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5 PCI Best Practices That Are Now Requirements


Tuesday is deadline day for organizations that store, process or transmit payment card data.

June 30 marks the retirement of PCI DSS 3.0, whose departure makes way for version 3.1, which was implemented to respond to a spate of high-profile vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed and Shellshock. The updated version requires that businesses scrap use of any vulnerable versions of SSL or TLS and deploy strong cryptography. They will have 14 months to comply with the changes.

More urgently, five "best practices" from version 3.0 become mandatory today.

Here is what you need to be doing, starting now:

Add protection to in-store point-of-sale (POS) devices: Businesses must maintain a list of POS devices and periodically inspect them for tampering or substitution. They must also train employees to spot any red flags of suspicious behavior and to report tampering or substitution of the devices. This requirement helps businesses flag if a POS device has been compromised - a steadily popular form of attack - and understand what actions to take so that any damage is minimized.

Implement a pen test methodology: Businesses must conduct penetration testing that covers the entire card data environment, as well as validate any segmentation and scope-reduction controls. The standard also specifies what application-layer and network-layer tests should include. The requirement encourages businesses to check their segmentation more carefully and reduce scope.

Verify that broken authentication and session management are addressed: Businesses must ensure they are preventing unauthorized individuals from compromising legitimate account credentials, keys or session tokens by examining software development policies and procedures. This includes flagging session tokens, such as cookies, as secure; avoiding exposing session IDs in the URL; and incorporating appropriate timeouts and rotation of session IDs after a successful login. The 2015 Trustwave Global Security Report found that 28 percent of breaches resulted from weak passwords.

Use a unique authentication credential for each customer: To prevent the compromise of multiple businesses through the use of a single set of credentials, third-party providers with remote access accounts to business environments must use a different authentication credential for each. According to the 2015 Trustwave Global Security Report, another 28 percent of breaches resulted from weak remote access security.

Acknowledge to customers that they are responsible for the security of cardholder data (service providers only): This confirms their commitment to maintaining proper security of cardholder data that they obtain from business partners. It also promotes a consistent level of understanding between service providers and their customers about their PCI DSS responsibilities.


While the new changes should help businesses better protect their valuable information, it's critical to keep in mind that the PCI DSS is merely a baseline. Organizations must flip the compliance model on its head - making sure their data is secure first, so that they inherently become compliant.

They can achieve that goal by identifying where their valuable data lives and moves, implementing security controls to protect that data, and continuously scanning and testing their assets to identify and remediate security vulnerabilities.

Remember: Security is a journey, not a destination.

 UPDATE (Jan. 19, 2016): The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) announced in December that it is extending the migration completion date to June 30, 2018 for transitioning from SSL and TLS 1.0 communication protocols to a secure version of TLS (currently v1.1 or higher). The new date of June 2018 (replacing the June 2016 deadline) offers additional time to migrate to the more secure protocols, but waiting is not recommended.

Don Brooks is a senior security engineer at Trustwave.