Archive for December, 2016

20
Dec
16

An Update On Multi-Factor Authentication

In the November 2016 Assessor Newsletter there is an update to the Council’s statements at the 2016 Community Meeting’s QSA Forum discussion regarding multi-factor authentication (MFA).

“We had a moment of excitement at the North America Community Meeting in September when we responded to a question in the Assessor Session about MFA. As several of us from the Council pointed out, some techniques historically in use are falling out of favor as acceptable approaches to MFA because, as they are becoming used, they fail to meet the basic requirements of MFA. A recent NIST announcement associated with a proposed revision to NIST Special Publication 800-63 series raised the potential of a sunset date for use of SMS as an out-of-band mechanism for a factor in MFA. Based on the questions asked, we felt a refresher on MFA would be of value.

Assessors should understand that multifactor authentication requires two or more independent factors used in such a way that the presenter of the factors gains no knowledge of whether any factor is valid until all factors have been presented. For example, if the first factor is submitted and results in an indication to the user that it is valid before the second factor is requested, then what you actually have is two, single-factor authentications. The critical issue is not when the validation is actually done; rather it is when feedback to the user is provided. If the user can’t tell which factor failed to grant access, then you have MFA. This common practice is illustrated in Figure 1. Figure 2 illustrates the better practice.

mfa-diagram

Figure 1 is sometimes referred to as a multistep authentication. Figure 2 unifies authentication into a single step. By doing the validation of both factors before providing an indication of authorization success or failure, no information is leaked about either factor.

MFA also requires that the factors be different in type. That is, at least two of the usual three types given below are required:

  • Something you know (e.g., password, PIN, security question challenge)
  • Something you possess (e.g., ICC card, physical token, cryptographic token or private key)
  • Something you are (e.g., physical biometric or behavioral biometric)

The factors must also be independent. Access to one should not grant access to the other. For example, if I use my mobile phone as my device for logging into a system and the system can validate my device with a high-degree of assurance, then it might be the something I possess. However, if it is also where I store my password (or the device to which a one-time-password (OTP) or password reset would be sent), then possession of the device may grant access to both factors. NIST acknowledges this as a risk in its DRAFT NIST Special Publication 800-63B Digital Authentication Guideline: Authentication and Lifecycle Management (5.1.3. Out-of-Band Devices).

Other circumstances may also result in loss of independence, for example, relying on a digital certificate as one factor if it is on the same device into which you are entering your password. If compromise of the device equates to having both the digital certificate and your password, then independence is lost. A similar issue exists when one factor gives access to more than one of the factors used in MFA. This is common with mobile devices that use a single factor to unlock (whether it be a passcode or a biometric) that then gains you access to other authenticators, e.g., stored passwords, the device’s identity, private keys, or software tokens. The assessor should carefully examine any method alleged to be multifactor to verify that it meets all of the requirements. For more information on this subject, consider the following publications:

  • DRAFT NIST Special Publication 800-63-3 Digital Authentication Guideline
  • DRAFT NIST Special Publication 800-63B Digital Authentication Guideline: Authentication and Lifecycle Management
  • DRAFT NIST Special Publication 800-63C Digital Authentication Guideline: Federation and Assertions
  • ISO 19092:2008 Financial Services Biometrics Security Framework
  • ISO/IEC 27040:2015 Information technology — Security techniques — Storage security

[1] Per our current PCI DSS FAQ, multistep authentication may also qualify as multifactor, as long as at least two types of factors are used and the first step is not sufficient to gain knowledge of (or constructive use of) the second authentication factor. Note that an updated version of this FAQ will be published shortly.”

So let us discuss what we probably agree with the Council on in their statements above because that is the easier discussion.

I think most security professionals would agree with the discussion that the factors must be independent of the device being used to log onto the systems.  As a result, if you have the RSA SecurID Software Token or Symantec VIP apps on a cell phone or tablet, that device should also not be able to log onto the systems you are trying to protect.  The same holds true with the practice of putting a certificate on a device for MFA.  The rationale being that if an attacker has the device and the device owner’s credentials, MFA is doing nothing because the second factor will either already be on the device or will be displayed there.

However, the “moment of excitement” occurred because that was not the discussion that occurred at the QSA session.  What was stated at that session was that ALL out-of-band MFA to anything other than a traditional fob was no longer allowed.  I know that was what I heard and I was not the only one that interpreted the statements made that way.  So it was not like I was the only one that heard something wrong as there were a lot of people in that ballroom that heard the exact same thing.  That is what we all heard and why there was a “moment of excitement”.  And rightly so, as that would have put about 90% of MFA solutions as totally non-compliant.

There has been a lot of back channel discussion between QSAs regarding the Community Meeting MFA discussion.  One of the first discussions was about the risk involved.  While we mostly agree with the Council’s position on the independence issue, we have concerns about full adoption of all of NIST’s recommendations regarding MFA.  The Council has acted like SMS and Voice MFA was killed by NIST but that is not the case.  What NIST is saying is:

“Note: Out-of-band authentication using the PSTN (SMS or voice) is deprecated, and is being considered for removal in future editions of this guideline.”

Deprecated means that it is not recommended, but is still allowed.  Why?

Because there is a risk of SMS being intercepted, but to do that is not necessarily an easy task as say a man-in-the-middle attack of Wi-Fi.  During the back channel discussions, it was questioned whether or not the Council truly realizes the real world risk of intercepting SMS and how that plays against a government entity or a bank versus your run of the mill organization.  It is not a risk that has a “one size fits all” rating because of the complexity of the task.  And that is what has the security community up in arms about is that NIST’s recommendation is probably a good thing for the government or a bank to follow, but might still be acceptable for small business versus no MFA or even worse, lying to their bank that they have MFA.

Keep in mind that this is interception, so the target will not receive the message, only the attacker will receive it.  If you want to pass something else along, that further adds to the complexity.  In order to intercept SMS, one has to accomplish one of the following.

  • Infect the target’s smartphone with a virus.
  • Reissue the target’s SIM.
  • Hack the PSTN.
  • Intercept the target’s cell service via a Stingray type of device.

It is relatively easy to infect smartphones on a large scale.  However it is very hard to infect a particular smartphone or group of smartphones without the attacker physically getting their hands on the phone(s).  Given the prevalence of using fingerprints and patterns to log onto phones, even physically having the phone makes infecting it not a quick task and requires equipment to break in and infect the device.  Doing that without the target(s) being suspicious is probably very low.

Reissuing a target’s SIM is relatively easy but creates a huge timing issue.  Because it works only once, that means the attacker must reissue the SIM right at the time the target is receiving the SMS MFA or they will miss the code.  The risk of that timing happening is very, very low even for employees of government entities.

So this leaves us with hacking the PSTN and using a Stingray device.  Hacking the PSTN is also supposedly relatively easy.  Here are the steps required to intercept SMS.

  • The attacker must create their own fake call processing capability (MSC).
  • The attacker must then get the real MSC to release the target’s phone to the fake MSC.
  • The attacker must then point his fake MSC to their own device for the SMS MFA message.
  • The attacker must then wait for the target to logon to generate an SMS MFA request.
  • The attacker must then use the SMS MFA before the target generates a new SMS MFA because they did not receive the original SMS MFA.

The first problem is creating a fake MSC.  This is not as easy as you might think for your run of the mill attacker.  Governments have them, criminal organizations have them, but your average hacker going after credit cards is not going to have such capability unless they are extremely serious about their craft as there are much easier ways to go after cardholder data (CHD).

But assuming we have someone that is truly determined and has such a capability, they must then intercept the SMS MFA message and use it before the target gets wise that their SMS is being intercepted.  This means the attacker has to hope that their target is not a heavy user of SMS.  Portio Research estimates that there are around 16 million SMS messages sent every minute in the world.  Given there are approximately 6.8 billion phones in the world, that means that your target will, on average, receive just over three messages in a day via SMS.  One of those likely to be the MFA message you are trying to intercept probably the first message of the day.  So predictability is on the side of the attacker.

That said, most users of SMS MFA are going to likely only try twice to get their SMS MFA message before they call the help desk to find out what the problem is with the MFA solution.  It will likely be at that point that any attacker will likely be found out because the help desk will discover that the user complaining is already logged onto the systems.  So just because the attacker has access does not necessarily mean they are home free and can do as they please.

As a result, hacking SMS through the PSTN, while possible, is probably only a risk at a very high value target will likely have to face.

So in this discussion of SMS MFA risk, what we have left is using a Stingray device to intercept the target’s mobile service.  This will be like drinking water through a firehose because you will not only have to grab your target’s service, but everyone else that is nearby your Stingray device.  Which brings up the next issue which is that your Stingray device will have to stay in near proximity to your target in order to grab the information you desire.  If you target is truly mobile, that could be very problematic unless you have the resources to install Stingray devices like the FBI or CIA on every cell tower in town.  Again, I would say the likelihood of such an attack is relatively low for all but the most determined attackers which will stop at nothing to get into an organization.

At the end of this mental exercise, we again question the Council adopting NIST’s recommendation regarding SMS MFA without considering the actual real world risk.  Just because a threat exists, does mean the risk is automatically high because NIST is getting ready to deprecate it.  Again, NIST is securing the government and is sharing the results of their research with the rest of us because we, as taxpayers, have paid for it and deserve the results of their research.  That said, that does not mean that everything they produce is always relevant to every organization outside of the government.  Most of it is, but not everything.  This SMS MFA deprecation is probably relevant at some point, but for the current timeframe, SMS MFA is better than no MFA.

But that brings us to the fact that NIST did not say that SMS MFA cannot be used as they did with SSL and Early TLS.  All NIST did say was that they do not recommend it and that sometime in the future they may not allow it.  As a result, if an organization is using SMS MFA, it is still allowed to be used.  NIST has only put organizations on notice that at some point, SMS MFA will no longer be allowed.

But by their statements, the Council has taken NIST’s future deprecation comment to mean that SMS MFA is dead now and that is false.  Yes, organizations should probably look at any SMS MFA solution skeptically from here on out, but SMS MFA is still allowed by NIST just not recommended because of the risk.  That said and as has been discussed, we question if the risk presented is realistic for all organizations given the effort required.

So let us bring this back to the real world.  The vast majority of large retailers have or are in the process of implementing P2PE/E2EE solutions with tokenization.  Those implementations that are in process will likely be done by the end of 2017.  Those remaining 98% of the rest of retailers will likely never ever encounter it because of the effort required to tap SMS just does not justify the reward.

There is a tremendous MFA infrastructure installation and the Council by their statements threatened the vast majority of that install base with their statements that did not match what NIST was stating.  That is what we are arguing over and what drew the “moment of excitement” at the Community Meeting.

In the end, while it is good to know that NIST believes SMS MFA to be a bad solution going forward, exactly what is the Council protecting with their statements?  With CHD no longer stored by large retailers, the risk is at the small retailers, transaction gateways, transaction processors and banks.  So the Council’s and NIST’s recommendations should be focused at those entities that actually pose a risk and not painted with a broad brush against all organizations.

The Council has chastised us all over the years for not focusing on the risk presented in our assessments.  It is time for the Council to take some of that same medicine and recognize that not every NIST pronouncement needs to be tossed out to the PCI community as though it is gold.  The Council also needs to recognize the risk presented and act accordingly.  It is no longer 2008 and organizations are not protecting SAD/CHD.

A lot has changed in the decade since the Council was founded.

15
Dec
16

The Council Speaks On A Number Of Topics

The Council had a Webinar session for QSAs and ISAs on Thursday, December 15. It was a great session, but at only an hour, there were a lot of questions that went unanswered.  The following were the more notable discussion topics.

Not Tested

The Council got the message and they are working on new wording for the AOCs as well as some guidance for “Not Tested” and how it can be used and not impact PCI compliance.  They expect to have something issued in the first quarter of 2017.

Network Segmentation and Scoping

This was a very hot topic and drew a lot of questions and some useful answers as well as generating a slew of new questions.

We got a definition of “purpose-built controls”.  There really is not any change here in what the Council has told QSAs and ISAs in the past regarding segmentation.  The bottom line is that “purpose-built controls” are those controls that segment one network from another network.  That can be firewall rules, access control lists (ACL) or any other controls that control or limit the communications from one network to another network.  I posed a question regarding encryption such as TLS and IPSec as still being a valid segmentation control, but it did not get answered.  I am assuming that it still is a valid control given the Council’s statement that nothing has changed, but until we have explicit confirmation, that still is an assumption, not a fact.

The Council answered a number of questions regarding whether or not in-scope devices can be on the same network segment as out of scope devices can co-exist.  As usual, we go the “it depends” discussion.  The bottom line is that it depends on the threat presented by the out of scope devices to those in-scope.  If an organization has lax security controls over all of their networks and devices, then I would be hesitant to allow out of scope devices to be on the same network segment as in-scope devices.

One of the most amazing discussions on this topic was an answer given regarding whether or not a device that has only an outbound connection from the cardholder data environment (CDE) can be considered out of scope.  Under the Open PCI Scoping Toolkit, this would be categorized as a 2C system.  The Council started out with their stock answer of “it depends” and then clarified that answer.  The answer given was that while the system would be in scope because it is connected to the CDE, what requirements it would need to comply with would depend on the risk presented by the system to the CDE.  This seemed to give organizations an opportunity to argue a minimization of requirements.  I am sure this will result in a lot of arguments between QSAs, ISAs and their assessees in the future.

As a funny aside, the Council mentioned the “three hop rule” and then feigned ignorance as to where it came from.  As I pointed out in my post, it was from the 2014 Community Meeting in Orlando.

Not-Listed Encryption Solutions

This guidance is a train wreck and just seems to keep getting worse.  The Council gave a lot of answers to questions, but it just seemed like they were digging an ever deeper hole, not filling it in.

The biggest news is that the Non-Listed Encrypted Solution Assessment (NESA) document should be available for review in the first quarter of 2017.

The next biggest news was the Council reconfirming that this is only guidance/recommendations and not some new process that is mandatory.  They even made sure to tell everyone attending that QSAs are NOT to hold up an organization’s ROC/SAQ over not having a NESA for their E2EE solution.  So if an E2EE solution does not have a NESA, then the fallback based on a lack of guidance from the Council is to preform whatever procedures that the merchant’s acquiring bank recommends.

The purpose of this Information Supplement the Council stated was to provide QSAs, merchants, service providers and banks with the Council’s acceptable way to deal with assessing E2EE solutions.  While on its face this statement and rationale makes sense, it does not make sense from the standpoint that the organizations driving the E2EE solutions are the banks and processors that have partnered with the E2EE solution providers.  Given that the banks and processors are the same organizations driving PCI compliance of the merchants that consume those E2EE solutions it seems rather odd that they would be questioning what is acceptable for PCI compliance of their approved E2EE solutions.

At the end of the day, it just seems that this NESA process is a solution looking for a problem and that the only problem the process really solves is getting more E2EE solutions to just finish the NESA and validate as a P2PE solution.

Until the banks and processors get behind the NESA process, I see this effort as dead on arrival.

So it sounds like it will be a busy first quarter for the Council.

The Council stated that the slide deck for this session will be posted to the Portal sometime after the first of the year.

10
Dec
16

The Council Releases Draft Scope And Network Segmentation Information Supplement

Quietly on Friday, December 9, 2016, the PCI SSC released the draft Information Supplement titled ‘Guidance for PCI DSS Scoping and Network Segmentation’.  As with all Information Supplements, the information documented in these does not replace any of the requirements in the PCI standards.  These documents contain only guidance and suggestions as to how organizations can comply with the PCI standards.

Overall this Information Supplement does not break much new ground regarding the clarifications that have been given over the years on these two subjects.  The Council has taken a much simpler approach to defining categories of systems than did the Open PCI DSS Scoping Toolkit (OPDST).  The Council only has three categories:

  • CDE Systems (Category 1A/B in the OPDST)
  • Connected-to and/or Security-Impacting Systems (Category 2A/B/C/X in the OPDST)
  • Out-of-scope Systems (Category 3 in the OPDST)

One thing the Council has done is provide some good examples for how to prove systems are out of scope.  If a system meets ALL of the following criteria, then it is considered out of scope.

  • System component does NOT store, process, or transmit CHD/SAD.
  • System component is NOT on the same network segment or in the same subnet or VLAN as systems that store, process, or transmit CHD.
  • System component cannot connect to or access any system in the CDE.
  • System component cannot gain access to the CDE nor impact a security control for CDE via an in-scope system.
  • System component does not meet any criteria described for connected-to or security-impacting systems, per above.

The Council goes on further to say that even though these systems are out of scope for PCI compliance, they still need to be secured and patched regularly to ensure the overall security of the organization.

However, there are two points I noted that will likely require some additional clarification from the Council as they are going to potentially cause issues with a lot of organizations.

On page 7, the second paragraph, the document states:

“The existence of separate network segments alone does not automatically create PCI DSS segmentation. Segmentation is achieved via purpose-built controls that specifically create and enforce separation and to prevent compromises originating from the out-of-scope network(s) from reaching CHD.”

The paragraph taken as a whole seems to imply that the Council is taking the conservative position that only firewalls can be considered as network segmentation controls.  It is the phrase “purpose-built controls” that needs to be further defined by the Council.  Earlier in the document there is an example provided using firewalls which the paragraph would definitely lend itself.

In the past, the Council has said that access control lists (ACL) and encrypted tunnels also constituted valid network segmentation.  However this paragraph calls into question whether those are now considered “purpose-built controls” or not.  One would assume so, but as we have all learned in the past, one should never assume with the Council.  As a result, it would be great if the Council could provide clarification on what exactly they mean by “purpose-built controls” in the final release of this document.

The next point of concern is on page 11 in the Connected-to and/or Security-Impacting Systems table.  The third bullet down in the list of criteria states:

“System component can impact configuration or security of the CDE, or how CHD/SAD is handled—for example, a web redirection server or name resolution server.”

It would appear from this statement that the Council has brought Web servers that perform a redirect into scope for PCI compliance as they are considered ‘connected to’ systems.  That will be a huge blow to merchants using redirects to keep their Web servers from having to be ASV scanned and meeting all of the other PCI requirements contained in SAQ A-EP.

The only remaining question is if those Web sites using iFrames will also now be in-scope for SAQ A-EP compliance as well?  Time will tell.

I have no idea when the final version of this document may be released.  But if the Non-Listed Encryption Solutions Information Supplement is any indication, it could be released on this coming Monday to the public.

02
Dec
16

Not Tested Clarification

In the November 2016 Assessor Newsletter from the PCI SSC, there is a clarification on what ‘Not Tested’ actually means and implies.  I am sure this will really get some service providers whipped up as it will create some issues with work they perform on behalf of their customers.

The following is taken directly from that newsletter.

“Recently, AQM has received some questions about the impact of using “Not Tested” as a response within a completed ROC. This article is intended to address a few points briefly, with published documentation to follow.

  1. Due to an oversight, the option for “Not Tested” was not included in the summary findings table within the summary overview when that table was introduced with the ROC Reporting Template for use with PCI DSS v3.2. We will publish an errata for the ROC Reporting Template shortly.
  2. Some have asked whether one can have a compliant AOC in instances where “Not Tested” was used. While PCI SSC is not able to comment on matters of compliance, we would direct you to read the verbiage at Part 3 PCI DSS Validation of the Attestation of Compliance below:aoc-part-3

How to achieve “all questions answered affirmatively” is the question. PCI SSC does not consider “Not Tested” to be an affirmative statement. The difference between “Not Tested” and “Not Applicable” is that no testing at all is performed for “Not Tested” whereas for “Not Applicable” some testing is performed to confirm a given control is truly not applicable. As such, between “Not Tested” and “Not Applicable,” only “Not Applicable” can be considered an affirmative response.

The intent in introducing “Not Tested” was to achieve a better level of transparency as to the level of compliance and this clarification supports that intent. If you have questions or suggestions, please reach out to the QSA Program Manager.”

It is that second to the last paragraph that will likely send most people off of the deep end.  Their comment that the “PCI SSC does not consider “Not Tested” to be an affirmative statement” really got me going.  What exactly then was the point of using ‘Not Tested’ if you did not consider it an affirmative statement?  Which by the way, when using affirmative as an adjective, means “asserting the truth, validity, or fact of something.”  Last I checked, ‘Not Tested’ would be considered a truth or fact.

There are a number of options for the Council to take here.

  1. Change the wording in the ‘Compliant’ box in Part 3 to reflect that an entity is compliant with all of the requirements tested.
  2. Give us a box in Part 3 that says ‘Compliant with Exceptions’ or something of that ilk which would allow those entities not testing certain requirements to still be judged compliant with what was tested.
  3. Tell QSAs that an AOC cannot be filled out for assessments that mark any requirements as ‘Not Tested’ because an AOC is not relevant.

I remember at a number of past Community Meetings various Council representatives repeatedly and emphatically told those of us from the Accounting community that PCI assessments were not SAS 70 (now SSAE 16) engagements when we would invoke SAS 70 like rules for sampling, testing and the like.  Well, I hate to say it, but the Council is sure turning them into one with all of these pronouncements.

UPDATE: On the Council’s Webinar on Thursday, December 15, it was announced that the Council will be making changes to the AOC and will issue new guidance on this topic sometime in the first Quarter of 2017.  So stay tuned for an update.




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