to keep your equipment secure.

28
Jun
11

Mobile Payment Application PA-DSS Certification Clarification Announcement

On Friday, June 24, 2011, the PCI SSC issued a press release and a number of supporting documents regarding PA-DSS certification.

In my opinion, the most important part of this announcement is in the FAQ and is the classification of mobile payment applications.  According to the PCI SSC, they have identified the following three categories of mobile payment applications.

  • Category 1 – any mobile payment application that operates on only a PCI PTS certified device.
  • Category 2 – any mobile payment application that meets all of the following criteria: the application that is “bundled” with a specific mobile device; the mobile device is purpose built and performs only the payment function; and when installed on the device per the vendor’s PA-DSS implementation guide, allows the merchant to meet and maintain PCI DSS compliance.
  • Category 3 – any mobile payment application that runs on a consumer electronic device such as a smartphone, tablet or PDA that is not dedicated to payment processing.

What the PCI SSC has stated in this latest clarification announcement is that Category 1 and 2 applications and devices can continue through the certification process.  For the first time, these mobile applications have been explicitly called out even though these sorts of applications have been part of the certification process in the past.

What is interesting is the definition for Category 3.  What the PCI SSC appears to be saying is that applications such as Google Wallet and the like may have to go through PA-DSS certification.  While this makes sense from a payment security perspective, it takes the PCI DSS into the realm of pre-authorization data.  While the PCI SSC will not officially certify mobile payment applications in Category 3 at this time, they are highly recommending that mobile payment applications in this category use the PA-DSS as a guide to ensure their security.  The PCI SSC also commits to releasing guidance on what PCI DSS requirements are relevant to Category 3 mobile payment applications while it continues to research how it should handle these mobile payment applications.

However this is not the first time the PCI SSC has delved into recommendations regarding securing pre-authorization data.  At the first PCI Community Meeting in September 2007, there was an infamous breakout session on the security of pre-authorization data.  And sometime later this year, the PCI SSC has said it will issue an informational supplement on securing pre-authorization data.

The other important piece of news from this announcement is that, in the interim, the PCI SSC is asking merchants to conduct their own risk assessment of Category 1 and 2 mobile payment applications to determine how well they comply with relevant PCI DSS requirements. These risk assessments should include consultation with an organization’s QSA as well as acquiring banks.

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.

26
Feb
11

If Not The PCI Standards, Then What?

I have just read a couple of articles as well as attended a couple of meetings where the topic du jour was the PCI standards.  They were a bash fest of the highest order.  Frustrated, I asked the participants at my last meeting, “If not the PCI standards, then what standard do you want to follow to ensure the security of cardholder data?”  Roaring silence.

This is the frustration that I and others have with people who complain about the PCI standards or any standards.  People complain and complain, yet they offer no solutions to address their complaints.  One thing I have always stressed with and required of people who work with me, if you are going to complain about something, you better have an idea for a solution.  Constructive criticism is fine, but if you do not have any ideas on how to make things better, then all you are doing is whining.  Children whine, adults have solutions.

But then you have the complainers who do offer a solution but that solution is to allow the marketplace to address the problem.  Hello!  How long was it going to take before merchants and service providers got a clue about securing cardholder data?  If it was such a priority, why did it take the card brands to come out with the standards?  For merchants and service providers, cardholder data security was not a priority, it was some other merchants’ or service providers’ problem.

The other problem with the marketplace approach is that each organization learns from its own incidents and possibly from incidents suffered by their business partners, not from the incidents experienced by all.  Under the marketplace approach, security protection only improves as each individual institution suffers a particular incident.  As a result, organizations reinvent the wheel with the majority of incidents.

Standards allow organizations to learn from the collective experience of all organizations, not just their own organization.  For example, if your organization does not have wireless networking but decides to implement wireless, a standard provides a guideline as to how to implement wireless securely.  Without a standard, you are on your own to do the best you can.  On your own you will likely get some things right, but you will also get some things wrong.  It is those mistakes due to lack of experience that come back to bite organizations.  With a standard to follow, the chance of getting bitten after the fact is often greatly minimized.

However, standards are not a guarantee.  Going back to wireless, just look at how things went wrong with WEP.  WEP is a standard and was well documented on how to implement it; supposedly securely.  WEP was also known to have the potential for security problems, but those problems were not widely publicized until organization began to have security incidents.  So a stop gap standard was provided called WPA which turned out to have its own security issues.  Ultimately, WPA was replaced by WPA2 which is the secure, permanent solution.

This is why early adopters of technology can end up getting burned.  When an organization decides to hop onboard the latest and greatest technology, there is a high risk that the security learning curve is not very far advanced.  As a result, the organization will be at a higher risk of suffering a security incident than an organization using a more tried and true approach.  As a new technology matures, typically its security posture matures and with a more mature security posture, the lower the likelihood that a security incident will occur.  However, the time it takes for that security maturity to occur can take quite a while and it is where things take quite a while where organizations are at the highest risk.

Unfortunately, in some instances, a new technology gets quickly usurped by an even newer technology and the original new technology never matures.  The bad news is that the early adopters get stuck with a solution that will never have its security shortcomings addressed, leaving the early adopters to either convert to the newer technology or find another alternative.  Many a career has been ended over such technology leap frogging events.

The PCI standards were not developed in a vacuum.  They are a consolidation of a lot of other security standards and guidance gained through root cause analysis of security incidents gathered over the years with the express purpose of protecting cardholder data.  If you follow another security standard such as ISO 27K or FISMA, a lot of what is in those standards is also in the PCI standards.  But there are also a lot of requirements in the PCI standards that are not in other standards as well.

The bottom line is if you do not like the PCI standards, then get involved in the process to make things better and stop whining.




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If your organization has a PCI opportunity, is in need of assistance with a PCI issue or if you would like the PCI Guru to speak at your meeting, you can contact the PCI Guru at pciguru AT gmail DOT com.

I do allow vendors to post potential solutions in response to issues that I bring up in posts. However, the PCI Guru does not endorse any specific products, so "Caveat Emptor" - let the buyer beware. Also, if I feel that the response is too "sales-ee", I reserve the right to edit or not even authorize the response.

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