Archive for the 'Requirement 6 – Develop and maintain secure systems and applications' Category

20
May
20

DevOps And PCI – Part 2

In the first post on this topic we discussed the terminology of DevOps and how segregation of duties can get complicated with DevOps.  In this post we will continue to investigate DevOps and discuss the issues you can encounter with change control, documentation and PCI scope.

Change Control

These days it is not unusual to hear DevOps people be proud of hundreds or even thousands of implementations or deployments per day.  That is until someone like a PCI assessor starts inquiring about what, if anything, is done to formally approve all those deployments?  The conversation with developers typically begins to deteriorate as you discuss requirement 6.4.5.2 which states:

“Documented change approval by authorized parties.”

The normal response is that the approval is provided in Jira, ServiceNow or whatever change management tool is being used.  That leads to a discussion of the guidance for requirement 6.4.5.2 which states:

“Approval by authorized parties indicates that the change is a legitimate and approved change sanctioned by the organization.”

With the rapidity and the volume of changes, then next question asked is how can an authorized party assess a change is legitimate and sanctioned if they never actually physically see and review the change that is deployed?

This leads to a discussion of how Jira, Jenkins, Puppet, whatever CI/CD toolsets work along with the automation involved in the change process as well as the “controls” embedded in the workflow of those tools.  The bottom line of which is usually that the only potential human intervention in the process might occur if the code needs a manual code review.

What requirement 6.4.5.2 is about is ensuring that the change process involves human intervention by getting management to approve what is being put into production and that segregation of duties has been ensured and no fraud or other illegal activity has been introduced into the process.  The reason is that we are talking about code that is processing, storing or transmitting sensitive authentication data (SAD) or cardholder data (CHD).  The potential for implementing code that skims that information or does other nefarious actions is too great to just trust a fully automated process with no human intervention.  This risk can all be driven home with a discussion of the 2013 Target breach where the CI/CD process was compromised to repeatedly push malware to thousands of point of sale devices.

While I am only talking PCI in-scope code in this case, fair warning, HIPAA, SOX, GDPR and other regulations are going to require a similar control.  Sensitive information is worth too much today and there is just too much risk that people will take any opportunity to siphon off sensitive data any way they can if appropriate controls are not in place.  If your process is totally automated and cannot detect such fraudulent activities, the ability to put who knows what into the code is too easy.  The last thing any organization wants is to be breached and then try to defend itself when they had poor or no internal controls to prevent the breach.

The bottom line here is that in our haste to push out software we have compromised the controls in that process.  Those controls need to be put back into place to minimize the risk presented by pushing malicious software into applications without a thorough vetting by management.

Documentation

Another area where compliance falters with DevOps is documentation.  Confluence, SharePoint Wiki or a similar tool will be used for documentation and that is where most assessors/auditors will be pointed for their requests for formal documentation.

The first problem with this is when you are an outside assessor/auditor, because you do not have access to the internally used tool.  That can be remedied several ways, but it is always a hurdle because insiders are so used to the fact that everyone they typically work with has access.

Once the assessor/auditor has access, the next problem for all assessors/auditors is finding what they need for their assessment/audit.  Regardless of whether the assessor/auditor gets PDFs or has online access, the most common reason for this issue is terminology.  A lot of times what an assessor/auditor is trying to find will be referred to by the organization in terms that are not consistent with industry or technology accepted terminology.  While all of these documentation tools have search capabilities, searching the document trove for what an assessor/auditor needs for evidence can be highly problematic.  Never mind the fact that clients get frustrated as well because the evidence exists, but the assessor/auditor cannot find it.

Related to these documentation systems is the fact that it can be difficult, if not impossible, for the assessor/auditor to get hardcopy or even usable PDFs of the documentation.  Let us face it, screen shots while readable can miss sentences at the end of a screen and therefore be missed altogether.  As a result, obtaining usable and legible evidence for the assessor’s/auditor’s work papers is not readily possible let alone having it searchable.  The fix to this is to use a browser extension or addon that will create a PDF or image of an entire page.  But that too can run into issues if the organization has locked down their browsers and do not allow such installations.

Regardless of Agile/Scrum or Waterfall, the next problem with documentation is the fact that the documentation is limited or simply does not exist.  I have encountered more and more organizations that again point to The Agile Manifesto, Scrum and the like and state that none of these approaches specify that documentation is required.  It seems that the age-old adage of “if it was hard to develop, it should be hard to understand” is back in vogue.  Never mind the fact that with hundreds or thousands of deployments a day, keeping up with documentation outside of can be impossible.

Consistent use of a change management ticketing system such as Jira or ServiceNow also can be an issue.  It seems that some organizations have exceptions that do not require every change to their environment be entered into their change management solution.  Worse, the criteria used to determine what is and what is not entered is not consistently applied because the criteria were never officially documented nor formally approved.  As a result, there is no way to rely upon the information contained in the change management system to determine that change management is performed as required.

As a result, I am never surprised to have organizations scrambling to develop even business and IT policies, standards and procedures in addition to network diagrams, data flow diagrams, application documentation, database schemas, operations documentation and a whole host of other missing or incomplete documentation.

PCI Scope Implications

Lastly, there is the scoping issue related to the DevOps infrastructure.  Not all of it is usually in scope, but that all depends on how it has been implemented.

At the very least, the Jenkins, Puppet or Ansible portion of the infrastructure are going to be in-scope for PCI.  The reason is that those components feed the application updates into the cardholder data environment (CDE).  So those are considered “Connected To” systems and must be properly configured and secured to be PCI compliant.

Because these CI/CD solutions are “Connected To”, this can become problematic because of who has access to Jenkins, Puppet, et. al.  As I spoke of earlier, because of poor segregation of roles in the Active Directory system, it can turn out that developers have access to these systems and therefore come into scope for PCI compliance as well.  As a result, the whole concept of development separate from production for requirement 6.4.1 does not exist.

Obviously, this segregation of development and production problem only gets worse if you drag even more of the development infrastructure into scope.  Therefore, you want to ensure that only the Jenkins, Puppet, Ansible portion of CI/CD is in scope.

This will mean moving Jenkins, Puppet, Ansible, etc. into your “Connected To” or “Shared Services” network segment.  This can create some issues with the rest of the development environment because of firewall rules and access to it through a Jump Server.  So simply moving that solution into the new network segment may not be as simple as it appears.

Development Metadata

Before we go, there is one more topic that needs to be discussed and that is the metadata in all these development solutions.

We have touched on the controls surrounding the development toolsets, but we have not discussed securing these toolsets and the risks they present.  This may seem a bit odd because since when have we worried about the security of Visual Studio or other integrated development environments (IDE).  However, with the implementation of CI/CD solutions, all these tools become interlinked and integrated.  Essentially, all these tools make up an automated assembly line for building applications.

But even more importantly, for these tools to work together seamlessly, they need to share metadata about what they are doing.  This metadata might seem like it is benign information, but it is particularly important and controls how the applications are built, tested and deployed.  Essentially the metadata is the “secret sauce” that makes your application work as an application within your organization.

We have already discussed the security controls that will be required around the deployment toolset.  But the rest of the development toolset is also going to require security and controls to be implemented to ensure that your software factory’s assembly line does not become a huge risk for attacks.  Attacks that could maliciously modify your applications to stopping the assembly line altogether.

Before you think that this is unrealistic, I would again point you to the infamous 2013 Target breach.  I wrote about the breach at the time and walked people through how what was known about the breach at that time would have made the breach possible.  The success of that attack was to compromise the CI/CD process to implement their malware that skimmed cards in the point of sale system.  So, the idea that development environments are not a viable attack point is not out of the realm of possibility.  And it gets even worse when you add in the use of contract workers to the development process.

So, what should an organization do to address these risks?  I would recommend securing the entire application development environment to PCI configuration standards so that security monitoring of the entire environment can be performed.  That does not mean that all the environment needs to reside in your ‘Connected To” or “Shared Services” DMZ with the CI/CD solution.  But I would create another DMZ to contain the rest of the toolset that feeds the CI/CD solution.  Servers should be properly security hardened and monitored as though they are in-scope for PCI compliance even though they are not in-scope.

There you have it.  The basics of how Agile and PCI can coexist.

17
May
20

DevOps And PCI – Part 1

DevOps are all the rage in organizations that develop applications.  The move to become “Agile” through the implementation of methodologies such as Scrum to replace the traditional waterfall SDLC is ongoing in most organizations.  But these changes can create compliance issues with the PCI standards regarding software development.

Understanding The Terminology

First and foremost, we need to address the terminology surrounding DevOps.

But before we talk about those specific terms, we need to address the elephant in the room which is “Agile”.  The Agile approach to development traces its history back to early 2001 when a group of developers met at a Utah ski resort.  The result of that meeting was ‘The Agile Manifesto’.  However, the roots for Agile were sown even earlier as application development became unable to keep pace with business changes starting in the late 1980s.

The important thing to remember about Agile is that it is not a methodology.  It is merely a set of values (4) and principles (12) related to the development of software.  The Agile Manifesto never describes a roadmap or steps to follow as to how those values and principles should be used.  So, to refer to Agile as a methodology is a misnomer but you will constantly encounter it being referred to as though it were a methodology.

Interestingly enough, the methodologies used with the Agile approach were actually developed before Agile.  Of the number of them that sprang up in the 1990s, Scrum seems to have won out when it comes to a methodology.  Scrum was one of many methodologies such as Kanban, Crystal Clear, Extreme Programming, Feature Driven Development and Dynamic Systems Development Method that came out at that time to address the delivery of software solutions in a timelier manner.  But while Scrum is the most followed methodology, it can also include some of these other methodologies such as Extreme Programming (XP) for example when used.

Scrum involves three types of roles.

  • Product Owner: The Product Owner needs to be a person with vision, authority, and availability because they are responsible for continuously communicating the vision and priorities to the development team.
  • Scrum Master: The Scrum Master is not a project manager.  The Scrum Master’s primary responsibility is to remove any impediments that are obstructing the team from achieving its sprint goals.  The Scrum Master also is the primary contact with the Product Owner.
  • Team: The Scrum team is responsible for completing the work.  For application development, a Scrum team can contain anywhere from three to nine members.  For software projects, a typical team includes a mix of software engineers, architects, information security personnel, programmers, analysts, QA experts, testers, and UI designers.  The team is responsible for determining how it will accomplish the work to be completed.

The final term from Scrum that needs to be defined is Sprint.  A Sprint is a one month or less in duration project that will result in a releasable increment of a product, in this case, an application or application enhancements.  When a Sprint’s horizon is too long the definition of what is being built may change, complexity may change, and risk may change.  The concepts of Sprints are to enable predictability by ensuring inspection and adaptation of progress toward a Sprint Goal at least every calendar month. Another benefit is that Sprints limit risk to one calendar month of cost.

Once defined, some of the key characteristics of Sprints are:

  • No changes are made that would endanger the Sprint Goal;
  • Quality goals do not decrease; and,
  • Scope may be clarified and re-negotiated between the “Product Owner” and “Team” as more is learned.

With these behind us, let us now turn to the terms DevOps.

DevOps is a merging of development and operations staff to work together to develop and implement solutions that will essentially run 24x7x365 with (hopefully) minimal operational interaction.  DevSecOps merely formally adds in the collaboration of information security into that mix even though information security should be included in DevOps as well.

The final topic in our discussion of terminology regards the tools used by DevOps.  While there are a number of vendors in this space, the “Big Dog” at the moment in DevOps is Atlassian with their tools Confluence and Jira.  Another “Big Dog” is Microsoft’s GitHub and the other “Big Dog” in the DevOps tool world is Jenkins which is open source from CloudBees.

  • Confluence is used as a documentation repository for such items as policies, standards and procedures as well as business, application, network and other important documentation.
  • Jira is used as a project and change management ticketing system.
  • GitHub is used to manage the versions of applications.
  • Jenkins is used for automating the build, testing and deployment of applications into production.

All of these tools have competitors from vendors such as ServiceNow, Puppet, Ansible, Chef, Google, and other commercial and open source development and operations tool vendors.  Regardless of vendor, all solutions seem to have these three basic components of documentation repository, project/change management and deployment automation.  It is also not unusual to find multiple tools in place particularly with Jenkins, Ansible, Puppet and Chef.

Segregation Of Duties

The first and most contentious issue that comes up with DevOps is the segregation of duties.  This is typically one of the biggest discussions/arguments an assessor/auditor will get into regarding DevOps is when Agile fans argue that segregation of duties is inconsistent with Scrum, Agile and DevOps.  Their primary reason will be to point to the fact that nowhere in any of the documentation regarding these topics is the term ‘segregation of duties’ or the requirement to ensure segregation of duties.  They would be correct in that regard.

Unfortunately, corporate life is not driven by Scrum, Agile or DevOps in a vacuum.  Corporations are still required to comply with laws, contracts and regulations promulgated on them by government entities, business partners, financial institutions and other parties regardless of what is in their methodologies and approaches.  So, while the argument can be made that the methods and approaches do not state anything on the subject, there are other documents, contracts and requirements that do state it is required.

Whether we are discussing PCI, NIST, SOC, COBIT or any other recognized audit or compliance programs, segregation of duties between roles is and always has been required.  It is one of the key principles to ensure that people do not have the ability to corrupt a process because they have too much control over that process.  The reason it is, that time and again one of, if not the primary root cause of such illicit activities, is the failure to segregate duties and roles thus allowing one person too much control over a process.  The concept of segregation of duties being that the more individuals involved in a process the less likely a process can or will be abused.

In DevOps, the issue of segregation of duties gets complicated because it gets extended into the tools used in the process.  The concept of continuous implementation (CI)/continuous deployment (CD) relies heavily on the use of tools such as Jira and Jenkins to enable such an approach.  This means that the assessor/auditor needs to look into who has access to these tools and what rights they have to influence the workflows that exist in these tools.

This gets even more complicated by the fact that this requires analysis of user and access control information from tools such as Active Directory, RADIUS and even the tools themselves.  In my experience, it is not unusual to peel the onion on these access controls to reveal the fact that segregation of duties really does not exist as thought because all roles are granted to everyone in DevOps and the organization is relying on individuals’ honesty to ensure compliance.

DevOps also can suffer from segregation between production, quality assurance (QA), test and development environments.  This is because a lot of organizations that move to DevOps have the mistaken belief that the “Operations” and “Security” components become part of the development group.  The argument will be made that Agile is all about “breaking down silos”.  While that is true, the mistake they make is that Agile and Scrum were not a call to abrogate the knowledge and controls that all of the players involved bring to the table as separate disciplines.  The goal is to make the disciplines better work together to achieve a common goal in a Sprint.

Where this manifests itself most often is that developers have unfettered access to the production environment.  In a DevOps environment, it is not unusual to find developers scattered all throughout the environment.  They are developing code, they are operating production, they are diagnosing bugs, they are everywhere with no delineation of roles and responsibilities.  It is essentially a free for all.  Everyone pitches in where they need to be involved.

This organized chaos is supposedly “controlled” by Jira through its ticketing.  Agile advocates will claim that since everything has a ticket (not always a true statement) that they maintain segregation through Jira.  They will show the tickets to the assessor/auditor and display that there are different names on the ticket for the developer, the QA person, the people who approved promotion, etc.  While this is true, as I described earlier, the access controls will show that virtually everyone they gave as evidence of segregation can fulfill any of those roles whenever they so choose.  By definition, that is not segregation of duties because there are no actual controls in place to stop someone from running the whole process.

The bottom line in this discussion is that the segregation of duty controls in an Agile environment is usually illusory.  As such, it is management’s responsibility to periodically ensure that segregation of duty controls are truly implemented and testable.

In the next post we will discuss documentation, change control and PCI scope in an Agile environment.

03
Nov
18

Open Source

One of the questions we received at the last PCI Dream Team session was:

“What about open source for 6.5?”

I am sure the person asking wanted to know whether open source payment solutions must comply with the PCI DSS requirements in 6.5.x?

The quick and simple answer is of course, ‘Yes’!  Why would it not?  It is source code after all, so therefore it must comply with the requirements in 6.5.x (as well as other requirements in section 6 and throughout the PCI DSS).  The PCI DSS does differentiate between different sources of application code.  For PCI compliance purposes, code is code is code, regardless of the source.

Now what does come into play is whether or not the PA-DSS validation standard applies to an application.  As PA-DSS relates to open source, I wrote about that over eight years ago, but it is still relevant today.  For the purposes of this post, I am not talking about PA-DSS validated applications.

The next question a QSA typically gets is, “Well 6.5 only applies to internet-facing payment applications, right?”

Wrong!  Any payment application needs to meet the requirements in 6.5.x whether it is internet-facing or internal facing.  Also, it does not matter whether a browser is involved or not although a significant number of the requirements in 6.5.x are related to browser-based applications.

But ensuring open source is PCI compliant goes beyond just 6.5.x.  There are other requirements that, at a minimum, must be applied as well.  Not every requirement in a section or group or requirements may apply, but some will be needed to be covered depending on how the application works.

  • Section 3 related to encryption of stored data and encryption key management;
  • Section 4 related to encryption of communications;
  • Requirements 6.1 and 6.2 for patching and vulnerability management. This can become problematic for open source because as time goes on applications can develop vulnerabilities that the developer community does not address.  This is most likely because the community moved on and your application became an orphan;
  • Requirements 6.4 for application development. Remember, just because your organization did not develop the application, if it is not PA-DSS validated, then it is your responsibility to ensure the code securely processes, stores or transmits sensitive authentication data and/or cardholder data;
  • Requirement 6.6 is also in play regardless of whether or not the application is browser-based. At a minimum, code reviews must be performed.  If the application is browser-based, then you can add in a Web application firewall (WAF) for additional security;
  • Sections 7 and 8 related to access control and user management; and
  • Section10 related to application log data.

Remember, every time a new release of your open source solution becomes available, you have to go through all of this all over again if you intend to use the new release.

So those of you thinking that you can somehow leverage open source to reduce your PCI compliance footprint, think again.  All you have done is outsourced the development of your solution.  The rest is still on you.  In the end, it is really not much of a savings.

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.

27
Jan
18

Pre-Authorization And Post-Authorization (Part 1)

Welcome to a new year.  I have had a number of interactions with a variety of people over the previous year and it has become obvious that the concepts of pre-authorization and post-authorization data is not clear to a lot of people.  These two concepts are a key part of understanding PCI compliance.  I will start with pre-authorization in this post and have a separate post for a discussion of post-authorization.

Pre-Authorization

Where pre-authorization (aka “pre-auth”) typically comes up is when someone asks, “How does [pick your online merchant] store a customer’s payment data and still be PCI compliant?”

Before we get to that question, we need to define what we mean by “pre-authorization”.  Pre-authorization is that time when a merchant has a customer’s sensitive authentication data (SAD) or cardholder data (CHD) but has not yet processed it for payment.

For most merchants, that time between collecting the SAD/CHD and processing it is measured in seconds.  For card present (CP) transactions, the SAD can be in the form of chip or magnetic stripe data.  For card not present (CNP) transactions, it typically includes the cardholder name, primary account number (PAN), expiration data and CVV/CVC/CID.  Regardless of transaction type, the data is sent off to either be approved or declined in seconds.

However, there are situations where that does not always happen that quickly.  Mail order telephone order (MOTO) and facsimile orders are the most obvious examples that can extend the amount of time between receipt of the CHD and processing by minutes, hours or even days and weeks.

But there are some not necessarily obvious situations where processing delays occur.

My first example of delay is when you go to fill your car with fuel.  When you swipe your card to pump the fuel, the system that manages the payment process will pre-authorize the purchase and then temporarily store the SAD until you finish pumping and hang up the hose to complete the transaction.  When you complete the transaction at the pump, the system sends through the actual charge and securely deletes your SAD from the system.  Depending on the size of your vehicle’s fuel tank and how close to empty you were, the system could have your SAD for quite a few minutes.

Another example is for the hospitality industry.  In the hospitality industry, a reservation typically does not cause a charge until a customer checks out even though they are required to have a card on file to hold the reservation.  When a customer checks into the property, the hotel’s billing system records the SAD and may also pre-authorize charges, but the actual card transaction is not processed until the customer checks out.  As a result, hotels can have SAD on file for the length of a traveler’s stay.  In fact, I have encountered SAD in hospitality systems that have been stored for more than a year due to reservations for special occasions such as graduations, birthdays, family reunions and anniversaries.

But getting back to the original question, the example that usually draws the most questions is in regards to when you, as a customer, store your card information with a merchant for future purchases.  These entities store your payment information (pre-authorization) in their applications so that you or they can quickly pay for your purchases without constantly re-entering your payment information.  These applications are not always part of a payment application, so they may or may not be PA-DSS validated.  However, when encountering them, I use the PA-DSS standard to ensure they process, store and transmit the SAD/CHD securely.  In addition, as a customer, you should have explicitly approved of the merchant storing your payment data and know how they will use that data.

Last, but not least, another great example of pre-authorization data are eWallet applications such as Google Pay and Apple Pay.  eWallets are just an electronic version of a consumer’s physical wallet.  eWallets are not regulated by the PCI standards or the card brands nor are they required to be PA-DSS validated.  Not that these eWallet applications are not secure, it is just that there is no one independently validating that they are secure.  That said, I always instruct developers of eWallet applications (or any pre-authorization applications) to follow the PA-DSS for developing a secure eWallet application.

The most confusion I encounter over pre-authorization data typically occurs regarding SAD/CHD that an organization receives via email or instant messaging.  A lot of QSAs get their undies in a bunch over when this happens and point to requirement 4.2 as the reason why this is unacceptable.  As a refresher, requirement 4.2 states:

“Never send unprotected PANs by end-user messaging technologies (for example, e-mail, instant messaging, chat, etc.).”

The operative word in 4.2 is “send”.  Requirement 4.2 says nothing about receiving PANs by these methods.  That does not mean that the Council recommends receiving PANs via email, IM or similar methods.  It is only recognition of what goes on in the real world.  There will always be a small percentage of people that will send their cardholder data insecurely and there is little an organization can do to stop it.

Yes, you can put a data loss prevention (DLP) solution in the middle of all of these messaging technologies and catch the bulk of the offenders.  But then what?

I have some clients who have taken this approach and the DLP securely deletes the message and triggers a message back to the sender stating that they do not accept payment card information via this communication channel and then explains all of the appropriate and approved ways a customer can communicate SAD/CHD.

I have other clients that use the DLP but do not delete the message.  They explain that in this one instance, they will process the transaction because they are all about the customer experience.  They have a process that they follow to handle the message and then securely delete it.

To keep your email, IM and other messaging systems out of scope, the Council has told QSAs that organizations must have a policy in place that says they never encourage customers to use these messaging channels for communicating SAD/CHD and to make sure that organizations have a process to remove the SAD/CHD as soon as possible from those systems.  That typically involves the printing of the message, deleting the message from the system(s) and then securely destroying the printed message once the transaction is processed.  This is all considered “incidental contact” in the eyes of the Council and the QSA can then consider the system out of scope as long as they can satisfy themselves that the manual process is reliable.

The bottom line is that all of these situations involve pre-authorization data and pre-authorization data can include everything recorded on a card’s track or chip.  If a merchant does store the pre-authorization data for the convenience of their customers, they are obligated under the PCI DSS to store it separately, away from post-authorization data and to protect it with the same rigor as post-authorization data, i.e., encrypted, extremely limited access, logging, monitoring, etc. 

That is a key point that is often missed.  Pre-authorization data must be stored separately and away from any storage of post-authorization data.  That means that separate instances of databases need to be used on separate servers.  The rationale for this is no different than keeping key encrypting keys (KEK) away from data encrypting keys (DEK).  It is to ensure that in the event of a breach of post-authorization data, it does not readily lead to a breach of pre-authorization data.  It also allows for more rigorous controls over the pre-authorization data.

One final point regarding pre-authorization data that I made earlier, but it needs to be reiterated.  If a merchant intends to store pre-authorization data, I highly recommend that you have a legal agreement in place between your organization and your customers that explains why your organization is retaining this information and the business purpose(s) for which the information will be used.  That can be similar to a license agreement that the user either signs or clicks “Okay” online to acknowledge their approval.

In a future post I will discuss the world of post-authorization where the PCI standards were originally focused.

18
Aug
17

Why Voice Over IP Matters

“Voice over IP are the most insidious set of communication protocols ever invented by man.” – Jeff Hall

I have been having some interesting conversations of late with prospects and clients regarding Voice over IP (VoIP).  These conversations all seem to revolve around whether or not VoIP is in scope for PCI compliance.  Ultimately the conversation turns to a discussion of why I believe VoIP is in scope for PCI and almost every other QSA seems to never bring the subject up.

The primary reason I believe VoIP is in scope is that the PCI SSC says so.  If you read FAQ #1153 titled ‘Is VoIP in scope for PCI DSS?’ the Council makes it painfully clear that VoIP is definitely in scope if VoIP transmits sensitive authentication (SAD) or cardholder data (CHD).  If you doubt it, here is the exact quote from the first paragraph of that FAQ.

“While PCI DSS does not explicitly reference the use of VoIP, VoIP traffic that contains cardholder data is in scope for applicable PCI DSS controls, in the same way that other IP network traffic containing cardholder data would be.”

Yet even when it is stated that clearly, I still run into people that claim I am making a mountain out of a mole hill and their VoIP is not a risk because other QSAs have never inquired about it.  What that merely means is that other QSAs are ignoring it when they should not be ignoring it.

The first problem with VoIP seems to be that very few people understand it which is the biggest reason in my opinion that a lot of QSAs avoid the discussion.  But it is not just QSAs.  I speak with network administrators, information security personnel and other technology people all of the time and if there is one topic that will glaze over all of their eyes, it is VoIP.  When the discussion turns to VoIP, people seem to hark back to that old PBX system tucked away in the basement or closet.  No one seems to remember that the PBX did get updates (usually two or three a year).  All anyone remembers is that it just worked and that it got replaced once, maybe twice, in a generation.  And the biggest risk was toll fraud from the Caribbean.

But scarier yet is that these people do not seem to completely understand how VoIP and its protocols work let alone the risks.  The biggest problem with VoIP are the protocols used and the reason for my quote at the start of this post.  Regardless of whether you are talking SIP, H.323, H.248, whatever, they all operate the same.  Call set up (start of a call) and call tear down (end of a call) are the only points of a VoIP telephone conversation that are stateful, i.e., conducted via TCP.  The actual call itself is all done via streaming UDP just like any other audio/video stream.  Adding insult to injury, VoIP also requires a large number of the ephemeral UDP ports above 32767 to be open.  UDP, being what it is, provides one of the best transport mechanisms for delivering malware.  There are hundreds of exploits for VoIP from the most benign DDoS attack to turning a VoIP telephone into a spying device by surreptitiously enabling its microphone and video camera (if it has a camera).  But my personal favorites are the attacks that use the VoIP network as an entry point into an organization’s data network.  The bottom line is that the only way to firewall any of the VoIP protocols for actual protection is to keep them away from the rest of your network.

But it can and does get worse.  Add in VoIP trunks from your telephone carrier and you really begin to have a recipe for disaster.  When you have VoIP trunks from your carrier, your internal VoIP network is really only protected from every other VoIP network by the carrier and your call managers.  It is that sad fact that keeps a lot of information security professionals up at night.  If security is all about your weakest link, how do you protect yourself and minimize your risk when your weakest link is essentially the entire world’s phone systems?

Let us add insult to injury in this tale of woe and bring in the concept of unified communications and its primary tool, the softphone.  A softphone is software that turns a PC into a telephone using VoIP. All users need is the internet and a VPN connection to the office network and they have their office telephone right there no matter where they are in the world.  However, the softphone opens up that PC to the same risks that exist for every other phone using that call manager.  But if your VoIP system is used to take calls that discuss cardholder data (CHD), you have now turned that PC with a smartphone into a Category 1, in-scope device because it is now connected to a Category 1, in-scope system and network.  Suddenly all of that effort to achieve PCI scope reduction flies right out of the window.

But this all gets the more fascinating as people go back to their VoIP vendors and find out even more troubling issues with their VoIP solutions.  I remember numerous conversations where people thought once a call was connected to a phone that a call manager was no longer involved therefore the call managers could be put on a different network segment, only to find out that call managers act as bridges when calls are conferenced, involve telepresence or they are to/from outside lines.  They also find out that with the advent of unified communications, services such as instant messaging and email integration are no longer separate servers/functions from the call manager and cannot be easily segmented from the call managers to take them out of scope.

But then there is the revised draft version of the VoIP information supplement from the PCI SSC.  Great guidance if you have a call center.  Worthless for any other sort of implementation of VoIP.  It treats VoIP as a discrete operation as though only the call center model exists for VoIP implementations.  Granted call centers are the largest risk when they are in scope because their call volume is typically 80%+ of calls involving payments.  But all sorts of organizations take payment information over the phone but are not a call center model.

So, what about the organization that has call centers and also normal business people all on the same system?  Based on the information supplement, every phone is a Category 1 device unless the call center VoIP system is separate from the rest of the organization.

Must the call center be on a separate VoIP system from the other users?  It would appear to be that way to manage scope.  But again, there is no explicit guidance for any other implementation model other than a call center.

And if the other users take overflow calls from the call center or occasional calls dealing with PAN, how would separate systems help with that situation?  Near as I can tell, it does not help.

And what about unified communication solutions?  No idea as the information supplement does not reference a unified communication solutions.  However, given the whole premise of unified communications is that it is tightly integrated in most VoIP solutions, other communication methods such as instant messaging and telepresence would likely be in scope as well for PCI compliance.

The bottom line is that the advice I provided over six years ago in this blog is still accurate today.

29
Sep
16

Microsoft Changes Their Patching Strategy

Back in May 2016, Microsoft issued a blog entry on TechNet giving the world insight into its new patching strategy.  The concept of a monthly “rollup” patch or what a lot of people are calling a “mega-patch”.  In August another blog entry was posted that further detailed this strategy and explained that from October 2016 going forward, this is how Microsoft would patch Windows.

But there is even more to it.  For WSUS and SCCM users, security patches will be separated from the Monthly Rollup in their own Security mega-patch.  The idea behind separating the security patches into their own mega-patch is to allow organizations to at least stay current on security.  However there is a twist on this approach as well.  Organizations such as small business that do not use WSUS or SCCM will only get a single mega-patch through Windows or Microsoft Update that will contain the Monthly Rollup and Security mega-patches in one mega-patch.

So what could go wrong you might be asking?

The biggest drawback to this scheme is that, should you have any issue with a mega-patch, you must back out the whole patch, not just the item that is creating the issue.  That means instead of having just one potential issue to mitigate, you could have as many issues to mitigate as the patch contains.  From a PCI compliance perspective, that could mean lots of missing patches in your Windows systems if your systems run into an issue with a mega-patch.  This can get doubly bad for organizations not using WSUS or SCCM because they will be backing out security patches as well as application patches.

But it can get even worse.  These mega-patches are cumulative meaning that every month Microsoft adds the previous mega-patch to the new month’s mega-patch.  For example, say one month the mega-patches cannot be applied for compatibility reasons.  For example, you apply the monthly mega-patch and your point of sale (POS) application fails to work with the mega-patch and you must back it out.  If that issue continues because of your vendor, you will not be able to patch your POS systems until that compatibility issue is resolved because month after month the mega-patches are cumulative.  So until the compatibility issue is resolved, you will not be able to patch your systems.

But I foresee small businesses running into the worst issue with this new approach.  Since small organizations likely will not be using WSUS or SCCM, they will not get a separate Security mega-patch, they will only get a single mega-patch that combines the Monthly Rollup and Security into one mega-patch.  If any issue occurs with that single mega-patch, the small businesses will not even get their security patches.  That will create a situation where the organization must figure out how to mitigate their inability to secure their systems.  In addition, that could mean months of security issues until the original compatibility issue can be resolved.

But to add insult to injury, I can also see situations where a vendor has issues resolving a compatibility problem with a mega-patch and finally gets it fixed only to encounter a new compatibility issue with the latest mega-patch.  Based on how Microsoft is running these mega-patches, there appears to be no way to go back to a compatible and useable mega-patch.  This could result in organizations being unable to patch at all due to ongoing compatibility issues.

At a minimum, I think Microsoft will need to make the Security mega-patch separate from the Monthly Rollup for all organizations, not just those using WSUS or SCCM.  At least then, all organizations can apply security patches independent of the Monthly Rollup which would be more likely to be the one that would create compatibility issues.

It will be interesting to see how this new patching strategy plays out.  Hopefully it does not create even more risk for uses of Windows.  If it does, I would not be surprised if the PCI SSC invokes significant new controls on Windows-based solutions.  That could be the final straw in using Windows for a lot of merchants.  Time will tell.

16
Apr
16

PCI DSS v3.2 Draft Released

On Friday, April 15, 2016 while a lot of you were probably getting your US income taxes done, the PCI SSC decided to release the draft of v3.2 of the PCI DSS.  I know the announcement message to me from the Council ended up in my company’s spam filter, so you may want to check there if you did not receive a message.  I was lucky enough for a colleague to forward his copy along to me.  However to get the draft, you need access to the PCI Portal to obtain the draft PCI DSS v3.2 and the requisite change log.

These are some of the more notable changes in the new PCI DSS version.

  • The draft provides an official sunset date for v3.1 of the PCI DSS. Regardless of the date in April that v3.2 is released, v3.1 will be withdrawn on October 31, 2016.  So any assessments done after that date will need to comply with and use v3.2.
  • Two new sections to Appendix A have been added. In addition to the Appendix for shared hosting providers (now marked A.1), we get Appendices A.2 and A.3.  2 covers SSL and early TLS for those of you that will miss the June 30, 2016 date.  For those of you that thought 2018 was the deadline and missed discussions on the Webinar about the SSL/early TLS deadline, while the deadline was extended to June 30, 2018, any organizations missing the June 30, 2016 date must fill out Appendix A.2.  A.3 is where the Council added the designated entities supplemental validation (DESV) requirements.
  • There are a number of new requirements for service providers that are best practices until February 1, 2018. Those new requirements include: (1) maintain a documented description of the cryptographic architecture, (2) detect and report on failures of critical security control systems, (3) perform penetration testing on segmentation controls at least every six months, (4) executive management to establish responsibilities for the protection of cardholder data and a PCI DSS compliance program, and (5) perform reviews at least quarterly, to confirm personnel are following security policies and operational procedures.  I would bet that numbers three and five will likely create a lot of contention with service providers.  But you have until February 1, 2018 to get those in place.  However, if experience teaches us anything, service providers had better start now getting these new requirements in place and operating.
  • All organizations picked up the following new requirements that are best practices until February 1, 2018: (1) change control processes to include verification of PCI DSS requirements impacted by a change, and (2) multi-factor authentication for all personnel with non-console administrative access to the CDE. As with the aforementioned new requirements for service providers, these will also require a lot of organizations to get started now to ensure these new requirements are in place and operating.
  • The Council clarified requirement 8.1.5 to show that it is intended for all third parties with remote access, rather than only vendors. While most organizations understood the intent of this requirement, there were a few that played “legal eagle” and refused to require compliance for non-vendors.
  • Requirement 6.5 has been clarified that developers must go through secure coding training at least annually. This change will likely create some consternation for some organizations that are developing their own software that is in-scope for PCI compliance.
  • Clarified 11.5.a by removing “within the cardholder data environment” from the testing procedure for consistency with requirement, as the requirement may apply to critical systems located outside the designated CDE. This will likely expand the number of systems that require critical file monitoring.
  • Clarified 12.8 1 by saying that the list of service providers now must include a description of the service(s) provided.
  • Clarified 12.8.2 by adding guidance that service provider responsibility will depend on the particular service(s) being provided and the agreement between the two parties.
  • One of my pet peeves has finally been addressed. I have always had an issue with requirement 1.1.6 and the use of the terminology “insecure protocols”.  The reason is that in one way or another, all protocols have their insecurities whether they are known or not.  In v3.2, the Council has finally removed the “insecure” designation as, in their words, “these may change in accordance with industry standards.”  It is those small battles at times that make your day.

There are other clarifications and edits that have been made to the new version.

For all of us QSAs, we await the Reporting Template which will detail out the actual testing to be performed which will allow us to assess the real impact to the effort required to conduct an assessment.  As a result, there could still be some surprises with this new version of the PCI DSS.  So stay tuned.

31
Oct
15

SSL Is Not Going To Go Quietly

A lot of organizations are finding out that just turning off SSL is just not an option. This is particularly true of merchants running eCommerce sites predominantly used by mobile customers or customers running older operating systems. To the surprise of a lot of IT people, it turns out that most mobile browsers do not support using TLS. And while most Western PC users have reasonably current browser software, the rest of the world does not and turning off SSL will remove a significant portion of some merchant’s customer base. As a result, for some organizations going “cold turkey” on SSL is just not an option without suffering significant consequences.

But there is a larger problem with SSL lurking inside almost every data center. That is with appliances and data center management software that have SSL baked into them for their Web-based management interfaces. A lot of vendors availed themselves of OpenSSL and other open source SSL solutions to secure communications with their appliances and solutions. To remediate these solutions, an organization might be lucky enough to upgrade the firmware/software. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations are finding that replacement is the only option offered by vendors to address these situations.

The bottom line is that because of these situations, SSL and early TLS will not be addressed by just disabling it and moving on. As the PCI SSC found out when they asked Qualified Security Assessor Companies and Participating Organizations about what it would take to address the SSL/early TLS situation, they were told about these issues and therefore set a deadline of June 30, 2016 to provide time to address these situations.

While organizations have until June 30, 2016 to address SSL and early TLS, that does not mean an organization can just sit by and do nothing until that deadline. Here are some things your organization should be doing to address SSL and early TLS if you are unable to just turn it off.

  • Get a copy of NIST Special Publication 800-52 Revision 1 titled ‘Guidelines for the Selection, Configuration and Use of Transport Layer Security (TLS) Implementations’. This publication is the Bible for how to minimize and mitigate the risks of SSL and early TLS.
  • Identify all instances of where SSL or TLS are used and versions supported. It is not just those instances that need to be remediated, but all instances. The reason is that TLS v1.3 is in draft specification and its release is likely just around the corner in 2016. That is why a complete inventory is needed so that when TLS v1.3 is available you will know what remaining instances will potentially need to be updated, upgraded or possibly even replaced.
  • Implement TLS-FALLBACK-SCSV to minimize the chance of SSL/TLS fallback. This option was developed to address the issue created by POODLE. However, be aware that only certain versions of browsers support this option, so it is not a perfect solution.
  • Monitor your external Web sites for SSL and early TLS usage. Track statistics of how many sessions are using SSL or early TLS so that you can determine usage of those protocols and therefore know the actual impact of any decision regarding those protocols. These statistics will also allow you to know when you might be able to pull the plug on SSL and early TLS with minimal impact.
  • Modify any external Web sites to present a message to anyone using SSL or early TLS to warn them that you will be no longer supporting SSL/early TLS as of whatever date your organization chooses to drop that support.
  • Where possible, configure the Web site to only use SSL or early TLS as the absolute last resort. Unfortunately, a lot of vendors modified their SSL solution to not allow this sort of change so do not be surprised if that does not become an option.
  • Develop a migration plan for your remaining instances where SSL or early TLS are used. Contact vendors involved and document what their plans are for dropping SSL and early TLS.
  • Be prepared to create compensating controls for SSL and early TLS that you will not be able to remediate by the deadline. Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that some vendors will miss the June 30, 2016 deadline as will some merchants be unable to turn off SSL by the deadline. As a result, those organizations will have to put compensating controls in place to maintain PCI compliance. These compensating controls will likely be messy and complex as enhanced monitoring will likely be the only controls available.
25
Jul
15

Compensating Control Refresher

From time to time, organizations find themselves in the predicament of not being able to meet a PCI DSS requirement due to business or technical constraints. To address that situation, the PCI SSC has provided the compensating control worksheet (CCW) as a way to work around those requirements that cannot be met directly as stated in the PCI DSS. When the CCW was updated back in 2010 for v1.2, I wrote about those changes and how to write a CCW. However, here we are at v3.1, five years down the road and I still see a lot of poorly and improperly written CCWs. As a result, I think it is time to take people through a refresher on the CCW.

First and foremost, the writing of any CCW is your organization’s responsibility. Your QSA can provide input and guidance, but the origination of the CCW is up to the organization. Once developed, your QSA can review it and make suggestions to enhance and improve the CCW. Once that has been completed, you will then want your acquiring bank to review it to ensure that they will accept it as part of your self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) or Report On Compliance (ROC) filing.

Secondly, the format of the CCW is dictated by the Council and that format is provided in Appendix B of the SAQ D or in Appendix C of the ROC. Failure to use the proper format will create issues with your QSA, your bank and with the Council, particularly if you are doing a ROC. So please use the Council supplied format and not develop something on your own.

Finally, the PCI SSC has stated that any requirement can have a CCW. In the past, the Council instructed QSAs and ISAs that requirement 3.2 [Do not store sensitive authentication data after authorization (even if encrypted). If sensitive authentication data is received, render all data unrecoverable upon completion of the authorization process] was not allowed to have a CCW. At the 2014 Community Meeting, the Council backed away from that restriction and said that any requirement can have a CCW with no restrictions. However, as a QSA I would have a serious problem accepting a CCW for requirement 3.2 because storing sensitive authentication data (SAD) is the whole reason why the PCI DSS was created to stop.

To remind everyone, the CCW is broken into seven sections.

  • Identification of the PCI DSS requirement(s) being compensated.
  • The constraint or business justification for needing the CCW.
  • The original objective of the requirement(s) being compensated.
  • Identification of any additional risks because of the CCW
  • The compensating controls.
  • The procedures your QSA/ISA followed to confirm that the compensating controls are in place and functioning.
  • The procedures followed by your organization to maintain the compensating controls.

While the Council tells everyone to have an individual compensating control for each requirement, there are some places where a compensating control is the same for a number of requirements. This most often occurs for requirements in section 8 around the various user management requirements or 6.1, 2.2, 11.2 and the processes of vulnerability management. I would highly recommend using one CCW per requirement, but I can understand why you might combine some. Just be judicial in combining them. Also, list not only the number of the requirement(s), but also the text of the requirement from the Requirements column in the PCI DSS. While your QSA might have memorized the PCI DSS requirements, bankers and others that will read the CCW have typically not committed to that level of detail and it will help them with the context of the CCW.

The business justification needs to be more than just “we don’t want to” or “it was too hard”. Believe it or not, I have had a lot of organizations provide just such simplistic and silly reasons for justifying a CCW. Proper justifications can involve budgetary constraints, timing (e.g., not enough time to complete remediation by the end of the assessment period), application requirements (e.g., the application requires XP to run) and/or vendor requirements (e.g., the vendor requires a hardware upgrade to correct the issue). If you do have a target date for addressing the CCW, this is where you want to provide that information so that readers know that the CCW has some time limit.

The original objective is the easiest part of the CCW to develop. The Council has provided the “Guidance” column in the PCI DSS for each requirement and it is the verbiage in that Guidance column that you should use to explain the original objective of the requirement. If you are using the CCW for multiple requirements, this section can get rather lengthy and I would recommend identifying the Guidance information with its requirement to help understanding of the information.

The next section can sometimes be the toughest to develop and that is identification of any additional risks because you are using a CCW. In some cases, there may actually be no additional risk perceived by using a CCW. One such example is when organizations have a separate system management VLAN where network and system administrators can use telnet, SNMPv2 and other “unsecure” protocols in addition to SSH, RDP and other secure protocols to manage devices/systems. These system management VLANs typically require the use of an out of band (OOB) to gain access, administrator credentials different from the administrator’s user credentials and two factor authentication to name just a few of the controls you see in this example. These management/administrative VLANs are no more risky than using only secure protocols.

However, if you are compensating for having to keep Windows XP running, that will likely be a very different story and depending on the compensating controls put in place, the risk could be moderately higher than not have XP around. The key here is that it is that the risk should be assessed and then honestly discussed in the CCW. If you think you are going to say that having XP does not increase risk to your cardholder data environment (CDE), I would seriously think again regardless of your compensating controls in place because any outdated Windows implementation is a security problem waiting to happen regardless of how you think you have mitigated the risk.

The compensating controls section is where the rubber finally meets the road. It is here that you document each individual control that compensates for your organization’s inability to meet the requirement(s) in question. I recommend that people either bullet point or number list each individual control. The reason is that in the next two sections, you need to tie the validation and maintenance items to the controls in this section and doing some sort of list makes it easy for people to ensure they have covered all controls in each section.

The most common mistake made in this section is organizations state that they have a project to remediate the issue(s). Sorry, but this is NOT a control. It is nice information, but it is not a control that can be relied upon. QSAs never want to ever see such statements made about future projects ever in this section. This section is all about what you are doing from a controls perspective to manage the fact that you cannot meet the requirement(s).

Valid controls in this section must also go “above and beyond” what is required by the PCI DSS. Examples of “above and beyond” include:

  • Reviewing log data in real time for a particular condition that would indicate an out of compliance condition on a control. This is above and beyond because log data only needs to be reviewed daily for such conditions.
  • Using whitelisting to identify applications that do not belong on a PC and generating an alert in real time if such applications are found. Such technology is above and beyond because it is not currently required by the PCI DSS.
  • Using critical file monitoring to identify rogue applications that do not belong on a PC and generating alerts in real time if found. Critical file monitoring is a PCI requirement, but this goes above and beyond because monitoring is only required on a weekly basis.

The list here can go on and on, but hopefully I have given you some ideas of how to create compensating controls that can actually compensate for your inability to comply with the requirement(s).

One key point though is that you cannot use a requirement in the same requirement group to compensate for a different requirement in the same group. For example, requirement 6.4 has bunches of sub-requirements under it. You cannot write a compensating control for one sub-requirement in 6.4 and then use a different sub-requirement under 6.4 as one of your compensating controls regardless if it is above and beyond.

The next section will list how the controls were assessed by your QSA/ISA to prove they have been implemented. So using our previous bullet list, here is what the control validation bullets would look like.

  • Observed the system information event management (SIEM) solution and verified that alerts are generated in near real time for [control failure condition] and that the alert is followed up by the security analyst to determine if the alert is valid. If valid, the security analyst opens a service ticket and assigns that ticket to the appropriate area for further investigation.
  • Observed the [whitelisting solution name] and verified that if rogue applications are loaded on a workstation a near real time alert is generated back to the [whitelisting solution name] master console and that the alert is followed up by the security analyst to determine if the alert is valid. If valid, the security analyst opens a service ticket and assigns that ticket to the appropriate area for further investigation.
  • Observed the [critical file monitoring solution name] and verified that if rogue applications are loaded on a workstation a near real time alert is generated back to the [critical file monitoring solution name] master console and that the alert is followed up by the security analyst to determine if the alert is valid. If valid, the security analyst opens a service ticket and assigns that ticket to the appropriate area for further investigation.

Finally, you need to document what your organization will do to ensure that the controls remain implemented and effective. This is where most compensating controls fall apart. The organization gets through their assessment and then neglects to keep the compensating controls working. Using our list from the compensating controls section, the maintenance controls would look something like this.

  • [Organization name] reviews on a [weekly/monthly/quarterly] basis the SIEM and test that the alerts for the [control failure condition] are still functioning as designed.
  • [Organization name] reviews on a [weekly/monthly/quarterly] basis the [whitelisting solution name] and test that the alerts for rogue applications are still functioning as designed.
  • [Organization name] reviews on a [weekly/monthly/quarterly] basis the [critical file monitoring solution name] and test that the alerts for rogue applications are still functioning as designed.

A good idea in the maintenance section is to set timeframes for remediating any control testing failures.

One other important item of note about the controls, validation and maintenance lists. Notice that there are no “forward looking” statements made such as someone “will” perform or “will” review. CCWs must be shown to be in place and operating. A promise of implementing a control is NOT a control either. The control must be shown to be operating and maintained. That is an important point a lot of organization miss. It means that CCWs cannot be created at the last minute and then be operational past the filing of your SAQ or ROC. If you are going to have to use a CCW, that means you will need to identify the situation early and then get the compensating controls implemented, validated and through at least one maintenance cycle before it can be accepted.

CCWs can buy organizations time while they address issues that will take longer to address than their PCI assessment period. Unfortunately, there are organizations that see the CCW as a way to be judged PCI compliant without addressing their serious security shortcomings. It is not unusual for large organizations to have a number of CCWs particularly if they have legacy applications and hardware. However, I would highly recommend that all organizations only rely on CCWs if there are no other options to achieving PCI compliance.




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