Category: PCI-DSS (Page 1 of 19)

What the FIM is going on

If you have been doing PCI-DSS for some years, you have probably come across this term called FIM (File Integrity Montioring), which sometimes absolutely befuddles our customers. They generally think this is part of a wider SIEM or SOAR solution but not necessarily so. We’ll explore a little on why FIM is important, how it impacts PCI-DSS, some examples on configuration and what alternatives are there (if any). Here we go!

File Integrity Monitoring is the process of validating the integrity of operating system and application software files. It ensures that files have not been altered or compromised, whether maliciously or accidentally.

  1. Detecting Unauthorized Changes: FIM helps in detecting unauthorized changes to critical system files, configurations, and content files. These changes could be indicative of a breach, malware infection, or insider threat.
  2. Compliance Requirements: Many regulatory standards, such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and SOX, require FIM as part of their compliance criteria. It ensures that sensitive data is protected and that the integrity of the system is maintained.
  3. Preventing Data Breaches: By monitoring file changes, FIM can provide early warning signs of a potential data breach. It allows organizations to take proactive measures to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.
  4. Enhancing Forensic Analysis: FIM provides detailed logs of file changes, aiding in forensic analysis. It helps in understanding the nature of an attack, the affected files, and the potential impact.

Let’s pause for now and see if common Antivirus/antimalware can take over this compliance requirement without deploying a specific FIM. Why? Because all companies generally have some sort of anti-virus running in their systems and all companies are stingy in their compliance spending, so part of our job is to see if current technology can be sufficient to address compliance requirements. The difference between Anti virus and FIM boils down to the reason of their existence, their meaning to life and everything. Its 42!

While FIM focuses on monitoring the integrity of files, antivirus and antimalware solutions are designed to detect and remove malicious software.

  • Antivirus: Primarily targets known viruses and relies on signature-based detection. It may not detect unauthorized changes to files unless they are associated with a known virus signature.
  • Antimalware: Broader in scope, antimalware solutions target various malicious software, including viruses, spyware, and ransomware. Like antivirus, it may not detect subtle unauthorized file changes.

FIM complements these solutions by providing an additional layer of security, focusing on the integrity of files rather than just malicious content.

FIM also differs from Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) solutions. That being said, its common that these systems are bundled along with FIM solutions so while it’s possible that SIEM may have FIM, it might not be true that FIM has SIEM. They are like, maybe a dysfunctional family who sometimes get together over Chinese New Year reunions.

  • SIEM: SIEM solutions collect and analyze log data from various sources to provide real-time analysis of security alerts. While SIEM can include FIM as a component, it encompasses a broader range of security monitoring functions.
  • SOAR: SOAR solutions focus on automating and orchestrating security operations. They help in coordinating various security tools and processes. Unlike FIM, which is more focused on file integrity, SOAR aims to streamline security operations and response.

FIM makes its appearance in PCI-DSS v4.0 in requirement 10, specifically 10.2, 10.3,10.4,10.5,10.7 and further on in 11.5, 12.10 and A3.5.1.

In 10.2, PCI basically wants FIM to be part of the logging requirements in terms of what to capture, retention, response and so on. Make sure your FIM is configured to monitor the critical files, and the details of the FIM logs has user and process details, who is responsible for the change event and captured in real time. Ensure alerts are generated for change events by privileged accounts which can be further correlated to create an automated incident. Also, make sure changes to log file security settings or removal of log files triggers real time alerts, with exhaustive event details. All creation and deletion activities are captured as well, and all event details must be as per 10.2.2 for the FIM log files.

10.3.4 makes specific mention of FIM but there is some confusion to this requirement ” File integrity monitoring or change-detection mechanisms is used on audit logs to ensure that existing log data cannot be changed without generating alerts. “. Obviously if you try to monitor for changes in a log file and alert everytime that file is changed, your SIEM or SOAR will light up like Christmas. Because of the nature of log files, it is supposed to change! So to avoid the noise, ensure log files are monitored for changes in security settings, like permissions or ownership. If a log file is deleted, that is also an anomaly. And for those logs that are archived or digitally signed, if any changes are made to these, then your FIM should be able to detect it.

Requirement 11 doesn’t change much for V4.0 — it is the main portion for FIM in 11.5.2 and it remains pretty much the same. Requirement 12.10.5 does provide an explicit requirement to include FIM alerts into incident management and response. But you know that already, right?

There are plenty of FIM solutions out there. The common ones we see is OSSEC which is deployed together with Alienvault previously. Tripwire is also a well known name in the FIM arena. If you want to explore the inbuilt Linux version of FIM, auditd might be worth your time. For those unfamiliar with auditd, it’s a component that provides auditing functionality for the Linux kernel. It’s widely used for security monitoring, system troubleshooting, and compliance reporting. Configuring auditd might be intimidating to some at first, but here’s some rules to get you started, found in this link

In summary, it covers the following areas (config has been omitted in this article, you can go to the site to get the details)

  1. User Access Linking (10.1): Implicitly met by the audit system.
  2. User Access to Cardholder Data (10.2.1): Requires a watch on the database, excluding daemon access. (Path to the database must be specified.)
  3. Logging Administrative Actions (10.2.2): Enable tty logging for su and sudo. Special cases for systemd-run and pkexec are included.
  4. Monitoring Privilege Escalation Configuration (10.2.2): Watches changes to /etc/sudoers and /etc/sudoers.d/.
  5. Access to Audit Trails (10.2.3): Monitors access to /var/log/audit/ and specific audit commands.
  6. Invalid Logical Access Attempts (10.2.4): Naturally met by PAM.
  7. Logging of Identification & Authentication (I&A) Mechanisms (10.2.5.a): Handled by PAM.
  8. Logging of Privilege Elevation (10.2.5.b): Monitors specific syscalls related to privilege elevation.
  9. Logging Account Changes (10.2.5.c): Watches changes to account-related files like /etc/group, /etc/passwd, etc.
  10. Time Data Protection (10.4.2b): Places rules to check time synchronization.
  11. Securing Audit Trails (10.5): Includes various measures to protect audit logs, limit viewing, prevent unauthorized modifications, back up files, and monitor log modifications.

So, there you go. Lastly, though since PCI v4.0 came out, the council seem to have made distinction of change detection mechanisms vs File integrity monitoring, stating that FIM is part of CDM, sort of like a subset. I suppose this gives a little more leeway for companies to implement other types of CDM other than FIM, although FIM is probably the only one that can address all the above requirements comprehensively and without any need for compensating controls. But just for some ideas, the below may be a list of other CDMs that can possibly address the FIM functionalities in part, automated or manual:

  1. Version Control Systems: These systems track changes to files and code within a development environment. They allow developers to see what was changed, who changed it, and why. Tools like Git, Subversion, and Mercurial are examples of version control systems that provide change detection.
  2. Database Monitoring Tools: These tools monitor changes to database schemas, configurations, and content. They can alert administrators to unauthorized alterations, additions, or deletions within the database. Tools like Redgate SQL Monitor or Oracle Audit Vault are examples.
  3. Configuration Management Tools: Configuration management tools like Ansible, Puppet, and Chef can detect changes in system configurations. They ensure that systems are consistently configured according to predefined policies and can alert administrators to unauthorized changes.
  4. Network Anomaly Detection Systems: These systems monitor network behavior and alert to changes that may indicate a security threat. They can detect changes in traffic patterns, unusual login attempts, or alterations to network configurations.
  5. Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Solutions: EDR solutions monitor endpoints for signs of malicious activities and changes. They can detect changes in system behavior, file activities, and registry settings, providing a broader view of potential security incidents.
  6. Log Monitoring and Analysis Tools: Tools like Splunk or LogRhythm analyze log files from various sources to detect changes in system behavior, user activities, or security settings. They can provide real-time alerts for suspicious changes.
  7. Digital Signature Verification: Some systems use digital signatures to verify the integrity of files and data. Any alteration to the digitally signed content would cause a verification failure, alerting to a potential unauthorized change.
  8. Cloud Security Tools: With the rise of cloud computing, tools like AWS Config or Azure Security Center provide change detection for cloud resources. They monitor configurations, permissions, and activities within the cloud environment.

Again, we would highly recommend that a FIM be used, but in the case where it is not possible in that environment, for instance Cloud environment, then other CDMs can be possible. If you need to know more about FIM and PCI or any compliance in general, drop us a note at and we will get back to you immediately!

An Ode to the Invalid Certificate

Once upon a time, in a not-so-faraway land of PeaCeEye, merchants, credit card transactions, online payments, payment gateways, POS terminals all lived in harmony. In this land, all citizens carry a trust symbol, held together by validation documents, called the Citizen Badge. However, PeaCeEye is now facing an existential threat. A threat shrouded in the cloak of validation, a false symbol of security and trust – called the Certificate. But, dear reader, beware! For this tale of caution and deception, and the Certificate, much like the elusive unicorn, while tangible, carries a false value – nothing more than a fabrication. A figment of imagination, conjured up by the minds of its idle creators, the Qessays.

You see, in the kingdom of PeaCeEye, there exists a council – a council of wise men and women who determine the rules and regulations that govern this realm. This council, known as the Secret Sorceror Council (SSC), has decreed that only three sacred documents hold the key to validation for the Citizen Badge – the Attestation of Compliance (AoC), the Report on Compliance (RoC), and the Self-Assessment Questionnaires (SAQs). Yet, despite the council’s resolute stance on this matter, a mysterious fourth document continues to emerge from the shadows – the Certificate.

Ah, the Certificate, a work of art crafted by the Qessays. You see, these Qessays were charged by the council to uphold what is truthful and right, and to ensure that all Citizens of PeaCeEye are identifiable by their Citizen Badges – The AoC, Roc and/or the SAQs. However, over the years, some of these noble Qessays have turned to the darkside and the sinister art of producing corrupted documentation, called the 4th deception, or the Certificate as it is now known. These dark Qessays have mastered the art of illusion, conjuring certificates out of thin air to dazzle their customers. They’ve become modern-day alchemists, turning mere paper and ink into a symbol of validation, which, in reality, is as weightless as a feather and as useful as a chocolate teapot. Or a fork and spoon when eating Chapati. It’s a thing of beauty, destined to hang on the walls of businesses, gracing them with its shimmering falsehoods.

But why do these Qessays continue to spin their webs of deception, offering their customers a document that has no merit in the eyes of the SSC? Something that even invalid citizens to PeaCeEye can procure? To unravel this mystery, we must dive into the murky depths of human nature. For, you see, people are drawn to shiny, pretty things, much like moths to a flame. A certificate, with its elegant calligraphy and embossed seal, is a testament to the allure of appearance over substance. It is a tangible representation of validation, regardless of its actual worth.

Moreover, the Certificate serves as a placebo, a sugar pill of sorts, which instills in businesses a false sense of security. It is a talisman that they cling to, convincing themselves that they are protected from the malicious forces of the World beyond PeaCeEye – the World called Cyberattacks. And, in the process, they become blind to the fact that the true power of validation lies in the sacred trio of documents – the AoC, RoC, and SAQs.

Now, one might argue that those who peddle these invalid certificates are merely fulfilling a demand. After all, the customer is always right, and if they desire a shiny piece of paper to adorn their walls, who are we to deny them? But, as the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And these Qessays, as the gatekeepers of the citizenship of PeaCeEye, must hold themselves to a higher standard.

By offering these overvalued and useless certificates-that even the SSC had themselves admonished and had announced to the citizens to not place any value to them- these certificates not only betray the trust of customers but also undermine the very foundation of Citizen Badge. They turn the realm of PeaCeEye into a farce, a stage where pretenders masquerade as protectors, and businesses are lulled into a false sense of security. There are even Qessays who are not even involved in the process of validating an SAQ being answered; luring their customers to portals with questionnaires answered by the citizen themselves and then conjuring these certificates that look as if it has been validated by the Qessays, but instead are just self aggrandizing papers that has been only self validated by the person answering their own questions! In other words, the person becomes their own judge and jury and are able to produce a Certificate that looks as if they have been properly validated by a third-party Qessays. Amazing art! An ostentatious object of grandeur and magnificence, yet with all the actual value of a discarded banana peel withering in the Sahara sun.

But, dear reader, do not despair, for there is hope. You see, the truth has a funny way of revealing itself, much like the sun breaking through the clouds after a storm. And, as the truth about the invalidity of these Certificates spreads, businesses will begin to see through the veil of deception, and the demand for these counterfeit documents will wane. Qessays who persist in peddling these worthless certificates will find themselves exposed, their credibility crumbling like a house of cards.

In the meantime, we must not sit idly by, complacent in the face of falsehoods. Instead, we must raise our voices and spread the word, educating businesses on the true path to Citizen validation. We must sing the praises of the AoC, RoC, and SAQs, enlightening those who have been led astray by the allure of the invalid certificate. For it is only through knowledge that we can pierce the veil of deception and lay the mythical beast of the Certificate to rest.

So, let us embark on this crusade together, wielding the sword of truth and the shield of knowledge. As we march forward on this noble journey, let us remember the wise words of the SSC: “Trust, but verify.” Let us tear down the great wall of this Certificate, brick by brick, and replace it with a fortress built on the solid foundation of the council’s sacred trio of documents. And as we watch the last remnants of the Certificate crumble to dust, we will know that we have triumphed over the forces of deception.

We bid farewell to this Certificate, and to welcome a new era of transparency, security, and trust. An era where the mythical beast of the Certificate is relegated to the annals of history, and where the true power of validation is embraced, in all its glorious, council-approved forms. May the sacred trio of documents – the AoC, RoC, and SAQs – guide us on our path to a brighter, more secure future, and may the Certificate forever remain a cautionary tale of the perils of deception and the triumph of truth.*

** The above is written obviously in satire and tongue-in-cheek with absolute no journalistic value nor based on any real world reimagination and solely based on our absolute frustration at the continuous dependence and insistence from acquirers or banks to have our customers produce them ‘certificates’. In addition, some clients even go through self-service portals provided by QSAs and answer SAQ questions on their own, at the end of this process of self answering, a certificate is produced. Granted, the certificates do come with disclaimers in small prints stating that the certificate is actually based on self assessment and even admits that it isn’t recognised by the council.

But in reality, who actually reads the fine print?

In the end, anyone having gone through these ‘compliance’ portals, answering affirmative to everything would be able to procure these certificates and remarkably, some acquirers even accept them as proof of third party audit (which they are clearly NOT). Again, we are not stating that QSAs providing this service is doing anything wrong. There is nothing essentially wrong with certificates on its own, or QSAs providing these certificates as a simple means to show a company has undergone PCI-DSS compliance. But where it becomes a gray area is when there is too much dependence placed on these certificates to the point where even the AoC is rejected and acquirers insist on every company showing them these certificates. In this case, QSAs who are willing to provide so called certificates to companies without having undergone any assessment and only answering questions from the SAQ based on their own knowledge or whim – unless the QSA is willing to go through each question of each customer and validate these through evidence submission and review (the process called audit); then these creation of self signed certificates should be stopped. It’s akin to a banking website issuing a self-signed SSL cert on their own website and tell everyone to trust it. Does this happen in the world of e-commerce? No, it’s absurd. Then why is it different in the world of compliance? Why is this practice still allowed to prosper? How do we stop this practice?

We have been advocating removing certificates for years now from the PCI-DSS landscape and to have a more consistent and acceptable way to show PCI validation. Unfortunately, unlike the satirical tale above, this still eludes us. Drop us an email at if you have any ideas and comments to this!

PCI-DSS v4.0 vs v3.2.1 Deepdive Part 1

OK, now that we are well into 2023, the main question here is why isn’t the current assessments this year going into v4.0? Most of our customers are still doing their v3.2.1 for 2023, before doing 4.0 the next cycle. The answer is: Well, you can go for v4.0 if you want to. There’s really not much difference for now. The difference is probably more on the auditor side, as reporting requirements are different in V4.0. But from the client end, some of the scary changes like authenticated scans for internal vulnerability scanning, or updating of password complexity to 12 characters etc – these actually don’t come in force until March 2025. So there’s actually a grace period for v3.2.1 to v4.0 and another grace period for PCI v4.0 controls to be implemented, up to March 2025. Basically, anything past March 2025, the controls in v4.0 becomes Standard. No more compromise. Its like the biblical ten Commandments, except you have around 300+ commandments here. That’s a lot of chiseling on the rock by Moses.

Before we deepdive into v4.0, let’s set out the landscape a bit again, like unfurling a carpet or a mat before we feast into our metaphorical compliance picnic.

  1. Scope and Applicability

One of the key changes in PCI DSS v4.0 is the clarification of the scope of the standard. The new version provides more explicit guidance on how to apply the standard to different types of organizations, and it emphasizes the need for organizations to understand the scope of their cardholder data environment (CDE). This comes as a fairly significant change, as the initial pages of V4.0 is strewn with explanations of scoping and methodologies on how to define scope. It reads almost like they are trying to make up for lost time, and trying to cover all their bases, whereas in the previous version, just a cursory glance was done. PCI DSS v4.0 also provides guidance on how to identify and manage different types of risks. Risk has always been a difficult item to quantify in PCI. Because at the end, PCI is a result of a risk assessment anyway, done by the card schemes. It’s specifically to mitigate the risks they identified that the PCI program was born. So what’s the point of running a risk assessment in PCI-DSS if its already a standard? Well, PCI DSS v4.0 states that organizations should have a risk management program in place to identify and prioritize risks, and to take appropriate measures to mitigate those risks. Its a way of saying that while controls are required, how you address the controls are dependent on your risk assessment. Additionally, you can even opt to go above and beyond the PCI standard to address a particularly high risk area (although to find a company doing this is like finding the Lost Ark). Above the brownie points you would get from the QSA by showing you are a company keyed into your risk assessment practices; a risk assessment will likely help you identify other areas of concerns as well. The standard also requires organizations to have a process in place for identifying changes to their CDE, and for reviewing and updating their risk management program as needed. So to the point on whether the risk assessment is useful – yes. Whether it is critical to passing your PCI-DSS – well, I would say that depends a lot on your QSA. We’ve seen QSAs pass a bunch of colored coded excel sheets off as a PCI risk assessment easily.

2. New Control Objectives

PCI DSS v4.0 introduces several new control objectives to address emerging security risks. One of the key new objectives is to address the risks associated with cloud computing. The new version of the standard includes new requirements for securing cloud environments, including the need to assess the security of cloud service providers and to implement additional controls to secure cloud-based data. In v4.0, the word ‘Cloud’ appears 42 times in the entire standard. In v3.2.1, the word ‘Cloud’ appears as often as ‘NasiLemak’. Which is zero.

3. Password Requirements
PCI DSS v4.0 introduces new requirements for password management. We are in 2023 and we are still trying to remember all our passwords. PCI is now making our lives easier by introducing longer passwords! Great, now everyone just add incremental numbers behind your password from seven to twelve. The standard requires the use of multi-factor authentication for all non-console administrative access, this has already been evident in previous version. This just basically means that organizations must implement additional security measures, such as biometric authentication or smart card authentication, in addition to a password, to access sensitive systems and data

4. Encryption

The new standard maintains that organizations use more robust encryption algorithms and key lengths as per 3.2.1. Key management more or less remain as it is, but the biggest issue in v4.0 is the doing away with full disk or transparent encryption. We will do a deep dive in this later.

5. Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Management

PCI DSS v4.0 includes new requirements for penetration testing and vulnerability management. Among others is the requirement for Internal vulnerability scans to be authenticated whereas previously, this was a bit more gray area (actually not required). This could have potential impact especially for entities chasing a quarterly deadline, if you have a lot of systems in your scanning scope. So this makes the scoping a lot more critical. Because you can be sure the effort for internal scans are going to be going way up.

6. Remote Access

PCI DSS v4.0 includes new requirements for securing remote access to cardholder data environments. PCI requires organizations to implement multi-factor authentication for all remote access, and to use secure protocols, such as SSH or VPN, to access sensitive systems and data. While this remains, the other issue with 4.0 is the need to implement controls to prevent copy/relocation of PAN for all personnel unless there is a business need. We have a bad feeling about this. This could generally mean getting a DLP in place or a NAC in place to limit what can or cannot be done by users logging in remotely. There are solutions for these, but this needs to be planned and invested. The key word here is to ‘prevent’ not just ‘detect’, so this basically mean a proactive control in place to block these actions.

So in the next couple of articles, we will dive right into the changes for v4.0 in detail, including those requirements where it is stated “This requirement is a best practice until 31 March 2025, after which it will be required and must be fully considered during a PCI DSS assessment.”

We will also look into the SAQs and what has changed in the SAQs for those preparing to do self assessment in accordance to v4.0.

In the meantime, for any PCI related queries or any standards like CSA, ISO27001 etc, drop us a note at and we will get back to you!

Recap on PCI v4.0: Changes in The 12 Requirements

So here we are in 2023 and PCIv4.0 is on everyone’s thoughts. Most of our customers have finished their 2022 cycle; and some are going through their 2023 cycle. Anyone certifying this year in general, means that for the next cycle on 2024, they will be certified against v4.0. V3.2.1 will be sunset in March 2024, so as a general rule of thumb, anyone going for certification/recertification in 2024 – hop onto v4.0.

Take also special note of the requirements where statements are “Best practices until 31 March 2025, after which these requirements will be required and must be fully considered during a PCI DSS assessment “.

It doesn’t mean that you can actively ignore these requirements until 2025; rather, to use this period of around 2 years as a transition period for your business to move into these newer requirements. So, to put it short: start even now. One of the requirements that gets a lot of flak is which is the disk level encryption; in other words, technology like TDE being used to address encryption requirements. This is no longer a get out of jail free card because after March 2025, you will need to implement (on top of TDE, if you still insist on using it), if you are not using it on removable media – the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse – Truncation, Tokenization, Encryption or Hashing. And before you get too smart and say yes, you are using Encryption already, i.e transparent or disk-level encryption; PCI is one step ahead of you, you Maestro of Maleficant Excuses, as they spell out “through truncation or a data-level encryption mechanism“.

So, for v4.0 it’s probably easier to just break it up into

a) SAQs v4.0 – Self assessment

This is straight forward – a lot of changes have occurred to some of the venerable SAQs out there, such as SAQ A. I’ll cover that in another article.

b) ROC v4.0 – from QSA/ISA

Most QSAs should be able to certify against v4.0. You can check on the PCI-DSS QSA lists, they have ” ** PCI DSS v4 Assessors  ” under their names. There also may be some shakeout that some underqualified QSAs may not go through the training to upgrade to v4 assessors. On another note, ISAs don’t generally have these requirements to upgrade to v4.0; although it’s recommended.

Now, perhaps is a good time to just go through a very big overview of V4.0 and explain why some of these changes had been effected.

Changes to Requirements

For this overview, we will first look at the 12 requirements statements and see where the changes are. In a big move, the council has updated the main requirements (not so subtly), getting rid of many of the tropes of previous incarnation of the standard. Let’s start here.

Requirement 1 is now changed to “Install and Maintain Network Security Controls” as opposed to “Install and maintain firewall configuration to protect CHD.”

This is a good change; even if the wordings are still a little clumsy. After all Network Security Controls are defined so broadly and may not just be a service or product like a firewall or a NAC or TACACs. It could be access controls, AAA policies, IAM practices, password policies, remote access controls etc. So how do you ‘install’ such policies or practices? A better word would be to “Implement” but I think that’s nitpicking. Install is an OK word here, but everytime I hear that, I think of someone installing a subwoofer in my car or installing an air-cond in my rental unit. But overall, it’s a lot better than just relying on the firewall word – since in today’s environment, a firewall may no longer just function as a firewall anymore; and integrated security systems are fairly common where multiple security functions are rolled into one.

Requirement 2 now reads as “Apply Secure Configurations to All System Components.” Which is a heck better than “Do not use vendor supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameter.” The latter always sounded so off, as if it’s like a foster child that never belonged to the family. Because it reads more like a control objective or part of a smaller subset of control area as opposed to an overarching requirement. It just made PCI sounds juvenile compared to much better written standards like the ISO, or NIST or CIS.

Requirement 3 changes are subtle from “Protect stored cardholder data” to “Protect stored account data” – they removed cardholder data and replace it with “account” data. It generally means the same thing; but with account data, they possibly want to broaden the applicability of the standard. Afterall, it may be soon that cards may be obsolete; and it might be all information will be contained in the mobile device, or authenticated through virtual cloud services. Hence a traditional person ‘holding a card’ may no longer be a concept anymore.

Requirement 4 reverts back to cardholder data, with the new 4.0 stating “Protect Cardholder Data with Strong Cryptography During Transmission Over Open, Public Networks”. Which is sometimes frustrating. If you have decided to call account data moving forward, just call it account data and not revert back to cardholder data. Also this requirement changed from the older “Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks”. It may sound the same, but it’s different. It removes the age old confusion on, what if I encrypt my data first and then only transmit it? In the previous definition, it doesn’t matter. The transmission still needs to be encrypted by the way it is written. However, with the new definition, you are now able to encrypt the data and send it across an unencrypted channel (though not recommended) and still be in compliance. Ah, English.

“Requirement 5: Protect All Systems and Networks from Malicious Software” is a definite upgrade from the old “Requirement 5: Protect all systems against malware and regularly update anti-virus software or programs”. This gives a better context from the anti-virus trope – where QSAs insist on every system having an antivirus even if its running on VAX or even if it brings down the database with its constant updates. Now, with a broader understanding that anti-virus is NOT the solution to malicious software threats; we are able to move to a myriad of end point security that serves a better purpose to the requirement. So long, CLAMAV for Linux and Unix!

Requirement 6 reads about the same except they changed the word ‘applications’ to software i.e “Develop and maintain secure systems and applications” to “Develop and Maintain Secure Systems and Software”. I am not sure why; but I suppose that many software that may serve as a vector of attack may not be classified as an application. It could be a middle ware, or an API etc.

By the way, just to meander away here. I noted that in V4.0 requirements, every word’s first letter is Capitalised, except for minor words like conjuctions, prepositions, articles. This seems to be in line with some of the published standards such as CIS (but not NIST), and its basically just an interesting way to write it. This style is called “Title Case”, and It Can Be Overused and Abused Quite a Lot if We Are Not Careful.

Requirement 7: Restrict Access to System Components and Cardholder Data by Business Need to Know vs previous version Requirement 7: Restrict access to cardholder data by business need to know. Again, this is more expansionary; as system components (we assume those in scope) may not just be containing cardholder data; but have influence over the security posture of the environment overall. Where previously you may say, well, it’s only access to the account data that requires ‘business need to know’ or least privvy; now, access to authentication devices; or SIEM, or any security based service that influences the security posture of the environment – all these accesses must be restricted to business need to know. Again – this is a good thing.

Requirement 8: Identify Users and Authenticate Access to System Components vs previous version “Identify and authenticate access to system components”. This seems like just an aesthetic fix. Since, yes, you probably want to identify USERS as opposed to identify ACCESS. It could mean the same thing, or it may not. A smart alec somewhere probably told the QSA, hey, we identified the access properly. It came from login 24601 from the bakery department at 6 am yesterday. Do we know the user? No, but PCI just needs us to identify the ‘access’ and not the user, right? OK, smart alec.

Requirement 9: Restrict Physical Access to Cardholder Data is the only one that does not have any changes, except for the aforementioned Title Case changes.

Requirement 10: Log and Monitor All Access to System Components and Cardholder Data vs Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data. So two things changed here. “Log” vs “Track” and System Components vs Network Resources. I personally find the first change a bit limiting when you are saying to just log instead of ‘track’. But I know why they did it. Because Tracking is redundant, if you are already Monitoring it. So in another dimension somewhere, the same smart alec may state, no where did it tell us to ‘log’ or keep logs in this statement – they just want us to Track/Monitor users. So its just for clarity that from here on, you log and monitor, not just track/monitor. The second change is very good, because now, there is no ambiguity for non-network resources. It’s true when one day, we actually came across a client stating this does not apply to them because they do not put their critical systems on the network and they only use terminal access to it, therefore there’s no need to log or monitor. The creativity of these geniuses know no bounds when it comes to avoiding requirements.

Requirement 11: Test Security of Systems and Networks Regularly vs Regularly test security systems and processes. Switching the word regularly is done just for aesthetic reading, but the newer word strings better and again, removes ambiguity. I mean first thing, the older requirement tells us to test ‘security systems’. Now most of the workstations et al may not be defined as ‘security systems’. I would define security systems as a system that contributes to the security posture of a company – an authentication system, a logging system, the NAC, the firewall etc. Of course, this isn’t what PCI meant and they realised, snap, English is really a cruel language. “Security systems” does not equal to “Security of Systems”. That two letters there changed everything. Now, systems are defined as any system in scope – not just one that influences security. We need to test security of all systems in scope. The second change to remove processes and insert in Networks is better, I agree. I did have a client asking me, how do we ‘test processes’ for PCI. Do we need to audit and check the human process of doing something? While that is true in an audit, that’s not the spirit of this requirement. This is for technical testing, i.e scans, penetration testing etc. So rightly, they removed ‘processes’ and inserted Networks; which also clears the ambiguity of performance of a network penetration testing, as well as application penetration testing.

Again, I just want to add, all these are actually clarified in the sub controls in the both v3.2.1 and v4.0 but if someone were just to skate through PCI reading the main requirements titles – I can see where the misunderstanding may occur with the old titles.

Finally, Requirement 12 Support Information Security with Organizational Policies and Programs is an upgrade from the previous Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel. The previous title was just clumsy. Many clients understood it to be a single policy, or information security policy that needs to be drawn up, because it states Maintain A Policy. One Policy to rule them all. And this policy governs information security for all humans. Which doesn’t make sense. Unless the ‘for’ here was to mean that this policy needs to be adhered by all personnel; not that the personnel were the subjects of the information security. Yikes. The newer route makes more sense. Have your policies and programs support information security overall. Not information security of your people; but information security, period.

So just by reading the titles (and not going deep dive yet), we can see the improvement in clarifying certain things. There is more function in the sentence; there is more of an overarching purpose to it and most of all, it looks and reads more professionally that puts PCI more into the stately tomes of ISO, CIS or NIST.

While waiting for the next deep dive article, drop us a note at if you have any queries at all about PCI, ISO27001, NIST, SOC or any standard at all. Happy New Year, all!

Let’s Talk v4: Overview

So, on March 31st 2022, PCI-DSS v4.0 dropped on us.

The original timeline for v4.0 has already passed a long time back. Back in 2019, there had been talks that v4 would drop in late 2020. Then due to the global pandemic of unknown origins, it was moved to 2021 and now finally, they decide to release it in 2022. We all know PCI SSC loves deadlines. They love the whooshing noise deadlines make as they go by.

First of all, let’s start with another quote from the wisest sage of all generations:

Don’t Panic.

Douglas Adams

Because if we take a look at the timeline below, there’s a pretty long runway to adopt v4.0.

The above basically means this:

a) Entities undergoing PCI right now, whether it’s first time or renewals, if you are going to be certified in 2022, your current cycle and next renewal in 2023 can stay with v3.2.1.

b) Entities thinking to go through PCI-DSS, and will likely be certified in 2023, you can stay with v3.2.1 for this cycle, and then for the next renewal up in 2024, you will need to move to v4.0

Long story short, entities have 1.5 years to stay on PCIv3.2.1 and go v4.0 on your 2024 cycle. That doesn’t mean that you don’t do anything from now till then of course. Depending on your processes, there may be some changes. However, it’s not too crazy and it’s more incremental than anything else, including areas where we are already practicing , but was not noted in v3.2.1 (example being anti-phishing controls, which have been a staple for most of our FSI clients).

So we’re going to have a few breakdown of areas we think is fairly relevant to note in v4.0; a deeper dive into requirements that are added or changed, and more importantly how we think a company can move forward in preparation.

Of course that being said, the v4.0 is only 3 weeks old. A toddler in terms of its predecessors. Let’s put it into perspective. PCIv1 (and its sub versions 1.1 and 1.2) lasted almost 6 years from 2004 – 2010.

PCIv2 lasted half that time from 2010 – 2013.

PCIv3 and its sub-versions (3.1, 3.2, 3.2.1) lasted from 2013 to 2022. That’s 9 years old. So in retrospect, we are literally in the 0.6% timeline for v4 if it were to follow the v3 age. Meaning, there could be a lot of changes yet to come, or clarifications or explanations etc.

Over the life of v3, we’ve seen many supplementary documents (for scoping, logging, penetration testing, risk management etc) churned out in support to clarify v3 items. While not part of the standard itself, these supplementary documents and hundreds of FAQs are generally quoted or referenced by us to support our arguments for and against some of the decisions that QSAs put to our clients. These are extremely useful especially when QSAs put in some pretty daft interpretations of the requirements (see our previous post on CDD).

There has been some extremely subtle changes aside from the major ones and we want to note these items in page 4 of v4:

PCI DSS is intended for all entities that store, process, or transmit cardholder data (CHD) and/or sensitive authentication data (SAD) or could impact the security of the cardholder data environment (CDE).

Some PCI DSS requirements may also apply to entities with environments that do not store, process, or transmit account data – for example, entities that outsource payment operations or management of their CDE.

In accordance with those organizations that manage compliance programs (such as payment brands and acquirers); entities should contact the organizations of interest for more details.

pci v4.0 warning to those entities that scream i am out of scope because i don’t store, transmit or process stuff!

There’s a lot of things we dislike about v4.0. But there’s a lot of things we LIKE about it as well. So it’s like that family trip that you are taking with your entire extended family. There’s that cousin that you completely dislike that you wish you don’t need to make small conversations with – you know, the one that constantly name drops and questions whether you have achieve as much as he has in life. And tries to coach you to be a better person and live a better life, and have more than your currently unfulfilling, loveless marriage and a deadend, purposeless job as a PCI-DSS consultant. Yeah, you know it. But at the same time, you like these trips because it’s time with your family as well, and time to goof off with your kids, walk on the beach with your spouse and basically fantasize throwing your cousin into a pit full of vipers. v4.0 is like that trip.

The main takeaways from the above quote would be

a) No more free passes to those entities who claim they are out of scope simply because they don’t store, process or transmit card data. If you have impact on the security of the CDE, then you are in.

b) First time we are seeing the word “Organizations of Interest”. While this is nothing much, it’s like watching a movie in the cinema that’s based on a comic book and you see an obscure easter egg referencing to that comic and you get goosebumps because you know, you’re a nerd. And you like this kind of subtle references that no one else knows about. Basically OIs are the upstream customers, banks, FSI, organisations that are requesting your PCI-DSS compliance. It’s easier now to make this reference as it is now an official term in v4.0. Yay.

c) Organizations that ‘impact security’ is in. Previously the problem is that we had outsourced SOC/NOC, or outsourced providers that do not handle card data (e.g managed providers for firewalls etc) and even cloud services that handle the MFA or authentication generation, claiming that there is no card data, therefore they don’t need PCI. That’s fair enough, but we still need to assess that service as part of an on-demand assessment to ensure that that service is properly secured or at least has basic security functionality over it. While a majority of providers are fine with this, we have had antagonistic providers shouting to high heaven that we are idiots because of the very fact that they do not store, process or transmit card data; they should be completely disregarded from the PCI assessment. Um. No. You’re not and V4.0 is smacking you in the face for this.

Another item on v4.0 is the sheer amount of information they provide right at the beginning of the standard. They are talking about the scoping methods, segmentation, encryption and applicability on third party providers, use of third party providers and how to be compliant with them, BAU best practices, sampling methods, definition of timeframes, definition of words like significant changes, approaches to implementation of PCI-DSS, testing methods, assessment process, RoC writing and if you look carefully, there is also a recipe in there for Jamie Oliver’s Yorkshire Pudding.

In the previous v3.2.1, the requirements started on page 20. In v4.0 the requirements start on page 43. The total number of pages in v4.0 is 360, up 158% from the previous 139 pages. So, simply put, you are going from reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five Goes to Finniston Farm to Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

The requirements themselves remain as 12, so in essence, despite all the fluff at the beginning, the actual requirements are still intact. There’s quite a fair bit of items to look at, and here we provide a brief overview of it:

a) Customized implementation

So, we have this outcomes-based implementation of PCIv4. This is based on the purpose or the ‘spirit’ of the requirements and may not necessarily use the standards-defined controls to achieve it. So, for instance, the requirement to do quarterly internal scans – the objective is to identify vulnerabilities in a regular interval and to ensure that the organisation addresses this vulnerability. Instead of having an option for on-demand scanning, the organisation may opt to sign up for a continuous analysis and automated scanning that are available in cloud such as Google or AliCloud. So while the controls are different, it addresses the same objective.

It is noted that custom implementation should only be done by organisations with a mature risk management practice in place, as this requires more work for the organisation and the QSA to define tests of these controls.

On how this is implemented or samples of it, I am sure we will be seeing more examples as the standard starts maturing. Remember, v4.0 is still a baby, not even out of the maternity ward yet.

b) Multi-factor and Passwords

Multi factor is now needed for any access into the CDE. So, we call in Multi-Multi Factor – whereby, an MFA is required for remote users to get into the network, and from the non-cde network, to get into the CDE, it requires additional MFA. It would seem fairly straightforward, but companies now have to consider to implement a jump server in the CDE to act as a control aggregator to go to multiple systems in the CDE – or they could just deploy another MFA solution on the network .

Passwords are to be changed to 12 alphanumeric up from 7. There’s still a runway on this as it is only considered standard in 31 March 2025. A lot of things can happen from now till then and a lot of technology can change. We could be facing global climate crisis and end of the world, or world war 3 nuclear warfare, or an asteroid could hit earth, or the Rapture happens, you know, future stuff. But in case none of those things come to past, then yeah, make sure you move your passwords to 12 alphanumeric.

c) Group Accounts

8.2.2 gives a needed reprieve on this kerfuffle of having group accounts. In v3.2.1, this is disallowed, but v4.0 , it is allowed, based on the rule of common sense. Some systems do have group accounts for a purpose, or is unable to provide certain functionality to individual accounts. So while there is now more justifications etc needed, it’s no longer a hard no for group accounts.

d) Targeted risk analysis

Targeted risk analysis can now be done to determine the frequency of certain actions – such as password changes, POI device inspections, non-CDE log reviews, low vulnerabilities remediation, FIM review, frequency of training etc. Now while we want to believe that the PCI-SSC idea on having this is for organizations to change frequencies of controls to be MORE stringent (example to have the password changed every 30 days instead of 90 days), the reality is that most of us would stretch this requirement to make life a lot easier for us. I mean, what’s the point of having flexibility if you can’t make it as flexible (i.e as little work to be done) as possible, right?

e) Card data discovery (CDD)

Card Data Discovery Scans – CDD. There is finally some clarifications on Card Data scans to be done every 12 months and to clarify what we have already covered in our previous post in educating the QSA on how to interpret the particular CDD requirement. So yeah, kudos PCI-SSC for supporting us!

d) Misc – Anti Phishing and Full Disk Encryption

As mentioned previously, we now have references to Anti-Phishing requirements, which should have been there long before, to be honest.

We have clarifications which will have significant impact to some of our clients – the use (or abuse) of the full disk encryption requirement. V4.0 has basically blocked that way out for some of our customers utilising Bitlocker with TPM to get past Requirement 3. This is , to us, a fairly significant item of v4.0 which we will be dedicating a post later on it.

Well, so that’s it for the overview for now. We hope to get more articles out to do deeper dives into v4.0 but like I said, it’s still early days and there would be more clarifications ahead. Hopefully it will be more positive, and the experience of v4.0 will be less like that family outing with the cousin that should be thrown into a pit of vipers.

Contact us at for any queries you have on PCI and we will get back to you immediately.

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