PCI DSS 2.0 is out!

Shailesh Athalye

Last updated on: March 21, 2021

The PCI SSC today released a new version  (2.0) of the Data Security Standards. The previous version  1.2.1 was released July 2009. I attended the PCI council community  meetings in September and October where the council went over the  changes with the key stake holders in the process. While the change from  1.x to 2.0 might seem like a big change, in reality most of the changes  are minor clarifications or some additional guidance. The council has  settled on a 3 year update cycle to the DSS and seems like the major  version of DSS with will revved up every three years so expect PCI DSS  3.0 in October 2013. This does show that the standards have matured  enough now that major changes are not required regularly.
The council also talked about the work they are doing to look at  emerging technologies like end-to-end encryption, tokenization and  virtualization. You will see that some of the changes in this version  already reflect recognition of the new technologies and I am sure more  updates will be coming in these areas. The SSC now has a dedicated Chief  Technology Officer who is actively working to make sure the DSS stays  in step with rapid changes in technology.

The key dates associated with the new requirements are

  • October 28, 2010 – PCI DSS 2.0 published. Merchants get the opportunity  to go through the new requirements. The council also updated the  Navigating DSS guide and relevant changes to the Self Assessment  Questionnaires (SAQ)
  • January 1, 2011 – PCI DSS 2.0 becomes effective. Merchants can chose  to validate compliance against version 2.0 or 1.2.1 after this date.  Remember that merchants can’t mix and match some requirements from 1.2.1  and some from 2.0
  • December 31, 2011 – PCI DSS 1.2.1 is retired and can no longer be used to validate compliance against.

Essentially for all of 2011 you can use either version as long as you are fully done with your assessment before end of 2011 if you decide to use 1.2.1

Of the various changes in the DSS the following really peaked my interest …
Requirement 6.2 : Assign risk ranking to vulnerabilities (Internal scanning)
    DSS requires merchants to have a vulnerability management program in  place to identify and fix vulnerabilities discovered in the cardholder  data environment (CDE). With 1.2.1 the merchants were required to patch  and rescan internal networks until ‘passing results are obtained’. This  was a bit unclear as to what exactly a ‘passing result’ is and did not  account for the criticality of the systems within the CDE. Now the SSC  is going to require that merchants come up with a risk ranking for these  vulnerabilities based on industry best practices like CVSS. At minimum  there should be process in place to make critical high risk  vulnerabilities as “HIGH”. In simple terms you should look at how  critical is the impact of the vulnerability itself and does it appear on  a critical component in your CDE. A low severity vulnerability on your  database storing cards might be HIGH and a high severity vulnerability  on a backend router might be a LOW.

     While the council has left it open for merchants and assessors  to agree upon which scoring methodology to use, in reality I expect  most merchants to use CVSS 2.0 scoring with its base, temporal and  environmental components to decide what is HIGH. While this does put an  extra burden on the merchant, the good news is that once you have the  process in place you only need to fix the HIGH vulnerabilities to pass  validation for 11.2 internal scanning requirement. While it is still  recommended to fix all vulnerabilities this at least helps prioritize the  work load.

     Note that this is a requirement after June 30, 2012. Recognizing the  extra work needed to put process in place the council has given this  extra time. Till then this is a best practice and you can chose to  follow what is currently in 1.2.1.

     It’s important to remember is that this  scoring and fixing requirement does not apply to 11.2 external scanning  to be performed by ASV every quarter. All vulnerabilities identified by  ASV as failing PCI must be remediated within that quarter and rescanned  till ASV passes the merchant.

Requirement 2.2.1 Virtualization and one primary function per server

      In DSS 1.2.1 the requirement was to implement only one primary function  per server. e.g. Not implement web server function and database server  function on same ‘server’. It was not clear in a virtualized environment  if two virtual machines (VMs)

running on the same physical hardware box was considered as two primary functions per ‘server’. Now in 2.0 the council makes it easy by saying that in virtualized environments you can have multiple VMs on same physical box as long as each image implements one primary function. So you can have a VM for a webserver and a VM for a database server running side by side but you can’t have one VM with a webserver and database  server on the same image. This should definitely accelerate the use of  virtualization in PCI CDE since clarity for compliance was an issue that  was holding back the adoption of virtualization.

Requirement 6.5 Secure application development best practices

     DSS 2.0 is not tied to OWASP guidelines anymore. There is now room to  use other industry best practices like OWASP, CWE Top 25, CERT Secure  Coding, etc.

Requirement 1.3.5 Outbound traffic from CDE to IPs outside DMZ
     Language in DSS 1.2.1 seemed to indicate that there was no room to have  any outbound connection from CDE to ips outside DMZ even of legitimate  reasons like transmitting encrypted information from one network to  another over SSL port 443. DSS 2.0 says merchants can have outbound  access open as long as there is legitimate reason and the access has  been explicitly authorized by the merchant.

Requirement 4.1.1 WEP as security control

     DSS 1.2.1  indicated there should be no WEP in the CDE at all after June 30, 2010.  But DSS 2.0 has modified the language to say mere presence of WEP in CDE  does not fail you as long as the WEP is not used as the security  control. You can have WEP in the CDE as  long as it is considered like an open wire. This means you need to have  another level of encryption to protect data sent across a WEP  connection, it can’t be plain text because you have WEP. e.g. sending data over SSL on a WEP wireless connection would seem to be ok.

Requirement 8.3 Use of two-factor authentication

      You might find it funny but some merchants were using the same authentication method twice, and folks that is NOT two-factor authentication. Having two different passwords is NOT two-factor authentication. To illustrate that think of a stealth key logger installed on your computer that will be able to steal both your passwords to login and steal data. Because of this,  the council makes it clear you need to have TWO different methods of the following implemented. 1) Something you know, like a password. 2) Something you have, like a token or smart card 3) Something you are like biometric data.

All in all we see the number of merchants adopting PCI increasing.  The council has done a great job at being reactive and responsive, in  an open community based effort, to get the standards to a mature state.  Now they are attempting to stay ahead of the curve with new technologies  in a dedicated effort working with industry leaders. Ultimately we  expect DSS 2.0 to help merchants improve the security of their PCI  networks while providing flexibility with their compliance efforts given  the many different implementations that are out there.

Please post your thoughts on the new version … what do you think?

** The views expressed in this blog are a reflection of the author’s  thoughts on this topic. They should not be considered an authoritative  interpretation of the new or old DSS for purpose of compliance.

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