Archive for the 'PCI SAQ' Category



11
May
16

Heads Up – Changes To SAQ A

I had a question this week regarding v3.2 of SAQ A that pointed out there have been some changes to that SAQ that people may have not noticed given the larger issues with the changes to the PCI DSS.  As a reminder, SAQ A is the least amount of PCI requirements any in-scope organization can comply.

Those added requirements to SAQ A are:

  • 2.1(a) – Are vendor-supplied defaults always changed before installing a system on the network?
  • 2.1(b) – Are unnecessary default accounts removed or disabled before installing a system on the network?
  • 8.1.1 – Are all users assigned a unique ID before allowing them to access system components or cardholder data?
  • 8.1.3 – Is access for any terminated users immediately deactivated or removed?
  • 8.2 – In addition to assigning a unique ID, is one or more of the following methods employed to authenticate all users?
  • 8.2.3(a) – Are user password parameters configured to require passwords/passphrases meet the following?
  • 8.5 – Are group, shared, or generic accounts, passwords, or other authentication methods prohibited
  • 12.10.1(a) – Has an incident response plan been created to be implemented in the event of system breach?

Even when a merchant outsources all of their card processing, these are controls that can still apply because in a lot of cases, a merchant is responsible for setup, management and maintenance of their outsourced payment processes and applications.

In addition, merchant employees will also interact with an outsourced payment system to handle chargebacks and disputes.  Those user accounts used by the outsourced environment will normally be managed by someone at the merchant, not necessarily the service provider.

In regards to incident response, the merchant will be involved with incident response even when they have totally outsourced their payment environment.  The merchant will work with their outsourcer to work through an incident and those responsibilities of the merchant need to be documented.

As a result, the addition of these controls should not be a surprise to anyone.

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13
Feb
16

Crystal Ball Time

I was recently reminded that we are in year three of the current PCI DSS version. According to the PCI SSC’s standard lifecycle, that means the Council is starting to work on version 4 of the PCI DSS and PA-DSS.

So what is coming in version 4 of the PCI DSS? The Guru and his fellow PCI Wizards have some thoughts.

Business As Usual

I have written about this before. Everyone is betting that business as usual (BAU) will make its official appearance in the next version of the PCI DSS. If the past is any indication, BAU will most likely be a “best practice” until June 30, 2018 and then required thereafter.

For those that have forgotten, BAU was introduced as a concept with v3 of the PCI DSS. Pages 13 and 14 of the PCI DSS discuss the concept of BAU. The idea being to get organizations to integrate certain requirements of the PCI DSS into their organizational procedures to better ensure the security of cardholder data (CHD).

When BAU was first discussed back in 2013, I was able to identify at least 213 requirements that could be considered as BAU requirements (277 if you include Appendix A). Samples of BAU requirements include:

  • 1.2.a Examine diagram(s) and observe network configurations to verify that a current network diagram exists and that it documents all connections to the cardholder data environment, including any wireless networks,
  • 2.2.b Identify any enabled insecure services, daemons, or protocols and interview personnel to verify they are justified per documented configuration standards,
  • 1.a Examine the data-retention and disposal policies, procedures and processes,
  • 1 For a sample of system components including all operating system types commonly affected by malicious software, verify that anti-virus software is deployed if applicable anti-virus technology exists,
  • 6.3.b Observe processes and interview personnel to verify that follow-up to exceptions and anomalies is performed,
  • 2.1.a Review the scan reports and verify that four quarterly internal scans occurred in the most recent 12-month period, and
  • 8.1 Verify that a list of service providers is maintained.

Essentially, all the prospective BAU requirements are those that have some sort of timing involved for evaluating them.

Not only will adding in BAU be at issue, but I am guessing that the Council will probably reduce their use of the words “periodic” and “periodically” in the next version of the DSS. That is because with BAU they will likely begin to recommend actual minimum time frames for conducting these procedures. Known timings in v3 include annually, quarterly, daily, whenever changes occur and my personal favorite, whenever “significant” changes occur. Which means it will be all the more important for organizations to define what a “significant” change means in their environment.

But the introduction of BAU will likely not totally wipe out the use of “periodic” in the DSS. As a result, organizations will still have to define for those requirements that use “periodic” or “periodically” what the period is based on their risk assessment.

The bottom line is that if you have not been thinking ahead you need to get thinking ahead as to how BAU is going to impact your organization.

Requirement 9.9

New with v3 was the addition of requirement 9.9 which focuses on managing the risks to the card terminal or point of interaction (POI). Originally dismissed by most organizations as an annoyance, recent events with Safeway, other merchants and ATMs, security of the POI has come into laser-like focus. And with more and more merchants implementing point-to-point encryption (P2PE) or end-to-end encryption (E2EE), the security of the POI becomes all the more important as it is the only device that remains in-scope for the merchant. It is believed that with all of the issues with POI that have occurred, the Council will focus on beefing up 9.9 to address these higher risks by defining review schedules.

The first requirement that merchants need to deal with much better than they have is 9.9.1 which addresses maintaining an accurate inventory of POI. If a merchant has not implemented P2PE/E2EE, then the risk that a POI is swapped out for one that has been tampered with is extremely high. Tampering of POI is typically done such that the POI does not appear to have been tampered with such as installing a USB drive to collect data or installing revised software in the POI.

The quickest and easiest way to identify swapped out POI is to periodically review your POI inventory and make sure that all the serial numbers of those POI in use are the same as the numbers on your inventory. If they are not, then you should take that POI out of service and get a trustworthy one from your transaction processor.

Another control that you should use is tamper proof tape over the seams of the POI. If someone opens the POI, the tape will be torn and it should be obvious that the POI has been tampered with.

Earlier I distinguished merchant that have implemented P2PE/E2EE from those that have not implemented it. So what, if anything, should merchants with P2PE/E2EE implemented be doing? P2PE/E2EE solutions require the injection of an initial key into the terminal as well as recording a device number. If any of that information changes, the POI will not work. So if the terminal is swapped out, it will not work without the processor properly configuring the POI. This does not mean that the merchant does not have to manage their POI inventory, it just means that reviewing that inventory does not need to occur as often.

So how often should POI be reviewed against inventory? For merchants that have not implemented P2PE/E2EE, I would recommend no less than weekly. However, I do have clients that review their POI at every manager shift change. These are clients that have had POI swapped out and/or tampered with. Merchants that have implemented P2PE/E2EE should review their POI inventory at least semi-annually if not quarterly.

The next area that will likely be enhanced is requirement 9.9.2 which addresses the inspection of devices. I would anticipate that merchants will now be required to develop detailed procedures for the examination of POI by their retail management and cashiers.

But unlike with 9.9.1, this will not be broken down by those merchants that have and have not implemented P2PE/E2EE. Why? Because of terminal overlays that can be placed on top of certain POI and go unnoticed. These overlays can collect CHD regardless of whether P2PE/E2EE is implemented. As a result, examination of POI will likely be required to be done daily if not more often based on the assessed risk.

For merchants that have implemented E2EE, they may need to have to do an additional check depending on where E2EE is implemented. If the E2EE solution does not encrypt at the POI, then these merchants will also have to examine their point of sale (POS) in addition to their POI in order to comply with 9.9.2. One of the big reasons for this is because of Target style breaches where a memory scraper was used to obtain CHD because encryption was done at the POS, not the POI, and the connection between POI and POS was in clear text.

For merchants that use integrated keyboard card readers or USB card readers, there are other schemes such as keyboard loggers, USB adapters and other attacks that focus on the POS for obtaining CHD. For those merchants, they will also need to be doing daily inspections of their POS systems to ensure that equipment that does not belong is quickly identified.

The final requirement that will likely see changes is with 9.9.3 which is all about training retail personnel in the procedures of protecting the POI. With all of the changes to 9.9.1 and 9.9.2, you had to know that training would also have to change.

The biggest change will be the mandatory training. Yes, it was mandatory before, but with the focus on tampering with POI, training of retail staff will be very important. Why? Because they are the people on the front line and would be the ones most likely to notice something not right with their work area.

In order for these people to notice things out of order, they need to be trained, trained often and trained repeatedly. This is why security awareness training is so frustrating for security professionals is that it takes more than just one session every year to be effective. That and the fact that not everyone catches on at the same time with the same amount of training and there will be some people that never catch on.

The bottom line here is that your retail personnel will need to be drilled regularly on POI and POS security. How you choose to accomplish that training effort is up to your organization. But doing little or no training will not be an option.

SSL/Early TLS

The obvious change here will be the integration of the new deadlines for SSL and early TLS.

That said, the Council may actually provide some additional changes in section 4 regarding secure communication over TLS. In addition, by the time v4 of the PCI DSS is released, TLS v1.3 will likely be an official standard so changes in that regard may also be included.

Miscellaneous

Finally, I am sure there will be the usual wording and clarification changes that have come with every prior release.

Depending on any breaches that occur in the next few months, there may be some additional surprises in v4 to address the vulnerabilities identified by those breaches.

So there you have it. Start getting ready for the new PCI DSS v4 that will show up around November 2016.

07
Dec
15

Using SAQ C

There seems to be a lot of confusion over SAQ C and when it can and should be used. SAQ C was developed for the franchise industry, particularly the fast food and small retailer. The idea was that the franchisee would implement the franchise preferred point of sale (POS) solution, connect that POS solution to the Internet and start processing transactions.

Before going any further I must add the following caveat to this post. While I have based this post on all of the training and discussion over the years with the PCI SSC regarding SAQ C, this post is only my opinion and does not mean I am correct. The only official answer is the one you get from your acquiring bank. It is up to your acquiring bank to determine what SAQ your organization should use for your PCI assessment.

To refresh everyone’s memory about SAQ C, the criteria for using SAQ C are as follows.

  • “Your company has a payment application system and an Internet connection on the same device and/or same local area network (LAN);

  • The payment application system/Internet device is not connected to any other systems within your environment (this can be achieved via network segmentation to isolate payment application system/Internet device from all other systems);

  • The physical location of the POS environment is not connected to other premises or locations, and any LAN is for a single location only;

  • Your company retains only paper reports or paper copies of receipts, and these documents are not received electronically; and

  • Your company does not store cardholder data in electronic format.”

The key to understanding SAQ C are the second and third bullets. The third bullet indicates that the POS application cannot be connected to any other locations. The second bullet indicates that the payment application cannot be connected to any other systems within the organization’s processing environment. The bottom line is that the solution must be stand alone and fully segmented away from any other applications and systems.

These criteria can be easily met by solutions such as the MICROS e7 POS solution but can run afoul of integrated systems such as the MICROS RES or other similar fully integrated solutions that offer accounting, timekeeping, order management, inventory and other applications in addition to POS.

The MICROS RES solution can use SAQ C if and only if the POS application can be logically or physically segmented from the rest of the MICROS RES applications. However, in my experience, the MICROS RES and similar applications must operate as a single, integrated solution and segmentation is not possible and therefore SAQ C cannot be used.

Another place where SAQ C cannot be used is where the franchisee is linking all of their locations together back to a corporate office. I encounter this a lot where the franchisee has multiple locations and all of those locations are on a wide area network (WAN) connected to their corporate office. Transactions may be flowing directly out from the retail locations or funneled back to corporate and then out to the transaction processor. Corporate may also be monitoring the local location networks and managing the local locations’ systems and applications.

I also encounter situations where the franchisee is connected to the franchise corporate office for the ordering of inventory and the collection of sales information. The most common occurrences of this situation is with fast food franchise operations and in the lodging industry where locations are connected to the franchise corporate networks for passing information to/from the local systems. The corporate franchise may also be managing and maintaining the franchisee systems as well as part of the franchise agreement. All of these situations also preclude the use of SAQ C.

The bottom line is that SAQ C can only be used in situations where you have a LAN-based POS and no other applications or network connectivity other than to the Internet for the sole purpose of processing transactions.

So what does a merchant do when SAQ C is not an option? Sorry, but in my humble opinion, the merchant version of SAQ D is your only option when you have an integrated POS solution on a network.

Again, as a final reminder, it really does not matter what I think as all of this is up to your acquiring bank to officially approve. I am just giving my thoughts as to how I think things should work based on my training.

07
Jan
15

SAQ A And SAQ A-EP Clarification

With the advent of SAQ A and A-EP, there seems to be confusion as to what meets what for each SAQ.  I thought I covered this rather well in my post titled ‘Of Redirects And Reposts’.  But apparently that was not clear enough.

For outsourced eCommerce solutions, the criteria from SAQ A states it can be used if and only if:

“The entirety of all payment pages delivered to the consumer’s browser originates directly from a third-party PCI DSS validated service provider(s).”

For some service providers it appears that there seems to be a lot of misunderstandings as to what constitutes “originates directly from a third party”.  A lot of processors believe that if their customers’ Web sites are not storing cardholder data (CHD) or sensitive authentication data (SAD) then they are out of scope regardless of the method used to process a customer’s payment.  What they seem to forget is that applications that process and/or transmit CHD/SAD are in-scope for PCI compliance just as those that store CHD/SAD.

For SAQ A and A-EP, the Council took their lead from Visa Europe as to what is meant by “originates directly”.  Visa Europe’s Processing eCommerce Payments guide has a great matrix that explains the difference between SAQ A and A-EP by payment processing type and merchant level.

Visa Europe SAQ A SAQ A-EP ROC Matrix

With redirects and iFrames, the merchant’s Web server never comes into contact with the CHD or SAD because the customer is communicating directly with the transaction processor’s server.  PayPal is a prime example of a redirect and meets the criteria of SAQ A.  With a direct post, JavaScript, XML or any other techniques, the merchant’s eCommerce server is at least processing and/or transmitting the CHD/SAD to the processor’s servers.  That is because there is some form of code/executable/script/etc. that is running on the merchant’s eCommerce server thus placing it directly in-scope.

Where things seem to get confusing is with processors that offer multiple methods of completing payments.  Unfortunately, it also appears to be just as confusing to the processors’ sales personnel as well.  We have encountered numerous instances where the processor’s sales people believe all of their solutions make the merchant out of scope when only the redirect/iFrame solution they have provides such a scope reduction.  All of their other solutions place the merchant directly in-scope.

The bottom line is that it is extremely important to get the transaction processor to explain how a payment is processed to determine whether your server is or is not out of scope.  Even if the sales person says the solution is an iFrame or a redirect, make sure to quiz them enough to ensure that they truly are delivering you an iFrame or redirect solution.

But a word to the wise.  Security professionals will question a merchant’s decision to not worry about the security of their eCommerce Web server because there still is a risk even with the redirect or iFrame approaches.  That risk is that the code/executable/script/etc. that invokes the redirect or iFrame on the merchant’s server gets tampered with or changed and now invokes a Web site that is not the transaction processor’s Web site.  As a result, a merchant’s customers’ CHD/SAD could be sent to Timbuktu and no one would be the wiser until goods/services are not provided due to non-payment.

As a result, security conscious merchants will, at a minimum, ensure their eCommerce servers are properly security hardened, patched current and will monitor the code/executable/script/etc. for changes.  Should a change be detected, the server would then be brought offline and fixed to ensure that transactions are properly processed.

Hopefully this provides everyone with clarity on how to use these SAQs peroperly.

One additional thing I would like to point out.  If you look at the Level 1 merchant line of the Visa Europe matrix, it shows ROC subscripted with either an ‘A’ or an ‘A-EP’.  I point this out because if you meet the criteria of either of the SAQs but are a Level 1 merchant, you can mark all of the ROC requirements not in the respective SAQ as ‘Not Applicable’ and only provide testing evidence for those requirements in the relevant SAQ.

15
Nov
14

Security Or Checking A Box?

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln

What is your organization interested in?  Security or checking a box?

Not surprisingly, most people answer “security” and then go on to prove with their actions and words that they are only interested in checking a box.

For all of you out there that argue ad nausea about the meaning of PCI DSS testing requirements and the requisite documentation are interested in one thing and one thing only; checking a box.  I am not talking about the few that have honest differences of opinion on a few of the requirements and how a QSA is interpreting them and assessing them.  I am talking about those of you that fight constantly with your QSA or acquiring bank on the process as a whole.

If you were to step back and listen to your arguments, you would hear someone that is splitting hairs in a vain attempt to avoid having to do something that would improve your organization’s security posture.  In essence, you want to only be judged PCI compliant, not actually be secure.

To add insult to injury, these are also typically the people that argue the most vehemently over the fact that the PCI DSS is worthless because it does not make an organization secure.  Wow!  Want to have your cake and eat it too!  Sorry, but you cannot have it both ways.

Everyone, including the Council, has been very clear that the PCI DSS is a bare minimum for security, not the “be all to end all” for securing an organization.  Organizations must go beyond the PCI DSS to actually be secure.  This where these people and their organizations get stumped because they cannot think beyond the standard.  Without a detailed road map, they are totally and utterly lost.  And heaven forbid they should pay a consultant for help.

But I am encountering a more insidious side to all of this.  As you listen to the arguments, a lot of you arguing about PCI compliance appear to have no interest in breaking a sweat and doing the actual work that is required.  More and more I find only partially implemented security tools, only partially implemented monitoring and only partially implemented controls.  And when you dig into it as we must do with the PCI assessment process, it becomes painfully obvious that when it got hard is when the progress stopped.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.” Jimmy Duggan – A League Of Their Own

Security guru Bruce Schneier was speaking at a local ISSA meeting recently and when asked about why security is not being addressed better he stated that one of the big reasons is that it is hard and complex at times to secure our technology.  And he is right, security is hard.  It is hard because of our poor planning, lack of inclusion, pick the reason and I am sure there is some truth to it.  But he went on to say that it is not going to get any easier any time soon.  Yes, we will get better tools, but the nature of what we have built and implemented will still make security hard.  We need to admit it will be hard and not sugar coat that fact to management.

Management also needs to clearly understand as well that security is not perfect.  The analogy I like to use is banks.  I point out to people the security around banks.  They have one or more vaults with time locks.  They have video cameras.  They have dye packs in teller drawers.  Yet, banks still get robbed.  But, the banks only stock their teller drawers with a minimal amount of money so the robber can only get a few thousand dollars in one robbery.  Therefore to be successful, a robber has to rob many banks to make a living which increases the likelihood they will get caught.  We need to do the same thing with information security and recognize that breaches will still occur, but because we have controls in place that minimizes the amount or type of information they can obtain.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” David Hannum

Finally, there is the neglected human element.  It is most often neglected because security people are not people, people.  A lot of people went into information security so that they did not have to interact a lot with people – they wanted to play with the cool tools.  Read the Verizon, Trustwave, etc. breach analysis reports and time and again, the root cause of a breach comes down to human error, not a flaw in one of our cool tools.  Yet what do we do about human error?  Little to nothing.  The reason being that supposedly security awareness training does not work.  Security awareness training does not work because we try to achieve success only doing it once per year not continuously.

To prove a point, I often ask people how long it took them to get their spouse, partner or friend to change a bad habit of say putting the toilet seat down or not using a particular word or phrase.  Never in my life have I ever gotten a response of “immediately”, “days” or “months”, it has always been measured in “years”.  And you always get comments about the arguments over the constant harping about changing the habit.  So why would any rational person think that a single annual security awareness event is going to be successful in changing any human habits?  It is the continuous discussion of security awareness that results in changes in people’s habits.

Not that you have to harp or drone on the topic, but you must keep it in the forefront of people’s mind.  The discussion must be relevant and explain why a particular issue is occurring, what the threat is trying to accomplish and then what the individual needs to do to avoid becoming a victim.  If your organization operates retail outlets, explaining a banking scam to your clerks is pointless.  However, explaining that there is now a flood of fraudulent coupons being generated and how to recognize phony coupons is a skill that all retail clerks need to know.

  • Why are fraudulent coupons flooding the marketplace? Because people need to reduce expenses and they are using creative ways to accomplish that including fraudulent ways.
  • What do the fraudulent coupons do to our company? People using fraudulent coupons are stealing from our company.  When we submit fraudulent coupons to our suppliers for reimbursement, they reject them and we are forced to absorb that as a loss.
  • What can you do to minimize our losses? Here are the ways to identify a fraudulent coupon.  [Describe the characteristics of a fraudulent coupon]  When in doubt, call the store manager for assistance.

Every organization I know has more than enough issues that make writing these sorts of messages easy to come up with a topic at least once a week.  Information security personnel need to work with their organization’s Loss Prevention personnel to identify those issues and then write them up so that all employees can act to prevent becoming victims.

Those of you closet box checkers need to give it up.  You are doing your organizations a huge disservice because you are not advancing information security; you are advancing a check in a box.

11
Sep
14

2014 North American PCI Community Meeting

Another year has come and gone and so has another PCI Community Meeting.  There were a number of interesting events at this year’s meeting.  Some I will cover here and some I still have to digest and determine what they really mean.

Good Bye Bob

This year’s meeting is the last one for the PCI SSC’s current General Manager, Bob Russo.  Over the years, Bob has been a good sport and has been a cowboy and other characters.  This year’s community meeting was no exception.  At Wednesday night’s networking event, Bob showed up as Gene Simmons’ brother decked out in silver colored platform boots, black tights, leopard spotted top, long black hair and doing his best to show off his tongue.

A lot of us over the years have pilloried Bob for various edicts and clarifications as he was the leader of the Council.  However, if we step back, Bob got the PCI SSC off the ground and took on the thankless task of combining the disparate security standards of the five card brands and giving us the common set of standards we have today.  As well as then asking us to do our best to ensure that those standards were followed.

Even though I have been critical at times of Bob, he has always been pleasant and cheerful to me and others at the community meetings and other events where he was present.  Bob recognized that there are always some of us in the crowd that are very passionate about security and tried to assist us in channeling that passion.

Bob stated that he will be doing a “Goodbye Tour” to the other community meetings this year, so make sure to thank him for his efforts, shake his hand and say your goodbyes at whatever meeting you are able to attend.

P2PE v2

The first versions of P2PE were lambasted for being pointless and the number of solutions certified, now at six, has somewhat proven that the newest of the PCI standards needed some work.  As a result, in November 2014 we will receive version 2 of the P2PE standard.  According to people I spoke with at the meeting that have seen the new version, the new standard should be much better. Is it perfect, no. But it supposedly is a better version than the originals.

The most notable change to the standard is the approach the Council has taken.  Based on the presentation made, they seem to abandoning the complete end to end model and are moving to a component approach based on how the solution will be implemented.

But the huge change to the standard is that a certified P2PE solution can be managed by a merchant without a third party.  That is, merchants can manage the encryption keys.

It will be interesting to see just how much the standard has changed since its last iteration only a year ago.  But most of all, it will be interesting to see how the new implementation approaches will work.

SAQs

The biggest clarification to come out of the community meeting on SAQs is the Council’s and card brands’ endorsement of using multiple SAQs for documenting compliance with the PCI standard versus doing an SAQ D.

This situation occurs when a merchant has multiple payment channels such as with merchants that have retail stores using traditional card terminals (SAQ B or B-IP) and an eCommerce presence that is outsourced (SAQ A or A-EP).

The other area of discussion that seemed to cause a bit of a stir was related to Web sites that use redirects or iFrames for payment processing.  The reason for this contention is the result of claims from vendors of these sorts of payment solutions in the past that claimed that their solutions placed merchants out of scope for PCI as it related to their eCommerce operation.

Ever since the issuance of the eCommerce information supplement in January 2013 and with the recent issuance by Visa of their eCommerce guidance, the outsourcing world has been buzzing about the implications.  Merchants of course have been going back to their eCommerce outsourcers and complaining about the fact that their eCommerce is no longer out of scope.

Reliance On Other’s Work

My final comment will be related to a question I asked at the Open Forum session on Wednesday.  We have been getting push back from our larger clients on our limited use of their internal audit work, SSAE 16 reports, ISO 27K audits and similar work, if we used it at all.  The driver is that clients want to minimize the amount of disruption to their personnel by all of the audits and assessments that are occurring these days.  This prompted me to ask the question at the Open Forum as to the Council’s advice on reliance on other auditor’s work to reduce sampling.

The answer I received was, “No, absolutely not.”  Quickly followed by, “Of course, I mean other auditors, not other QSAs and PA-QSAs.”

This blunt answer apparently shocked the audience as the people on stage reacted to that shock as well.  The people onstage then backed off saying that the Council would have to take the issue back and discuss it.

After asking this question I was approached by a number of people thanking me for bringing up the topic.  The bottom line is that organizations are audited and assessed out.  Most feel like one audit/assessment ends and another one begins.  But the truly annoying thing is that there are certain portions of all of these audits/assessment that cover the same ground over and over and over again such as with physical security, access controls and end user management.  Handled properly, it would not eliminate all testing, but it would definitely reduce the amount of testing and also reduce sample sizes.

But a very telling comment came from a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) who told me that the AICPA has repeatedly tried to meet with members of the PCI SSC to discuss the SSAE 16 standard and how it could be used to reduce a QSA’s work only to be rebuffed by the Council.

Organizations would be more willing to go through PCI assessments if work done by their internal auditors as well as outside auditors could be leveraged to simplify their lives, not complicate them.  This will only become more important as the Council pushes organizations to adopt business as usual (BAU).

If I had one important take away for the Council to work on, it would be to work with other standards bodies such as the AICPA, ISO, FFIEC and the like and work toward providing guidance to organizations on how to use internal and external audit reports.

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.




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February 2023
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