PCI DSS 3.0 went into effect Jan. 1. Are you in compliance?

There are many changes, and some companies may not realize they are now out of sync

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

The new Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard 3.0 (PCI DSS 3.0) that became mandatory January 1 contains significant changes that will require some businesses to do heavier lifting than they did in years past, and many may not realize it.

Certain e-commerce merchants who re-direct their customers to third parties for payment card data collection and third party service providers who remotely manage merchant systems and networks now face a bevy of technical controls that they have never dealt with before.

PCI DSS compliance can be a difficult process for e-commerce merchants. Many payment gateways, hosting companies, web developers and processors have stepped in to lend a hand in lessening the burden for overwhelmed merchants. Through version 2.0 of the PCI DSS, if merchants fully outsourced their e-commerce payments via a redirect payment company, their web environment was out of scope for the standard meaning they did not need to go through the compliance process for their e-commerce website.

However, under the PCI DSS 3.0, in certain redirect scenarios (particularly those employing client-side scripts and direct posts), merchants will be faced with more than one hundred security controls that include firewalls, vulnerability scanning, penetration testing and more - even if their website never touches a payment card number. While the change entails more time and money spent on compliance with the PCI DSS, it is a positive step to enhancing payment card security because of the following:

Outsourcing point-of-sale, network and system management to a third party service provider is a popular route for retailers, restaurants and many other industries. However, if the provider does not adhere to best security practices, it could open the door to criminals (as we have seen in some of the recent breaches). To help strengthen security among third party service providers, the PCI DSS 3.0 requires all providers clearly articulate which PCI DSS controls they will address and which are left to the merchant. The change will provide more transparency for merchants so that they can make educated decisions when working with an external partner.

The standard also now requires third party service providers to use a unique password for each merchant they remotely connect to and deploy two factor authentication for those connections. We recommend merchants ask for proof that these new controls are in place. Service providers are a popular target for hackers because so many have a cookie-cutter approach to data and system management. Open the door to one site and you may have just picked the locks to hundreds of other locations.

For e-commerce merchants and third party service providers, the changes required in the PCI DSS 3.0 may be more labor-intensive, but for the business community as a whole, they should help bolster security. It is critical, however, to keep in mind that PCI DSS compliance is a baseline for security. Businesses should first identify where their valuable data lives and moves and then implement security technologies and services designed to protect those attack vectors.

By focusing on securing their environment first and foremost, businesses should inherently become compliant and maintain compliancy. That's the best way to stay ahead of the criminals.

Greg Rosenberg is Security Engineer at Trustwave.

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