Tag: merchant

PCI-DSS – Merchant EDC and Scoping

Many merchants we meet often tells us this: They are not in scope because they only do EDC (electronic data capture) – or payment terminal – transactions and these belong to the bank. Therefore, the bank has to ensure these are compliant and merchants do not need PCI-DSS since they do not store credit card.

Upon this, it’s the prevailing myth that storing credit card information is what PCI-DSS is all about, and as long as we avoid this, we don’t need to be PCI.

While non-storage of credit card does reduce scope SIGNIFICANTLY, it’s not the only thing PCI is harping about. It’s pretty clear in the standard itself:

PCI DSS applies to all entities involved in payment card processing—including merchants, processors, acquirers, issuers, and service providers. PCI DSS also applies to all other entities that store, process, or transmit cardholder data and/or sensitive authentication data.

I don’t blame the merchants. They already have a hard enough time competing in a new digital landscape of virtual buyers and getting margins from their products – the last thing they need is a consultant coming in, brandishing some sort of standard called the PCi-DSS and the only thing that flashes through their minds is: How much is this sucker going to cost me, now ?

But it is what it is and we try to make our client’s (or in many cases, not even our clients, but anyone who calls us – and doesn’t even need to pay) life easier – and provide enough information for them to decide whether they need consultation, help or go it alone for PCI.

Yes – we technically consult them to potentially not consult with us.

But we believe in the long run, trust is something every consultants or advisors need to earn and it’s not something that comes with the territory. In fact, if I had a ringgit for every joke made about CON-SULTANS…we wouldn’t need to make any more new sales.

Anyway back to PCI. So the question to ask back the merchant is simply: “Great that you don’t store – but do you process card data?”

“No we don’t, the bank does it.”

“You don’t handle card data?”

“Handle? As in physically handle?”


“Of course (now somewhat flustered) – how do we get customer card if we don’t handle it?”

So in that sense – they answer their own question – if they are not there (handling the card), there is no transaction and no processing of card. Therefore, they are involved in the processing of card data. Does PCI apply? Yes, it does.

How does PCI apply?

Again, I am not going into the story of levels (how do be validated) vs controls (what to be validated) – already covered in previous posts on this, recently here .

But before our merchants get discouraged, most of their scope is very limited and in fact, I recommend them to try and go it alone.

Scenario 1

Their EDC connects directly to the bank through a dial up or cellular. No storage of card.O Only flow is to receive card, dip it, wave it and pass it back to the customer. That’s it.

Look at SAQ B. Last check, there are 41 questions. You don’t really have too much complexity in there, except to just ensure information security policy is there, physical security of the EDC is there etc. It’s not that difficult and really, most merchants should try to at least get these done.

Scenario 2

Their EDC connects to the bank via the merchant broadband.

This becomes trickier as this means the card data potentially passes through devices in the customer premise. This also includes when the branch locations sends credit card information back to the HQ and uses the HQ own internet set up to send to the acquirer. Another permutation here is that the acquirer would have their own equipment in the customer HQ where all branch data is consolidated to and sent.

The above scenario is more often found in very large Merchants.

In this case, the best bet we can go for is SAQ B-IP, with around 82 questions. Again, card data cannot be stored (full 16/15 PAN) or Sensitive Authentication data like CVV or track or PIN cannot be stored. In this case, PCI can still accept SAQ B-IP but most of the interim systems will be in scope for SAQ B-IP controls.

The trick here is really the SAQ B-IP requirement:

“The standalone IP-connected POI devices are not connected to any other systems within the merchant environment (this can be achieved via network segmentation to isolate POI devices from other systems);”

This is not as easy as it sounds as many environments still have their EDC all in a flat network as any other systems, and part of the requirement will need these EDCs to be properly segmented out to avoid pulling in the entire corporate into scope. This becomes complicated further if EDCs connect via wireless.

Another thing to be aware of is that you probably need a letter or confirmation from the acquirer that the entire card flow is encrypted end to end – meaning from the EDC all the way to acquirer environment, rendering the merchant environment as simply a transition point. Think of a road, being used by an armored truck that the merchant has no access to, as they do not have access to the encryption keys.

Other than that, depending on the number of segments you have – segmentation penetration testing is probably another headache you need to look at. However, this can be done via sampling, so consult with either the QSA or PCI expert for an idea of what an acceptable sampling is. Due to the risk being rather low, the challenge here is just to ensure that all setup is standardised across stores.

Your EDC shouldn’t be relying on your POS machine to send card data or process. The POS should only be passing transactional information and any information obtained from the EDC should be truncated PAN (if necessary) or only transaction information.

There you go.

With these, you can probably navigate through the initial headache of PCI for your merchant environment! Let us know at pcidss@pkfmalaysia.com if you have further questions! Since we sometimes consult you not to consult us, it would definitely be an interesting discussion!

PCI-DSS and how we messed up the scope


Reflecting on challenges of a recent PCI-DSS project for a client and the key learning points for an effective implementation

People team challenges – having a team to champion the project

When we started the PCI project, we were faced with multiple changes in the client’s project manager and so the project was like a car unable to start on a cold morning (for those old enough to remember there were such cars back in the 80s!).

Eventually, by working with the client, the musical chairs stopped and we had a stable project team to champion the PCI-DSS project.

The importance of the scope

By then, so many changes had been made in the systems and people that we were asked to rescope the work.  Now, scope in any PCI-DSS project is absolute key. If you start wrongly, you will definitely go down the rabbit hole and never come out.

(Mis)Understanding the process flows

The client described how the credit card data was fed into their system through the credit card terminals connected to their POS systems in their nationwide store network.

Initially, we were quite surprised that credit card data would be flowing back into the retailer’s system so they could do their reconciliation.  Our experience suggested that retailers would simply transit credit card information through the credit card terminals to the acquiring bank and then receive back a transaction ID or approval code.

Further enquiries got the same answer and we were assured that the information would be ‘encrypted’ and stored in ‘encrypted’ form.

On the basis of their answers, the client expected to undergo an onerous Self-Assessment Questionnaire, consisting of over 320++ questions!

Managing information

Our team took their word for it, and began the project by asking them to draw out their process flows so we could assist them in scoping their systems and completing an asset inventory (a key part of the PCI-DSS programme) together.

And this was where things got a little messy.

Because they insisted the credit card terminals that were interacting with the cards belonged to the acquiring bank and they had no influence over it, they did not have an asset list.

Also, with a significant number of branches it was difficult to provide an asset list to cover all relevant hardware and software across the portfolio.

The pushback caused the project to once again grind to a halt. Without a scope confirmation, we could not start any PCI implementation for them, in case we over-committed or under-committed on the plan.

Benefits of documenting process flows

The project was being worked out at management level for a long time before it was brought up to the director level, but once it did, things began to move.

We decided to go on the ground to a few of the store locations to really see what was going on.

What we found out surprised everyone:

Credit card information indeed never flowed back into the client’s system!

Getting the terminology right

The so-called ‘encrypted’ credit card information from the bank that was supposedly sent back to the client after the authorization, was in fact, ‘truncated’, not ‘encrypted’.

Apparently, the client had thought these were the same thing.

In PCI speak, encrypt means to protect credit card details by making the information unreadable with a key. The main reason is that there is a need to ‘de-crypt’ the information back again.

Truncation, on the other hand, meant that the card number itself, when sent has already its numbers ‘X’ed out. This is different in a sense that truncated card information is NOT card information because the critical numbers have already been X’ed out, leaving (usually) just first six and last four numbers of the credit card number visible.

Immediately, it was like a light being flipped on.

The team worked hard to optimize the scope by confirming the other flows and observing live transactions take place.

At the end of a 2 day onsite scoping assessment, we concluded that this client was eligible for a much reduced – only around 80 questions – assessment and then by filtering further, we pared down their compliance questions to only 40 reducing the scale of this compliance project by more than 85%.

Key messages

The takeaway here, from our experience would be:

  1. All PCI-DSS assignments require a stable and strong project team – get the right people, in the right place, with the right focus
  2. Understand the client’s terminology and descriptions and then check and check again. Ensure that you start from the best position, and not chasing the wrong end of the stick.
  3. For PCI-DSS merchant compliance it is essential to explore if the client is eligible for any reduction in the scope and don’t just go with the default. The time and cost elements of getting this wrong could be very substantial.
  4. Nothing beats being onsite and to undertake live walkthroughs of the actual processes. In this case, the earlier the better, so the assignment can be properly scoped.  A different set of eyes might be able to unlock the project obstacle – and in our case, it was essential to have the onsite scoping exercise.

Finally, because of these findings, the compliance is now ongoing and finally we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you have any queries on your scope or compliance on PCI-DSS, drop us an email at pcidss@pkfmalaysia.com and we will get back to you ASAP.

PCI and Multi Processing Environments


Since our last post, we have received some queries from other companies asking us about their PCI compliance. Just to be clear, we do not charge a fee for replying to your email and assisting you make sense of this compliance. We know how frustrating it is, and no, anyone that tells you that PCI is easy as 1-2-3 isn’t really letting you know the full picture. This is because some emails had been – “I have this question, but wait, if you are going to respond and charge me a fee, then don’t bother.” What are we, mercenaries? Yes we are a company requiring profits and not an NGO, but over the 7 years we have been involved in PCI, we have actually done a fair bit of advisory without charge, just to get PCI awareness out there into the market.

So, to save the trouble, I’ll put up a public post here to sort some of the questions out. This question, we have been getting a fair bit: What if the company has a multiple processing environment? What does this mean?

Let’s say, a retailer. It has a POS environment whereby they run standalone terminals connecting to the bank for purchases in their store. Credit card is used here – card present transactions. Then they launch their e-commerce site, which redirects all card non-present transactions to a PCI certified payment gateway, where the card collection page is hosted by the gateway.

You see here – there are two different channels for credit card interaction. The traditional POS, and the e-commerce site. Both are completely outsourced – one is direct dial up to the bank, the other to the payment gateway. So how do you deal with this?

You have two options – one is to do separate SAQs for both environments. Yes, you can. In the example above, doing an SAQ B for your POS environment and an SAQ A for your ecommerce environment (assuming you are level 3 or 4 merchant) should be able to suffice. The second option is to combine these channels into one SAQ. Once you do that however, you won’t be able to go through the ‘specialised’ SAQs. Specialised SAQs are like A, A-EP, B, B-IP, C, C-VT – meaning they have conditions in which you need to adhere to in order to use them. For instance for A, it says that this will only apply to merchants with card non-present business. And likewise for B, it has condition that you do not store card information electronically and is not applicable to e-commerce merchants. So when you don’t fall into any of these SAQ buckets, you end up with SAQ D-MER, which basically covers everything in PCI. But don’t worry, you a lot of the SAQ would be non-applicable in this case, and only those related to outsourced e-commerce and POS facilities would apply.

Now another related question, and one that I ended up having a 2 hour discussion with a client on = can an entity be both merchant and service provider?

The short answer is yes, you can.

An example would be a telco. Telcos generally have massive merchant business. They accept payments for their pre-paid, post-paid etc from end customers through e-commerce, POS channels etc. But the Telco could also support a manage services and hosting environment whereby other merchants are hosting their payment sites on. Then, now you have a service provider environment.

Or, it could even be within the same organisation, you have your merchant business of a payment portal, Mobile POS, or mobile app, connecting to an outsourced payment gateway. Suddenly you decide you want to set up your own payment gateway and channel all the transactions of your merchant business to your own payment gateway.

In the first instance, if you have separate environments and businesses isolated from each other – you can again opt for separate compliance. You could be a Level 3 Merchant filling up an SAQ B form, and also a Level 1 Service Provider doing an ROC with a QSA.

In the second example where your merchant business connects to your own payment gateway, it’s a little more complicated because in all likelihood, the systems utilised by both business would be common. In this case, isolation and demarcation of type of business is more difficult to attain. Assuming you are eligible for Level 2 service provider, you can technically fill that up and ensure that it includes your payment channels within that SAQ. If you are doing a Level 1, then similarly, the QSA would likely include your payment channels (previously what you would call your merchant business) into your service provider certification efforts. Otherwise, you can still opt for a separate PCI compliance program, whereby you fulfill your merchant compliance, and for your service provider compliance program you do it separately.

For the latter option, the advantage is that if you launch your payment gateway and you provide options for other companies (not just your own) to connect to you, your compliance isn’t dependent on your payment channels (your merchant business). You would treat your own payment channels as just another merchant out of many, that are connecting to you. The downside of this is that you would likely need a clear demarcation and separation of systems between your merchant and service provider business.

Again, there are many ways to skin PCI. The best way (on paper at least) is to get your acquirer on the table or your payment service provider to ask them what is applicable to your business. Unfortunately, around 99% of the time in this region, the acquirers aren’t too knowledgeable themselves and either give wrong information or just tell our clients to do a Level 1 Certification with a QSA.

As part of our job scope – we will assess our client’s environment and provide the options on the table, and in some cases even be present on the table in the discussion with their acquirer – to obtain a clear indication on how to move forward and what PCI options are acceptable.

As always, drop us a note at pcidss@pkfmalaysia.com and we will do our best to accommodate your inquiries!

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