Archive for the 'Requirement 5 – Use and regularly update anti-virus' Category

08
Jul
18

Can I Use SSAE 18 SOC 2 Reports? Part 2

In the last post I discussed what the SOC reports are and what, in general, to look for in a SOC 2/3 report.  Now I want to take you through the more detailed analysis of the SOC reporting so that you can understand why it might not give you the result you desire and how to address that fact.

How Do I Analyze The SOC Report?

Based on the testing in the ‘Information Provided by Independent Service Auditor’ section, you are going to need to map that testing into the PCI ROC tests, if they even fit.  I typically use the Prioritized Approach spreadsheet to do this as it provides a way of documenting the requirements covered and a quick dashboard regarding what is covered.

As you reviewed the domains listed under the SOC 3 report, I am sure you thought; “What is not to like?  It looks like most of what I need for PCI is covered.”  But you would be wrong.  You will find after you map the controls from any SOC 2 report that covers all the TSP domains into the Prioritized Approach that the report will likely only cover around 20% to 25% of the PCI DSS requirements.  That is because the level of detail in the SOC tests are just not as detailed as they are in the PCI DSS.  As a result, SOC 2 reporting does not provide the kind of reliance you need to respond to all of the relevant PCI DSS requirements.

For example, while SOC will likely test that password controls are in place, you will be unable to ascertain if the organization enforces seven character or greater password lengths, password complexity, nor if they require passwords to be changed every 90 days or less.  Let alone if the special requirements for vendor password management are enforced.  It is these missing details that create the coverage problems with using the SOC reporting results.

The same can be said for change management.  When tested, the SOC report will likely call out a lot about change management, but not at the level of detail required in the PCI DSS for requirements under 6.4.  You will also find that coverage in requirements 1 and 2 regarding network and server configurations will be lacking in specificity to meet the PCI DSS testing.

Now as a QSA, you have a decision to make.  Can you accept only 20% to 25% of coverage of PCI DSS requirements as being PCI compliant?  I know I cannot.  I need much more to work with before I can get comfortable that a SOC report provides the necessary coverage for PCI compliance.

Now What?

You and your client have expended all this effort and are no closer to the result desired than when this process started.

So, what to do next?

Work with your service providers that provide you SOC reports to include testing that adds the PCI DSS details that are missing.  There will likely be a bit of push back from these service providers because adding testing to their SOC reports will cause the cost of their SOC reports to increase, sometimes significantly.  So be prepared for it.

What you need to do is to have their auditors add the necessary testing details to the description of controls and then have them test that they are in place.  Examples include:

  • Password length, complexity, change frequency and the procedures followed to perform a password reset.
  • Details surrounding privileged and general user management including provisioning, management approvals, users are implemented with least privilege and users are disabled or removed when terminated.
  • Changes tested for segregation of duties between developers and operations, segregation of test, QA and production environments, production data not used for testing, developers do not have unrestricted access to production, test data and accounts removed before applications are promoted to production, changes document impact, they are appropriately authorized, they have been tested, they have been vulnerability assessed and they document backout procedures.
  • If encryption is used to protect data, document the algorithms used, are key custodian agreements in place, are split key processes in place if performing manual key management, indicate if a hardware security module (HSM) is used and are keys changed when their crypto-periods expire or they are believed to be compromised.
  • Document the configuration standards that are followed by device classes such as firewalls, switches, servers and test that they have been implemented.
  • Document that anti-virus is implemented on systems commonly affected by viruses and malware, what the anti-virus solution is that is implemented, the anti-virus solution cannot be disabled and that the anti-virus solution is actively running on all systems it is installed.
  • Document that vulnerability scanning is performed, how often scanning is performed and that vulnerabilities are remediated.
  • Document that penetration testing is performed, how often penetration testing is performed and that findings are remediated.
  • Document that log data is collected from all devices, it is reviewed at least daily and that it contains a date/time stamp, device name, type of log entry and other relevant information.

There are a lot of other areas that could be added to the SOC report, but these are, in my opinion, the bare minimum that need to be added to make the SOC report more relevant for PCI.  I am trying to balance the amount of additional information needed versus the cost of providing it in the SOC report.

By adding all of this will it cover all of the gaps between SOC and PCI?  No.  But it should give your QSA significantly more comfort that the controls in place to meet PCI than what is currently being provided by CPAs.

04
Jul
18

Can I Use SSAE 18 SOC 2 Reports? Part 1

This is a common question that QSAs encounter from clients.  The client has an SSAE 18 Controls at a Service Organization (SOC) report from one of their service providers and they want to know if they can use it to satisfy any or all of the requirements in 12.8, 12.9 and 12.11 related to vendor management?

The biggest caveat in this discussion is that the PCI SSC does not sanction the use of any report other than a PCI Attestation Of Compliance (AOC) and/or a PCI Report On Compliance (ROC) in addition to any other PCI reports.  The Council has repeatedly stated that if a QSA chooses to rely on an SSAE 18 SOC 2 report (or any other compliance report for that matter), the QSAC and their client accepts the risk if the SSAE 18 SOC 2 does not cover what the QSA claims it covers and therefore relies upon it for fulfilling PCI ROC requirements.  As a result, most QSAs will not accept an SSAE 18 SOC 2 report (or any other non-PCI compliance reports) for any reason.

For those of us “recovering” certified public accountant (CPA) types that have conducted SSAE18 audits, we know how to read and interpret these reports.  As a result, when we are asked about SSAE 18 SOC 2 reports being relevant, our answer is that, “It depends on what the SOC 2 covers and how it was tested.”

Before we get too deep into this discussion though, we need to define the terminology surrounding this topic.  The first thing is that SSAE 18 replaced SSAE 16 as of 2017 even though nothing else appears to have changed.  The next key thing anyone needs to know about SSAE 18 is that there are three reports that can come from this reporting series: SOC 1, SOC 2 and SOC 3.

The first, SOC 1, is for financial auditors only.  It used to be called a SAS 70 years ago.  It is a report focused on financial controls that an external auditor needs to ensure that the financial numbers coming from the third party can be relied upon in their annual audit of their client.  Yes, these SOC 1 reports can cover security controls, but that is only in regard to financial systems, not necessarily the third party’s entire environment.  In addition, the control coverage is typically not as deep as required for PCI compliance.  The bottom line is that any reliance on a SOC 1 report outside of financial systems should never be assumed.

I am going to cover the SOC 3 report next because it covers all of the security domains.  The SOC 3 report (also sometimes referred to as the ‘SysTrust’ report) covers the following domains:

  • Organization and Management – The criteria relevant to how the organization is structured and the processes the organization has implemented to manage and support people within its operating units.
  • Communications – The criteria relevant to how the organization communicates its policies, processes, procedures, commitments, and requirements to authorized users and other parties of the system and the obligations of those parties and users to the effective operation of the system.
  • Risk Management and Design and Implementation of Controls – The criteria relevant to how the entity (i) identifies potential risks that would affect the entity’s ability to achieve its objectives, (ii) analyzes those risks, (iii) develops responses to those risks including the design and implementation of controls and other risk mitigating actions, and (iv) conducts ongoing monitoring of risks and the risk management process.
  • Monitoring of Controls – The criteria relevant to how the entity monitors the system, including the suitability, and design and operating effectiveness of the controls, and takes action to address deficiencies identified.
  • Logical and Physical Access Controls – The criteria relevant to how the organization restricts logical and physical access to the system, provides and removes that access, and prevents unauthorized access to meet the criteria for the principle(s) addressed in the engagement.
  • System Operations – The criteria relevant to how the organization manages the execution of system procedures and detects and mitigates processing deviations, including logical and physical security deviations, to meet the objective(s) of the principle(s) addressed in the engagement.
  • Change Management – The criteria relevant to how the organization identifies the need for changes to the system, makes the changes following a controlled change management process, and prevents unauthorized changes from being made to meet the criteria for the principle(s) addressed in the engagement.

There are also some additional considerations that are related to Confidentiality specified in the Trust Services Principals and Criteria (TSP), but those are not required to be covered in the SOC 3 report.

Finally, there is the SOC 2 report.  The SOC 2 report uses the same TSP as the SOC 3 but with a twist.  The third party can select any or all of the seven domains to be assessed.  Think of it as a “cafeteria style” assessment.  With the SOC 2, the AICPA does not require that all domains be covered (as with the SOC 3), the assessed entity can select only those domains they wish audited.  As a result, a third party could select only the ‘Organization and Management’ domain to be assessed and nothing else in their SOC 2 report.  Therefore, just because you have a SOC 2 does not mean it covers the domains necessary for your PCI assessment.  Like the SOC 3, in addition to the seven domains, the SOC 2 can also cover none, any or all of the additional considerations documented in the TSP.

Within each of these SOC reports there is a Type I and a Type II report.  A Type I report is basically worthless from a reliance perspective because no testing of the controls is ever performed.  With a Type I report, the auditor is signing off on the fact that the third party has controls defined and formally documented.  But without testing, there really is no point to this report.  Yet every now and then, I encounter a Type I report that an organization has relied upon for years.

The only report worth anything is a Type II report which tests the control environment to ensure that the controls are functioning as designed.  So, when you get that SOC 2 report, you need to make sure you have a Type II report where testing has been performed by the auditor.  Even then though, the report might not be as useful as you might think.

I Have A SOC 2 Type II Report From A Service Provider

While you want to read the whole report in detail, when I am pressed for time and cannot read it in its entirety, here is where I focus so that I can get a quick view of what I have.  Some CPA firms provide a one-page Executive Summary that gives the reader a quick overview of the report, provides the timeframe the report covers, opinion, exceptions and other useful information.  But that is not required by the AICPA so you cannot always rely on such an overview being in every report you receive.  When they are available, they can help you focus your quick review efforts even better.

The first thing to do is to read the auditor’s opinion which should be the first section of the report.  It is in the form of a letter on the auditor’s letterhead and signed by the auditing firm.  The opinion the auditor provides will be either:

  • Unqualified – no material control weaknesses or failures were identified.
  • Qualified – some material control weaknesses or failures were identified.
  • Adverse – significant control weaknesses or failures were identified.

An unqualified opinion is what all organizations desire and what most reports document.  But do not be fooled by an unqualified opinion.  There still could have been control weaknesses or failures identified but they did not rise to the level of being considered “material”.  I have seen some unqualified reports with control weaknesses that I would have considered material as their auditor, so you might still want to contact the organization to get clarification on any weaknesses identified.

A report with a qualified opinion is not the end of the world, but that will all depend upon what control weaknesses or failures created the qualification.  Someone misusing their access can be minor compared to not performing backups of servers for months.  As a result, you need to read each control weakness to determine the criticality of the control failure as well as review management’s responses to how they addressed or will address the failure.  Again, you may find yourself contacting the organization to clarify weaknesses documented.

In my experience, reports with an adverse opinion never get issued to the public.  Management sees all of the control failures and weaknesses and then embarks on the long arduous task of cleaning up their control environment.

The next section to look at is the one labeled ‘Information Provided by Independent Service Auditor’ or similar.  This is the section that will contain the testing results and will define which of the domains were covered as well as the timeframe the report covers.  Most organizations issue SOC reports annually, so you always want to make sure that you have the most current report.  If the coverage end date is getting within three months of a year old or more, you should contact the third party and ask them when the next report will be issued.  They should inform you that the new report is in progress and give you an estimated date the report will be issued.  If they do not give you a succinct answer, I would be concerned.

You need to go through this section looking at a couple of things.  The first is to determine which of the domains were covered.  While documenting those domains, you also need to review the testing that was performed and at what level of detail those tests were conducted.  For example, it is not unusual to see tests for change control cover five random changes but not test those changes for having appropriate documentation, backout instructions and testing, only that the changes were approved.  At some point you will need to read this section carefully to determine what, if anything, will cover the testing required by the PCI DSS.  But a quick perusal will usually give you an idea of what you are likely going to get out of the SOC 2 for PCI compliance, if you are going to get anything at all.

This leads to the next section of the report you should read.  The last section of all SOC reports is usually titled ‘Supplemental Information Provided By [Organization Name]’.  This section contains information that was provided by the entity being audited but is not covered by the auditor’s opinion.  There can be all sorts of information presented here but the important point to remember is that the auditor did not test or assess the accuracy of that information.  So, you need to take any information provided in this section with a bit of skepticism.

It is in the Supplemental Information section that you want to look for a sub-section titled ‘Management’s Response to Control Exceptions’ or similar.  Even when an organization has an unqualified opinion, there can still be items listed in this section.  If there are items listed, you want to carefully read what those items were and how management addressed or corrected the condition.  If you find any control issues and responses that concern you, you should contact the entity and get those discussed so that you are comfortable with the situation.  If you cannot get comfortable with the situation, then you may want to consider additional controls at your end to compensate for the control weakness with the third party.

In the next postpost I will take you through a more thorough review of the SOC report.

20
Apr
15

Why Requirement 5 Must Change

This issue came to a head recently when a colleague of mine attended an ISSA chapter meeting where there was a session given on anti-virus by someone from a US government intelligence operation. I had entirely forgotten about this until they brought it back up. The issue is the ineffectiveness of anti-virus solutions and why they are ineffective.

Most of us have seen the anti-virus testing results that are periodically pumped out by the various trade journals. They all point out that anti-virus is only around 30% to 40% effective in detecting malware. But what never seems to get brought up and clearly discussed is why anti-virus solutions are so bad at their job.

The reason is that anti-virus solution providers have taken a page out of the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) influenza playbook. The reason is the statistics that the speaker shared.

  • For every current piece of original malware, there are around 400,000 variants of that malware making the rounds on the Internet. Variants are easy to make which is why there end up being so many so quickly.
  • To scan a computer for every piece of malware developed since day one including variants would take around 40,000 hours (almost a month) to complete. And that is if you dedicate a core for that to run as well as a core to scan everything coming at you.
  • The signature files required to track all malware and their variants from day one would take up a significant portion of your hard drive.

Like the CDC does a scientific wild-ass guess (SWAG) to figure out what influenza vaccine to make every spring, anti-virus vendors do the same thing with their signature files every day. What anti-virus vendors do is select the most likely malware and variants your computer will encounter and that is what your anti-virus signature file will contain. The idea is that their heuristic engines and firewalls will hopefully detect the malware not included in the signature file.

Getting back to the PCI DSS, requirement 5.1.1 states that anti-virus solutions:

“Detect all known types of malicious software, remove all known types of malicious software, and protect against all known types of malicious software.”

Guess what?

Given the aforementioned revelations that signature files are incomplete, there is no anti-virus solution available today that meets those requirements of detecting and protecting against “all known types of malicious software”. All of us have, unknowingly or not, been “checking the box” on this requirement.

I along with a number of other security professionals have stated for years that anti-virus alone has never been adequate for protecting systems as portrayed in the PCI DSS, by the PCI SSC and by the card brands. If you truly want to protect systems from “all” malware as specified in the requirement, you need to use anti-virus in conjunction with a whitelisting/blacklisting and/or file change detection solution. Anti-virus alone is just not enough as the repeated tests of these solutions have pointed out over the years.

The reason you still need to keep anti-virus is that these solutions do what the others do not – quarantine or remove the malware. Quarantining or removing malware is truly an art form and has gotten even more so as operating systems have become more sophisticated in how they manage applications. The reason for this is that, while it is easy to install software, it has become very tricky in uninstalling it, if you can even uninstall it at all.

Anti-virus vendors spend the bulk of their research and development time and money in determining the best way at quarantining and/or removing malware. While a lot of whitelisting/blacklisting vendors have promised to add the ability of quarantining and removing malware, most have come to the realization that providing such features are beyond their current capabilities and not as simple as they have portrayed it in their sales meetings. As a result, I would expect it will take these whitelisting/blacklisting vendors years to have this capability if they even bother to develop it.

So what should the PCI SSC do?

The Council needs to require additional malware detection measures to requirements 5 so that organizations are truly protecting their systems against malware. In the immortal words of Bruce Scheier, what we have now is “security theater” – the appearance of security without security. Anti-virus alone is not cutting it, so it is time to enhance that capability by requiring more than just anti-virus.

The Council should also work with and demand that the anti-virus, whitelisting/blacklisting and file monitoring vendors provide some sort of integration between their respective products. That way when the whitelisting/blacklisting or file monitoring solutions detect an issue, the anti-virus solution can do the quarantine or removal of the suspected malware which it is typically very good.

Is this going to detect every piece of malware?

Sorry, but some will still get through (remember, security is not perfect). But the amount that gets through should be significantly less than with just anti-virus alone.

How much gets through will be up to how the tools are configured. As a lot of you have found out, just installing file monitoring software does not detect all file changes. That is because the installation does not get tweaked to protect everything it should. That takes time and effort that a lot of people do not provide because they have other things to get done. The better you implement the other tools, the fewer pieces of malware that will get through.

Reach out to the Council and let them know that you also think that requirement 5 needs improvement.

09
Dec
14

Significant Change And Periodic

UPDATED: Changed comments on requirement 10.6.2 to reflect the correct interpretation of that requirement.

No words or phrases in the PCI standards elicit more comments and questions than “significant change”, “periodic” and “periodically”.

So what do these mean?  Whatever you want to define them to mean as it is up to each organization to come up with formal definitions.  Those definitions should be based on your organization’s risk assessment.

Here are some suggestions as to appropriate definitions.

Significant Change

Significant changes are those changes that could impact or affect the security of your cardholder data environment (CDE).  Examples of significant changes are:

  • Changing devices such as firewalls, routers, switches and servers. Going from Cisco to Checkpoint firewalls for example is typically understood as a significant change.  However, people always question this concept particularly when going from a Cisco ASA 5505 firewall to an ASA 5520 or moving a virtual machine from one cluster to another.  The problem is that these moves can potentially introduce new vulnerabilities, network paths or even errors that would go unknown until the next vulnerability scan and penetration test.  And your luck would be that those tests are months away, not just a few days.
  • Changes to payment applications. This should be obvious, but I cannot tell you how many people argue the point on changes to applications.  Yet, application changes are possibly the biggest changes that can affect security.  Not only should applications be vulnerability scanned and penetration tested before being put into production, but code review and/or automated code scanning should be performed as well.  If any vulnerabilities are found, they must be corrected or mitigated before the application goes into production.
  • Upgrades or changes in operating systems. Upgrades and changes in operating systems should also be obvious as significant changes.  However, I have run into network and system administrators that want to split hairs over the impact of OS changes.  In my opinion, going from one version of an OS to another is just as significant as changing OSes.
  • Patching of operating systems or applications. While I do not think that patching necessarily results in a significant change, there are some patches such as updates to critical services such as .NET or the IP stack that should be considered significant.  If you are properly working through requirement 6.1 (6.2 in PCI DSS v2) for patch management, you should take this into consideration and indicate if vulnerability scanning and penetration testing are required after any particular patch cycle because of the nature of any of the patches being applied.
  • Network changes. Any time you change the network you should consider that a significant change regardless of how “minor” the change might appear.  Networks can be like puzzles and the movement of devices or wires can result in unintended paths being opened as a result.

I have a lot of clients that have an indicator in their change management system or enter “Significant Change” in the change comments for flagging significant changes.  That way they can try and coordinate significant changes with their scheduled vulnerability scanning and penetration testing.  It does not always work out, but they are trying to make an attempt at minimizing the number of special scans and tests that are performed.  But such an approach also has a side benefit when it comes time to do their PCI assessment as they can call up all significant changes and those can be tied to the vulnerability scans and penetration tests.

I would see this list as the bare minimum of significant changes.  As I stated earlier, it is up to your organization to develop your own definition of what constitutes a significant change.

Periodic and Periodically

Branden Williams was on a Podcast shortly after the PCI DSS v3 was released and made a comment that he felt that the number of occurrences for the words “periodic” or “periodically” were higher in the new version of the PCI DSS than in the previous version.  That got me thinking so I went and checked it out.  Based on my analysis, these words occur a total of 20 times in the PCI DSS v3 with 17 of those occurrences in the requirements/tests.  That is a 150% total increase over v2 and an increase of 113% in the requirements/tests.

First off, just to shatter some people’s perception of the word, “periodic” does not equate to “annual”.  Yes, there may be instances where an activity can occur annually and still meet PCI DSS compliance.  But that is likely a rare occurrence for all but the smallest organizations and is definitely not how the Council has defined it.

The Council uses the words “periodic” and “periodically” to reflect that an organization should be following the results of their risk assessment to determine how often or “periodically” they should perform a certain activity.  For some organizations, that might happen to work out to be annually.  But for most organizations it will work out to be something more often than annually.

So what requirements specific a periodic time period?  Here are some of the more notable occurrences.

  • 5.1.2 For systems considered to be not commonly affected by malicious software, perform periodic evaluations to identify and evaluate evolving malware threats in order to confirm whether such systems continue to not require anti-virus software.Typically this would be done annually, but forensic analysis of breaches has indicated that it needs to be done more often, particularly with Linux and other Unix derivatives. Based on threats semi-annual or even quarterly reviews may be needed for systems you believe to not warrant an anti-virus solution.
  • 5.2 Ensure that all anti-virus mechanisms are maintained as follows: Are kept current, Perform periodic scans, Generate audit logs which are retained per PCI DSS Requirement 10.7.Periodic scanning is always an issue with servers but, surprisingly, even more so with workstations. In my opinion, at a minimum, scans for viruses and malware should be done at least weekly.  This might need to be done daily if the systems are particularly at risk such as in call centers where the workstations my go to the Internet to be able to access competitor sales offerings.
  • 8.2.4.b Additional testing procedure for service providers: Review internal processes and customer/user documentation to verify that: Non-consumer user passwords are required to change periodically; and Non-consumer users are given guidance as to when, and under what circumstances, passwords must change.This requirement pairs with 8.6.2 which requires service providers with remote access to customers’ systems to not use the same credentials for each customer. A number of recent breaches have pointed out the issue such a practice can lead.  Not only are different credentials needed by the password for those credentials needs to change periodically, typically every 90 days.  This will likely spur the sales of enterprise credential vaults and similar solutions in the service provider ranks.But it is not just service provider’s credentials; it is also their customers’ credentials.  Service providers need to advise their customers to change their passwords periodically as well.  And that should also be at 90 day intervals at a minimum.
  • 9.7 Obtain and examine the policy for controlling storage and maintenance of all media and verify that the policy requires periodic media inventories.For this requirement, the PCI DSS already provides a required timeframe of at least annually.
  • 9.8 Examine the periodic media destruction policy and verify that it covers all media and defines requirements for the following:Periodic here typically means quarterly or even monthly if you have the volume of media to be destroyed. The key though is to secure the media until it is destroyed.
  • 9.9 Examine documented policies and procedures to verify they include: Maintaining a list of devices, Periodically inspecting devices to look for tampering or substitution, Training personnel to be aware of suspicious behavior and to report tampering or substitution of devices.Here periodic means at least daily, if not more often. I have clients that examine their points of interaction (POI) at every management shift change which works out to three or four times a day.  Given the POI is becoming the primary target of attacks, this will only become more important as time goes on given the current paradigm.
  • 9.9.2 Periodically inspect device surfaces to detect tampering (for example, addition of card skimmers to devices), or substitution (for example, by checking the serial number or other device characteristics to verify it has not been swapped with a fraudulent device).Again, periodic means at least daily, if not more often. I have clients that examine their points of interaction (POI) at every management shift change which works out to three or four times a day.  Given the POI is becoming the primary target of attacks, this will only become more important as time goes on given the current paradigm.
  • 10.6.2 Review logs of all other system components periodically based on the organization’s policies and risk management strategy, as determined by the organization’s annual risk assessment.This requirement allows systems to be ranked using an organization’s risk assessment to drive how often log data from systems have to be reviewed.  While systems that directly process, store or transmitcardholder data (CHD) must have their log data reviewed at least daily, other systems that are in-scope can have their log data reviewed less often based on the risk they present to the CDE systems.  Based on assessing the risk to these “connected to” systems, you might be able to justify weekly or even monthly review of log data. I doubt this will have a significant impact because most organizations have implemented internal or outsourced system information and event management (SIEM) solutions and are monitoring all in-scope systems in near real time.  But for those few organizations that are struggling with log reviews without a SIEM, this will afford them a bit of breathing space.
  • 12.10.4 Verify through observation, review of policies, and interviews of responsible personnel that staff with responsibilities for security breach response are periodically trained.It amazes me the number of organizations that claim to not have had an incident in the last year, even a virus or malware outbreak. Either they were totally dealt with by their anti-virus solution (hard to believe) or I am not talking to thepeople that deal with these issues (probably more likely).  As a result, testing (which can satisfy this training requirement) is only being done annually just like business continuity plan testing.Given the ever increasing amount of threats, this sort of training needs to be done more often than just annually.  Organizations should be at least testing their incident response plan on a quarterly basis so that people keep their skills up as well we just exercising the plan and finding any gaps or processes that need adjustment.

Hopefully we are now all on the same page with these terms.

26
Apr
14

Why SAQ A-EP Makes Sense

A colleague of mine attended the PCI SSC QSA Update session at the ETA convention a couple of weeks back.  One of the big discussion items was how the Council is being pilloried over SAQ A-EP.  This SAQ was developed to address the recommendations that were documented in the information supplement titled ‘PCI DSS E-commerce Guidelines’ that was published in January 2013.  Specifically, SAQ A-EP addresses the ecommerce sites that do redirects to a processor’s site that does the actual payment processing.

Based on the comments I have seen online and made in personal conversations, you would think that SAQ A-EP was heresy or a bad joke.  All of these derogatory comments are being driven by merchants that were sold a bill of goods by slick, non-PCI informed, sales people pushing redirected ecommerce solutions by claiming that it put the merchant entirely out of scope.  This was not the case and never was the case, particularly after the issuance of the information supplement.  However, we still encounter outsourcing vendors that continue to claim a redirect approach puts the merchant entirely out of scope.

To understand the rationale of SAQ A-EP we need to understand the risk surrounding these redirect solutions.  The risk is that an attacker modifies the redirect on the merchant’s server to now point to their own payment page, collects the customer’s cardholder data (CHD) on the attacker’s page and then, optionally, passes the customer on to the original payment page at the processor so the customer and merchant are none the wiser.

Under the PCI DSS and card brands’ security programs, redirect systems are still in-scope for PCI compliance because they are a key control in the payment process even though the merchant’s server issuing the redirect does not come into direct contact with CHD.

With all of that said, SAQ A-EP is not a full SAQ D, but it is not as short and simple as SAQ A either.  There are a lot of requirements to be met with SAQ A-EP which is why merchants are up in arms.  However, if you understand the aforementioned risk, you should understand why the requirements that have to be complied with in SAQ A-EP are there.

The requirement 1 requirements are all there to ensure that there is a firewall protecting the server that does the redirect.  This is Security 101 and I would doubt that any merchant would not have a firewall protecting all of their Internet facing servers.  Routers have always been optional and if the merchant does not have control of those devices, then they would not be included here.

Requirement 2 is all about making sure that all devices in the cardholder data environment (CDE) are properly configured and security hardened.  Again, this is Security 101 stuff.  If a merchant is not doing this for Internet facing devices, they are just begging to be attacked and compromised.

The requirements called out in SAQ A-EP for requirement 3 are there to confirm that the merchant is not storing cardholder data (CHD) or sensitive authentication data (SAD).  A merchant using a redirect should be marking these as Not Applicable (NA) and documenting that they do not store CHD in their system(s) because they use a redirect that processes and transmits CHD directly between their processor and their customer.  Any merchant that answers these requirements any other way should not be using SAQ A-EP.  All of that said, merchants need to have proof that they examined logs, trace files, history files, databases, etc. and did not find any CHD or SAD in those files.

Requirement 4 is provided to ensure that secure communications are used.  I would recommend documenting the SSL/TLS certificate information for your processor for the requirements in 4.1.  But do not pass over requirement 4.2.  A lot of ecommerce only merchants have call centers or take telephone calls and do order entry into the same Web site used by their customers.  As a result, merchants need to make sure that email, instant messaging, etc. are never used for communicating CHD/SAD.

Requirement 10 is important for any forensic research should the redirect be manipulated so that it can be determined when that event occurred so that the scope of any compromise can be determined.

While one would think that the vulnerability scanning and penetration testing requirements in requirement 11 would be thought of Security 101 and self-explanatory, you would be surprised at how many merchants argue about that fact.  Again, the driver of these redirect solutions was cost reduction and vulnerability scanning and penetration testing incur costs, sometimes significant costs depending on the number of servers, firewalls, load balancers, switches, etc. involved.  If you do not do vulnerability scanning and penetration testing as required, how do you know that the redirect system(s) are properly secured and patched?

However, the key requirement that cannot be missed is requirement 11.5 regarding critical file monitoring.  That is because the whole security of the redirect environment is pinned on detecting any modification of the redirect URL.  All of the other requirements in SAQ A-EP are there to minimize the risk of compromising the redirect.  11.5 is there to ensure that, if the other controls fail, at least the merchant would be alerted to the fact that the redirect had been changed.  If a modification to the redirect cannot be reliably detected by the critical file monitoring solution, then the security of the redirect cannot be assured.

The remaining requirements for 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 are all Security 101 items.  If you are not following these requirements as part of best practices for security and IT operations in general, then you need to consider what exactly you are doing.

Hopefully everyone now understands SAQ A-EP and why it is not as simple as that slick sales person implied.

28
May
13

BlackPOS

I got a Tweet from a friend today regarding this new piece of malware found out in the wild and dubbed ‘BlackPOS’.  BlackPOS is very similar in nature to vSkimmer.  Now before everyone goes off and panics, if you are religiously following the PCI DSS, BlackPOS should not be an issue and here is why.

  • Requirement 11.5 – Deploy file-integrity monitoring tools to alert personnel to unauthorized modification of critical system files, configuration files, or content files; and configure the software to perform critical file comparisons at least weekly.  BlackPOS does a lot of manipulation around known file names, but the hash values of those files should change from the known good values, so any file monitoring system should alert on that fact.  It also uses file names that would never exist on a production system, so those should also generate an alert.  In addition, BlackPOS creates a TXT file that also should generate an alert when created.  However, if you are not alerting in real-time, you should be so that you pick up these issues as soon as possible.  This is where the bad guys are headed with their attacks, so you may as well alert as soon as an incident occurs so that you can address it before it gets out of control.
  • Requirement 1.1.5 – Documentation and business justification for use of all services, protocols, and ports allowed, including documentation of security features implemented for those protocols considered to be insecure.  BlackPOS uses FTP to move the TXT file from the POS system to their server.  If you are allowing FTP to flow freely from your POS or cardholder data environment (CDE) to anywhere on the Internet, you were not PCI compliant in my opinion, even if you had some bizarre business justification.
  • Requirement 5.1 – Deploy anti-virus software on all systems commonly affected by malicious software (particularly personal computers and servers).  While BlackPOS was only identified today, the anti-virus vendors will most likely have signatures out by the time you read this, so they will be looking for BlackPOS by the time you get your updated signatures.

Just these three requirements can stop this sort of an attack.  Yet, time and again we see these attacks succeed because people are not properly implementing their file integrity and not restricting network traffic flowing out of their internal networks.

PCI compliance does work when you use it the way it was intended.

24
Mar
13

Why vSkimmer Should Not Matter

It was announced this week by McAfee that a new threat to merchants has been discovered called vSkimmer.  This is a very insidious threat as most merchants will likely not know they have been infected until it is too late.

The net of vSkimmer is that it is malware of the highest order built for the explicit purpose of collecting track 2 data from Windows point of sale (POS) systems.  Worse yet, whoever wrote this little gem of software intends to enhance it in 2013 to include the ability to skim EMV cards’ “track” data as well.

vSkimmer can be deployed like Stuxnet through a USB thumb drive, as malware in an email message or on a Web site or any number of ways.  When installed, vSkimmer determines the operating system and version, hostname, active username and various other operational characteristics of the POS system.  It then inventories running tasks and memory to determine where track 2 data is stored and begins recording that data.

vSkimmer works whether the POS system is connected to the Internet or not.  When the POS is connected to the Internet, it transmits the data obtained to a control server using HTTP.  When the POS is not connected to the Internet, the information is stored until someone connects a USB device labeled ‘KARTOXA007’ and copies all the information it obtained onto the USB device.

As usual, the Internet is abuzz regarding how this will be addressed by the PCI DSS.  Sorry to disappoint, but it is already addressed.  Here are some key requirements in the PCI DSS that should mitigate vSkimmer.

  • Requirement 1.2.1.a requires that only that network traffic that is necessary is allowed through the firewall.  Merchants should be only allowing connectivity from the POS or card terminal to their processor and nowhere else.  Any traffic attempting to go anywhere else should be flagged and IT alerted to investigate.
  • Requirement 5.1 requires that you have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on POS devices.  Given this is a Windows specific threat and Windows is highly susceptible to being infected, you should have done this already.  While anti-virus solutions are not perfect in always identifying such malware, since McAfee and other anti-virus solution vendors are the ones that found vSkimmer, I would imagine that they all have or will very soon have signatures for vSkimmer.
  • Requirement 6.1 requires that systems are patched current.  The problem with patching POS systems is that a lot of vendors issue POS updates for the OS and their application on a quarterly or even annual basis and do not recommend that merchants patch their POS systems directly from Microsoft because of compatibility issues.
  • Requirement 10.2 which requires the logging of events.  In the case of a USB device being plugged into the POS system, at a minimum you should see that the portable device enumerator service going active when a USB device is plugged in and if the device is new, you should see system event log entries regarding the loading of device drivers to support the USB device.  None of these actions should be seen in your log data, so if you monitor for these events, you will know that USB devices are potentially being plugged into your POS systems.
  • Requirement 10.5.5 requires the use of file integrity monitoring which would catch the installation of vSkimmer as a foreign piece of software even though it masks itself as ‘svchost.exe’.  This would provide a backup control for requirement 5.1 if vSkimmer changes its approach as to its file name and is not caught by the anti-virus solution.

In addition to the PCI requirements, you can do the following to increase your security in regards to vSkimmer.

  • Do not allow USB devices to be connected to your POS systems.  Most card terminals are RS232 devices, but USB is becoming more common.  The Windows Group Policy function can be used to disable USB ports on Windows systems.  There are also third party solutions that will disable USB ports.  A lot of these third party solutions can offer additional granularity in what types of USB devices can be connected.  This can be very advantageous when you are using USB card terminals which still need to connect, but other USB devices should not be allowed.  One of my more imaginative clients hot glues the ports shut on their POS systems.
  • Train your staff on the vSkimmer threat.  Explain how it works and what they can do to minimize this threat such as not allowing anyone to manipulate the POS systems other than employees responsible for the care and maintenance of the systems.
  • Lock your POS systems in a sealed cabinet or cage and only allow the manager on duty to have the key.  This may also involve additional security on POS servers if those are also used by your POS solution.
  • Periodically review video of your POS stations to determine if cashiers or other personnel appear to be manipulating the POS system.

If you adopt all of these measures, you will significantly reduce the threat presented by vSkimmer and will likely never encounter it.

06
Aug
12

Third Party Service Providers And PCI Compliance

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding third parties that provide networking or hosting services and their obligations regarding PCI compliance.  This confusion is not uncommon as merchants and their service providers have not necessarily been provided enough guidance to understand their obligations.  I hope this post will clarify those obligations for all involved.

If you learn nothing else from this post, if a third party is providing your organization a service that has access to your cardholder data environment (CDE) or the third party could come into contact you’re your cardholder data (CHD), then that third party must ensure that the service complies with all relevant PCI requirements.  As a result, the third party needs to either allow you or your QSA to assess the services that they are providing or provide you with an Attestation Of Compliance (AOC) that documents that those services have been assessed and they are PCI compliant.

In the past, I have stated that third parties could also submit a letter signed by an officer of the third party stating that all of the services provided to their customer are PCI compliant.  Now that v2.0 of the PCI DSS has a separate AOC and the PCI SAQs have the AOC built into the SAQ, there should be no reason to need such a letter or to ask for one.  If a letter is what your third party is offering, it is better than nothing, but you should be pushing them hard for an AOC.  If they are reluctant to get you an AOC, as part of your vendor management process, you should take that into account and probably begin looking for a new vendor that will provide an AOC for their services.

The most common issue we run into with third parties is that their AOC or other representations of PCI compliance do not cover all of the services provided to the customer.  In case after case, we see the AOC covering requirements 9 and 12 and nothing else even though the services provided may require compliance with some or all of PCI requirements 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11.

In a lot of cases, it is not that the third party does not want to comply with PCI; it is they are taking the lowest common denominator approach and only picked those services where all customers requiring PCI compliance are asking for an AOC.  That way they have reduced their costs of a QSA to assess their environment.  These third parties are accepting the fact that any customer that needs more services assessed will have to do it themselves.

Related to this issue is the third party that offers their SSAE 16 Service Organization Control (SOC) 1 report has proof of PCI compliance.  While a SOC 1 report can cover a few PCI requirements, people must remember that the SOC 1 report is structured specifically for financial auditors to ensure that the controls at a third party are properly constructed to support financial reporting at the customers.  As a result, a SOC 1 report is not going to be a substitute for an AOC that covers all services.  There is an alternative to this and that is to have the third party go through a SSAE SOC 2 report that focuses on the security controls of the PCI in-scope services provided.  We are hearing from third parties inquiring into the SOC 2 report, but cost and a lack of customers requesting such a report are driving why we do not see more SOC 2 reports available.

Another common issue we encounter is the refusal of the third party to cooperate in assessing the services provided to ensure they are PCI compliant.  There are still third parties that argue their services are not in-scope for PCI compliance even when it is painfully obvious that the third party’s personnel have access to their customer’s CDE and/or CHD.

The most common third party relationship we encounter is the management of routers or other layer 3 devices.  Where we encounter the most confusion in this relationship is in regards to the use of encryption to keep the network services organization out of scope for PCI compliance.  The key here is if the network services organization manages the encryption of the network, then they are in-scope for PCI compliance.  The reason is that the employees of the network services organization have access to the encryption keys and therefore could decrypt the communications and gain access to CHD transmitted over the network.  As a result, at a minimum, the network services organization is responsible for complying with some or all of requirements 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12.  If you receive such services and are not getting an AOC that covers these requirements, then you should be doing more work on your own as well as asking the third party why they are not covering more of the necessary PCI requirements.

The next most common service we encounter is the network services firm that is managing or monitoring an organization’s firewalls, remote access or intrusion detection/prevention.  Such services always put the third party in-scope for PCI compliance.  Some or all of requirements 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 will need to be assessed for compliance with the PCI DSS.  The log capture and analysis requirements in requirement 10 may also be complied with if your organization is not capturing and analyzing the log data from these devices.

Another group of third parties we encounter a lot are records retention vendors.  Organizations like Iron Mountain have conducted their own PCI compliance project and readily hand out their AOC to customers.  However, where we see issues is with such vendors that provide their own tape library for their customers to use for backup.  We have encountered a number of third party’s doing the encryption at their library which puts them in-scope for PCI compliance, at a minimum, for requirements 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

We encounter outsourcing the data center a lot with large organizations, but small and mid-sized organizations are also hopping on the data center outsourcing bandwagon.  Where this puts the third party in-scope for PCI compliance is when the third party is responsible for maintaining the environment such as applying patches, managing servers or any other activities that would allow the third party’s personnel to potentially have access to CHD.  In such situations, at a minimum, the third party is responsible for complying with some or all of requirements 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12.  Compliance with some or all of requirement 1 may be applicable if the third party is managing your firewalls or routers.  Compliance with some or all of requirements 3 and 4 may also be applicable if the third party is responsible for managing encryption keys for encrypting CHD or encrypting communications.

Where the most confusion regarding third party responsibilities occurs is in regards to “The Cloud.”  The most common reason for this is that every vendor seems to have a different definition for what “The Cloud” is, based on their particular services.  Using the definitions provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in their publication SP800-145, ‘The NIST Definition Of Cloud Computing’, I can provide the following guidance.

If your organization is purchasing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), then the third party providing these services will typically be out of scope for PCI compliance except for requirements 9 and 12.  There are some instances where IaaS implementations may require compliance with the PCI DSS if the third party is managing network infrastructure that comes into contact with CHD as is usually the case with private cloud environments.

For Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), the third party will have to provide PCI compliance for the services they are providing to your organization.  That is because with either of these service offerings, the third party must have access to the CDE and will have the potential of coming into contact with CHD.

The problem with the majority of PaaS and SaaS vendors is that they only deal with your organization through a Web-based interface, i.e., everything is automated – contracts, support, etc.  As a result, the contract is a “take it or leave it” situation that does not usually cover everything needed for PCI compliance, there is no way to independently verify the representations made by the third party as well as the fact that the AOC provided by the third party typically only covers only the physical security requirements in requirement 9 and possibly some of requirements 11 and 12 and nothing related to the other requirements, even though the third party may have responsibilities for PCI compliance outside of what is represented in their AOC.

If this is the case, there is little you or any QSA can do to properly assess the environment to ensure it is truly PCI compliant.  As a result, we have a lot of organizations that try to develop compensating controls for these cloud implementations.  These organizations very quickly and frustratingly find out that there are very few, if any, controls on their side of the equation that can get them to “above and beyond” the original requirement.

I know there are a lot of other examples of services being provided to merchants.  But, hopefully these examples can assist you in clarifying what you need or do not need from your third parties when it comes to PCI compliance.

07
Jun
11

VoIP And PCI Compliance

I have had some interesting conversations with people lately regarding voice over IP (VoIP).  It fascinates me as to how little people really know and understand how this technology works.  But what really scares me is how this lack of information is putting organizations at risk.

The most obvious problem with VoIP is segmenting it away from the cardholder data environment (CDE).  I am really disturbed by the number of organizations that have no security around their VoIP.  Yes a lot of organizations have segmented the VoIP from the rest of their network, but there are no controls that stop anyone from getting into that network segment.  As a result, anyone with the right set of tools can gain access to the traffic in the VoIP network segment.

The next thing that scares me is the lack of security surrounding the VoIP servers including any call recording servers.  People treat these VoIP servers just like their traditional PBX.  Unlike their PBX that likely ran a proprietary version of UNIX, VoIP servers are just Windows or Linux servers running a VoIP application.  As a result, they are susceptible to all of the viruses, malware and everything else any other server is susceptible.  However, these servers typically do not run anti-virus (performance issues) or are they hardened to any rational security standard.  When they get infected or hacked, it seems to be a shock to the system administrator.

And what about the call recording technology?  We keep hearing from vendors of call recording solutions that they use proprietary recording methods requiring special CODECs.  While in some instances the proprietary claims are true, what we are finding more and more is that vendors are just manipulating file header information such that Windows Media Player, iTunes and the like do not recognize the file as being in a valid format.  However, tools such as VLC Media Player are able to see past the header changes and recognize these files for what they are, WAV, MP3 and the like.  Thus some proprietary formatting claims are all a bunch of smoke and cannot necessarily be relied upon for security or privacy.  Another tell on the proprietary nature of call recordings is that, when you “convert” a recording, if the conversion software seems to be copying the recording more than actually converting it, it is likely that the header is being fixed to WAV, MP3, etc.  Real audio conversions typically take more time than just copying because the file has to be fully processed.

But the final insult in this whole scenario is the lack of understanding security personnel have regarding the VoIP protocols.  While VoIP call setup and teardown are usually conducted over TCP/IP (a stateful protocol), the actual call itself is conducted via streaming protocols over UDP/IP (a non-stateful protocol).  As a result, when you start talking to security people about VoIP security, their knee-jerk response is to tell you that VoIP is secured by the corporate firewall.  However, given that the VoIP protocols are stateless, even behind a firewall really does not provide any protection.

So you have a VoIP solution in place.  What should you be doing to ensure its security if it is in-scope for PCI compliance?  Here are my thoughts.

  • Properly segment your VoIP from the rest of your network.  This means either physically or logically separating the VoIP from the rest of your network.  This also means implementing access control rules so that only those devices and people that need access to the VoIP network have access.  If you are also using your VoIP phones as the network jack for a PC, make sure to VLAN that jack to something other than the VoIP VLAN.
  • If you can, implement the VoIP segment without DNS and DHCP and use MAC filtering to avoid the accidental or deliberate plugging in of a PC into a network jack that is VoIP only.  At a minimum, use MAC filtering to at least control what gets plugged into the LAN jack.
  • Closely monitor your VoIP segment and generate alerts on any devices that are unplugged or plugged in.  Also monitor for any protocols other than the VoIP protocols that your VoIP system uses.
  • Do not use the last octet or any other portion of the phone’s IP address as the extension number.  Yes, I know this is an easy way for the help desk to identify and troubleshoot phones, but it is also easy for an attacker to locate targets of interest, so keep that in mind when you are implementing your VoIP solution.
  • Never, ever connect your VoIP network to another VoIP network outside of your explicit control.  Given that VoIP primarily uses UDP/IP, you cannot expect any firewall to protect your VoIP system from anything outside of your control.  Always use plain old telephone system (POTS) circuits to connect to any foreign network.  I know that is not as sexy as VoIP, but how else can you protect your VoIP system from outside influences?
  • Work with your VoIP vendor to harden all servers that manage the VoIP system.  These are just Windows, Linux, etc. systems.  Obviously you will need to do some testing of this and you may not be able to use all of the hardening items in your server hardening standard, but you would be surprised at what you can do that the vendor says will not work.  Remember, they are just trying to cover their butts should a problem crop up.
  • Be careful implementing VoIP on traditional PBXs.  A lot of these solutions are just PCs or servers and can be easily hacked once on your network just like their full VoIP brethren.
  • Get a hold of VLC Media Player or similar tool and see if you can play a recording off of your call recording system.  We are getting about a 25% hit rate using VLC to play recordings.  A lot of the success of this approach depends on the age of the call recording system.  The newer the systems, the more likely it is that you will find that the recordings are just tweaks of existing standards.
06
Mar
11

PCI And Virtualization

I just received an invitation for a Webinar on Virtualization and PCI compliance.  My friend, John Kindervag is one of the panelists and, no, this is not an unpaid advertisement for anyone to attend even though I have provided the link to register.  For an hour they will be discussing this topic because now the PCI DSS v2.0 references virtualization.  Let us be very clear, while the PCI DSS prior to v2.0 never explicitly discussed virtualization, QSAs were instructed on how to approach virtualization security.  And as you will see, virtualization security is no different than any other operating system security.

In my very humble opinion, virtualization is a one minute security issue, if that long.  Let us cut to the chase, as small an attack vector virtualization can be, it is still a potential attack vector, so you need to secure it.  Is that clear enough?  The real issue is how to secure a virtualized environment.

There are two different forms of virtualization.  There are stand-alone hypervisors (what NIST refers to as “bare metal”) like VMware vSphere, VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer.  Bare metal hypervisors are what we typically run into the most in our PCI compliance engagements, but not necessarily a guarantee.  There are also VMware Server, VMware Desktop and Microsoft VirtualPC (what NIST refers to as “hosted”) that require a host OS to run on as an application no different than Microsoft Word.  Obviously, the attack vectors are wildly different for each type of virtualization.

For whatever reason, it seems that a lot of IT professionals do not recognize that a hypervisor is an operating system.  Yes it is a very specialized operating system, but it is an operating system just like Linux or Windows.  Most hypervisors are based on Linux or UNIX and have a few security hardening similarities.  But given a hypervisor’s specialization, they have significantly different security hardening requirements from their Linux or UNIX counterparts.  As such, hypervisor vendors typically provide a security hardening standard for each of their hypervisor operating systems.  All you need to do is go to the hypervisor vendor’s Web site and download the security hardening guide for your version of hypervisor.  Which brings up a good point, if your hypervisor vendor does not provide a security hardening guide, then you need to find a different hypervisor.

For bare metal implementations, the only thing you have to secure is the hypervisor itself.  However, with hosted virtualization, you need to secure the host operating system as well as the hypervisor.  In addition to the hypervisor, you will need to follow the host operating system vendor’s security hardening guide to ensure that the host OS is also secure.

But hardening your virtualized operating system is not the end of the job.  You need to properly implement your virtualized environment securely as well and that is more than just hardening the hypervisor.  The most obvious security item that needs to be done is that any guest operating systems implemented need to also be securely hardened.  It still surprises me the number of IT professionals that somehow seem to think that because they are implementing Windows or Linux as a virtual machine that there is something different about security and you can totally skip or skimp on hardening.  Security hardening procedures need to be completely followed regardless of whether the guest OS is stand-alone or in a virtual machine.

The next area that seems to get the short shrift is infrastructure security.  This is particularly true of the management of the hypervisor environment.  Most implementations I have seen do a good job of securely connecting the virtual machines, but the hypervisor infrastructure environment leaves a lot to be desired from a security perspective.  The first mistake I see is that the hypervisor management environment is not segregated from other networks.  In the first scenario I commonly see, the production network and the hypervisor management network are on the same segment.  If an attacker compromises any virtual machine, they gain access to the hypervisor management environment and can therefore gain access to the virtual cardholder data environment.  In the other scenario, the corporate network and hypervisor network are one and the same and therefore everyone that is on the corporate network can also gain access to the hypervisor management network.  The way to fix both of these situations is to put the hypervisor management network on its own network segment.  I also recommend to organizations that they dedicate a NIC to only that segment.  However, if an organization already has an operations management network segment separate from other networks, I have no problem having the hypervisor management network in that segment as well.

The other scenario I frequently see is virtual machines from the cardholder data environment (CDE) intermingled with virtual machines that are not part of the CDE.  The problem here is that in the event of a compromise of a non-CDE virtual machine, CDE virtual machines may be accessible because of the configuration of the virtualization environment.  The best way to use virtualization for PCI compliance is to isolate your CDE virtual machines in a physically separate virtual environment from your non-CDE virtual machines.

For the truly paranoid, you can also fiddle with parameters such as physical/logical NIC assignments as well as SAN configurations.  While these sorts of configuration changes can provide additional security to the equation, I have my doubts as to the significance of these changes from a security perspective.  In my years of dealing with virtualization, these sorts of configuration changes have been more for performance reasons and enhanced security was just a nice byproduct.

Finally, there is the maintenance aspect of virtualization.  I think everyone gets the fact that virtualized or not, the guest operating systems need to be maintained and patched just like their stand-alone brethren.  However, when you ask organizations how often they patch their hypervisor; some will say to you very honestly, “You have to patch it?”  Earlier on I stated that a hypervisor is also an operating system and, as such, it needs to be patched just like any other operating system.  Granted a hypervisor does not usually get patched every month like Windows, but there are patches issued every so often by hypervisor vendors.

Best of luck to John and the round table that are presenting this month on virtualization and PCI compliance.  Hopefully this post will help explain what they will be discussing as well as lead to more insightful questions on the topic.




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