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PCI-DSS And Least Privilege

Posted August 8, 2011    Peter McCalister

The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) is a set of comprehensive requirements for enhancing payment account data security in an effort to thwart the theft of sensitive cardholder information. The core group of requirements is as follows:

-Build and Maintain a Secure Network
-Protect Cardholder Data
-Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program
-Implement Strong Access Control Measures
-Regularly Monitor and Test Networks Maintain an Information Security Policy

On October 28, 2010, the PCI Security Standards Council unveiled version 2.0 of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). PCI DSS has not had an update since version 1.2 in October 2008. The recent “Summary of Changes” document released by the PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) covers the proposed changes in version 2.0, and as experts expected, few alterations were made between the summary and the final release.

However, one important area to note in the new version is in the PCI DSS Intro and Various Requirements section. In this section, the focus is on virtualization, and though minor, it expands the definition of system components to include virtual components. This addition should alert enterprises to begin assessing their security policies to virtual servers and desktops in their IT environment.

Organizations moving their physical server infrastructure onto virtual platforms for cost savings are finding their virtual hosts and guests are now open to new security and non-compliance risks. Attaining Least Privilege User posture in virtualized desktop and server environments is challenging and customers are consistently forced to make compromises on security in favor of cost-savings.

Remember, the PCI DSS has never been a compliance program. It is a standard baseline for assessing compliance that the five major card brands (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and JCB) agreed to use as the foundation for their actual, individual compliance programs. At the end of the day, each of the five major card brands still retains final say on compliance and can implement their own compliance requirements over and above the PCI DSS (and PA DSS) when or if they see fit.

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