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How to Implement the PCI DSS Compliance Framework

By January 26, 2022January 28th, 2022No Comments9 min read
PCI DSS Compliance Framework

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard or PSI DSS is a compliance framework. It is applicable to companies that are storing the card data of their customers. This standard will ensure that you are properly protecting your customer data. The framework is administered by the PCI SSC or PCI Security Standard Council. This council was founded by leading companies like Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express. However, this framework is not enforced by governments. Still, the credit card companies can fine you if you are not following the PCI DSS compliance.

Who needs to follow the PCI DSS compliance?

PCI DSS is applicable to all organizations including processors, banks, developers, banks, merchants, and more. If you are storing, processing, or transmitting cardholder data, then you need to follow this compliance. There is also a set threshold of minimum annual transactions that you need to meet. Every founding member of PCI SSC has its own compliance program. The main aim of these programs is to protect cardholder data.

How to implement the PCI DSS Compliance Framework?

PCI DSS compliance framework has 6 primary or main goals. There are 12 different requirements that you need to follow. You need to follow these requirements:

  1. Install and maintain a firewall

You should ensure that you are maintaining a secure network. This can be done by installing and maintaining a firewall. Properly configured firewalls will help you in protecting your card data. Firewalls will help you in restricting incoming and outgoing traffic by using rules and criteria. These rules will be configured by your IT security team.

The firewall will act as the first layer of protection. Organizations should establish router and firewall standards. This will ensure that you are following a standardized approach for denying or allowing access to your network. You need to review these configuration rules bi-annually. Make sure that you are not allowing insecure access to your network.

  1. Don’t use default system passwords

This point mainly focuses on improving the security of your organization’s systems like firewalls, wireless access points, network devices, applications, and servers. Most of the OS and devices will come with factory default settings like passwords and usernames. The other configuration parameters will also be known to everyone. Attackers don’t even need to guess these passwords and usernames. They can directly check the internet for default passwords.

According to the PCI DSS framework, these passwords are not allowed. You need to use strict passwords for protecting your network. This requirement also asks companies to maintain an IT inventory. You need to add systems whenever they are added to your IT infrastructure.

  1. Protect stored data

This is the most important point or requirement of the PCI DSS framework. According to this, you should know where all the data is stored. You should also know the retention period of data. All the cardholder data must be encrypted. You can use industry-accepted algorithms like RSA and AES-256 for encrypting your data. Algorithms like SHA 256 and PBKDF2 will help you in hashing your data. This requirement is not focused on card data encryption only. It also talks about how a good PCI DSS encryption management process can help you in protecting your data.

Many times merchants or service providers are storing unencrypted data in their databases. Thus, it is important to use tools like credit card discovery for discovering credit cards. The common locations where credit card data is present are spreadsheets, databases, and log files. According to this requirement, you should also check how you are displaying the primary account numbers. For example, you should only display the last 4 and first 6 digits.

  1. Encrypt transmission of data

This requirement is similar to requirement 3. You should ensure that you are encrypting the card data when you are transmitting it over a public or open network like the Internet, CDMA, GSM, and Bluetooth. Make sure that you know where you are sending and receiving the data. The card data is generally transmitted through a payment gateway or processor for processing online transactions.

Attackers can access cardholder data when they are transmitting data over public networks. You should encrypt cardholder data before you transmit it. Make sure that you are using secure transmission protocols like SSH and TSL. This will help you in limiting the probability of your data getting compromised.

  1. Use anti-virus programs or software

This requirement focuses on protecting your system from malware. All systems like mobile devices, laptops, and workstations that your employee has must be protected. You should have an anti-virus solution for protecting your devices. Make sure that you are maintaining up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware for preventing known viruses and malware from infecting systems.

You should ensure that the anti-virus mechanisms are using the latest signatures and are active. Make sure that you are generating auditable logs. Antivirus solutions will help you in protecting your systems from attackers.

  1. Develop secure systems

You should ensure that you are defining and implementing a process that will help you in identifying security vulnerabilities. Make sure that you are also classifying the system vulnerabilities according to the risk level. Organizations should focus on limiting the potential for exploits. This can be done by deploying critical patches at the correct time.

Patch all systems like Operating systems, application software, firewalls, switches, routers, and databases. This will ensure that your card data environment is secure. According to this requirement, you should define and implement a process that will help you in protecting your system. The security requirements should be applied to every phase of development.

  1. Restrict access to credit card data

You should implement strong access control procedures for protecting your network. Merchants and service providers should allow or deny access to sensitive data like credit cardholder data systems. You need to implement RBAC or Role-based access control for protecting your systems. This will help you in granting access to systems and card data.

RBAC is a very basic concept of PCI DSS. Access control systems must check every request. This will help you in preventing exposure of important data to other users who don’t need access to this information. Make sure that you have a list of all the users. You should mention the role, expected privilege level, and current privilege level of these users.

  1. Assign UID to every user

According to this requirement, you should never use group or shared users and passwords. Make sure that every user has access to a unique ID and password. This will help you in tracking the activity of known users. Thus, it will help you in maintaining the accountability of users. Two-factor authorization should be used for all non-console admin access.

  1. Restrict physical access to sensitive data

This requirement mainly focuses on protecting physical access to systems. You need to focus on protecting the devices where you are storing the cardholder data. If you are not using physical access controls, then unauthorized users can gain access to your cardholder’s data. They can steal or destroy this data.

You should use devices like video cameras and electronic access control for protecting your data. These devices will help you in controlling the entry and exit doors of your data center and other physical locations. You should retain the access logs and recordings for at least 90 days. Make sure that you are implementing an access process that will help you in distinguishing between employees and authorized visitors. All portable or removable media that contains the cardholder data should be protected. You should delete all the media when you don’t need it.

  1. Track all access to cardholder data and network resources

The vulnerabilities in the wireless and physical network will make it easy for attackers to steal your credit card data. According to this requirement, you should use the correct audit policy set. Make sure that you are sending the logs to a central server. You should review your logs daily for checking the suspicious and anomalies activities.

SIEM or Security and monitoring tools will help you in logging network and system activities. You can use these tools for monitoring logs. They will also look for suspicious activity in your network. According to the PCI DSS framework, you should also ensure that the audit trail records are meeting the standards. Time synchronization is another thing that you should focus on. Make sure that you are securing the audit data. This data should be maintained for at least one year.

  1. Test security processes and systems

Attackers are always looking for new vulnerabilities. These new vulnerabilities are discovered by researchers and malicious individuals. Thus, you should ensure that you are regularly testing all the systems and processes. This should be done on a frequent basis. Make sure that you are regularly maintaining the security of your devices.

You should use a wireless analyzer for scanning your network. This will help you in identifying and detecting all the unauthorized and authorized wireless access points. Make sure that you are doing this on a quarterly basis. You should scan all the external domains and IPs by using a PCI-approved scanning vendor.

A vulnerability assessment should be done. You can use vulnerability scanners for finding vulnerabilities in your network. Make sure that you are performing penetration testing for testing these vulnerabilities. All external domains and IPs should go through network penetration and application penetration test. This should be done after every significant change. Also, you should ensure that you are doing this at least once a year.

File monitoring is another thing that you should focus on. Your system should do file comparisons every week. This will help you in detecting changes that sometimes go unnoticed.

  1. Create and maintain a security policy

This is the final requirement of PCI DSS compliance. It is dedicated to the main PCI DSS goals of creating and implementing an IT security policy. You should maintain this information security policy for all parties and employees. Make sure that you are reviewing this security policy once every year. This should be followed by all the vendors, contractors, and employees. Your users should also read the policy. They should also acknowledge your security information policy.

According to this requirement, you should perform a formal risk assessment. This will help you in identifying critical threats, vulnerabilities, and assets. You should also conduct user awareness training. This will ensure that your users can protect themselves from phishing attacks. Employee background checks are also important. This will help you in protecting your business from insider attacks. Incident management is another important part of PCI DSS compliance. Thus, you should ensure that you are following all these guidelines.

These requirements are reviewed by a QSA. They will be verified properly. It is difficult to follow the PCI DSS compliance. Thus, you should focus on implementing the best IT security strategy. This will help you in protecting your business from attackers.

Conclusion

PCI DSS compliance is a very important framework for businesses. If you are storing or processing cardholder data, then you need to follow this compliance. However, most companies find it difficult to follow this framework. This is a difficult framework to maintain. However, the benefits are worth it. Companies need to focus on complying with PCI DSS compliance as it can help you in protecting your sensitive data. If you are not following this compliance, then you might need to deal with legal troubles in the future.

The best way to achieve the PCI DSS framework is by working with a good MSP. Experienced MSPs like Bleuwire can help you in protecting your network and data from attackers. Bleuwire will help you in creating an IT security strategy for your business. This will ensure that you are following the requirements of the PCI DSS framework. They will help you in following all the requirements that are mentioned in this article. You don’t need to worry about implementing all these security solutions. Bleuwire will help you in protecting both your sensitive data and applications from the attacker. If you need more information regarding IT Security services, then you can contact Bleuwire.

Contact us today to learn about Bleuwire™  services and solutions in how we can help your business.

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