Tag: qsa

Clarifying ASV Scans

It has been a while since our last post but as we are getting back up to speed to restart our work, our email engines are churning again with a lot of queries and questions from clients and the public on PCI-DSS, ISMS, ITSM, GDPR matters. We even have an odd question or two popping up regarding COVID-19 and how to secure against that virus. I don’t know. It’s a multi-billion dollar question which nobody can answer.

So while all these things are going, the one relentless constant we are still facing is: PCI-DSS deadlines. Despite the worldwide pandemic, we still get clients telling us they need to get their certificate renewed, their ASV scans done, their penetration testing sorted within x number of days. The reality of course is a bit more difficult. For example, once you have tested or scan, how does one remediate the issue when we cannot even get onsite to do proper testing? What about the development team, or the patching process, or the testing procedures and change management that needs to be done? The reality is simply, due to the pandemic, DELAYS will occur.

One of the main concerns are ASV scans, because ASV scans need to be done quarterly, there may be actual issues in remediation delays that may cause the company to miss the quarter.

How do we overcome this?

The main step is to always check with your QSA on this. I cannot repeat this ENOUGH. An organisation undergoing PCI-DSS, no matter what your size, especially if you are undergoing QSA certified program (Level 1 or Level 2 SAQ signoff from QSA) – ENGAGE your QSA to assist you. The QSA isn’t just supposed to come in at the end of your certification cycle, start poking holes into all your problems and tell you – you can’t pass because you missed our your internal VA back in Quarter 1. Or state your segmentation testing is insufficient at the end of your certification cycle. Or tell you that your hardening procedures are inadequate, with 1 month left to your certification cycle. The QSA needs to be in engagement at all times – or at the very least on a quarterly basis. Get them to do a healthcheck for you – all QSAs worth their salt should be able to do this. The mistake here is to treat your QSA as just an auditor and not onboard them throughout your certification cycle. An example is in the supplementary document from the council “Penetration-Testing-Guidance-v1_1” shows the possible involvement of the QSA:

In order to effectively validate the segmentation methodologies, it is expected that the penetration tester has worked with the organization (or the organization’s QSA) to clearly understand all methodologies in use in order to provide complete coverage when testing.

Pg 10 PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) v1.1

It’s essentially critical to understand the relationship the QSA must have and the involvement they have, especially in the scoping part of PCI-DSS. The problem we often see is there is a disconnect between the company and their QSAs in terms of scope, or expectation, or evidences, which generally leads to A. LOT. OF. PAIN.

For ASV scans, a QSA may also provide ASV services provided these are properly controlled that there is proper segregation of duties and independence within the QSA/ASV company itself.

However, we have also done many companies whereby we provide the ASV scan and another QSA does the audit. Or the other way where we provide the QSA audit, and ASV is done by another company.

There is one example whereby we were auditing a company, and the ASV scans were done by another firm. We have been engaged from the start on a quarter basis and we highlighted to them that their Q1 ASV scan isn’t clean. We got on a call with the ASV company and worked together to ensure that the next quarter, these non compliant items would be remediated. So even with Q1 ASV not passed, at the end as QSA we still accepted the PCI recertification. PCI Council addressed this in FAQ 1152 – “Can an entity be PCI DSS compliant if they have performed quarterly scans, but do not have four “passing” scans?”

Without early engagement of the QSA and ASV, there would be a lot of problems once the recert audit comes around. In this case we could set the proper expectation early in the cycle for the customer to address.

Another possible instance is whereby the ASV themselves can pass a quarter scan with non compliant findings with compensating controls. This procedure is detailed out in section 7.8 of the ASV program guide, whereby within the quarter scan itself, before the expiry of that quarter, compensating controls are provided and validated and the ASV is able to issue an acceptable report for that quarter. This is important, because QSAs like to see 4 quarterly clean reports, and they throw a tantrum if they don”t get what they want. So in short, for ASV scans, do the following in this order:

a) Remediate all and get a clean report for the quarter; or

b) If you have non compliant for the quarter, engage your ASV, provide acceptable compensating controls, and attempt (not influence) with the ASV to accept/validate these controls and provide a clean report for the quarter but documented under Appendix B of the scan report summary; or

c) If for whatever reason, a clean report cannot be provided for the quarter, work closely with the ASV and the QSA to ensure that at least the next quarter or quarter after next remediation is correctly done. This is tricky because once the quarter report is out, it’s out of the ASV’s hands and into the QSA – on whether they can accept these reports or not. You can hang on to FAQ 1152 – but remember, FAQs are NOT the standard, so you are essentially in the hands of the QSA.

Those are your options for ASV, if there are any delays. DO NOT, in ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, MISS Your quarterly scan. Missing your scan is NOT THE SAME as getting a non compliant report. Missing your scan means there is no recourse but to delay your certification until you can get your 4 quarters in.

Finally before we sign off – let’s clarify here what a ‘quarter’ means. Some clients consider ‘quarterly’ scans to be their actual calendar year quarter. No. It’s not. Essentially a quarter is 3 months of a cycle of 12 months compliance year. A compliance year is not your calendar year (it could be, but it doesn’t have to be). So let’s divide this into two scenarios:

a) Where the ASV scans are required for the compliance year

In the case – the compliance year first needs to be defined, and this is usually done by identifying the signoff date of your AoC. For example if the QSA signed off your certification on April 1st, then that is where your quarter 1 begins. April – June; July – September; October – December; January – March. 4 quarters. You need to perform your ASV scan within the quarter, resolve the issues, and get the clean report out. This is CRITICAL to understand. Because many organisation fail this portion where they do not even perform any scans for the first few quarters and only pick up their PCI-DSS again mid way through and everyone is like: “Oops.” So while drinks and celebration are in the works once you signoff the AoC – your quarter 1 has also begun, so don’t drink too much yet.

So know your quarters. Start your scan early in the quarter, rescans must be done after remediation, and in case you need compensating controls, you need to get ALL THESE DONE within the quarter. If you perform your rescans in the next quarter, you are doomed. You MAY perform the rescan in this quarter and the clean report comes out next quarter for the current quarter – but all scans must be done within the quarter itself.

a) Where we have NO clue when the quarters are

As funny as this may sound (in a tragic way), there are many instances where we (wearing the ASV hat) gets plopped into situations where the client HAS NO CLUE when their compliance quarters are. I don’t know why this occurs. When I request them to check their AoC, or their QSAs for guidance, some can’t provide it. This is as great a mystery as the Sphinx itself. We call these internally, ‘Orphaned ASV scans’. These are projects where we are given the IPs and just told to shut up and scan the IPs. In this case because we onboard all ASV scans with quarters to define when we need to remind our customers, or escalate issues if the quarter runs out – we generally just use the date of the scan as a reference for quarters. So for instance, we provide a clean scan on April 31st. Since they are orphaned scans, without a compliance year/cycle for reference, we use the date of the scan report itself – meaning this scan expires 31st July.

By and large, we are seeing less and less of these orphaned ASV scans issues. Because QSAs these days are more engaged with customers and their customer service has also improved, it’s rare we find a client who isn’t aware of these cyclical requirements. Most clients, not just the large ones, are serviced by QSAs who themselves are reinventing themselves not just as auditors coming in once a year to observe and audit, but provide separate, independent units/consultants to assist healthchecks and support as well to enquiries pertaining to clients.

And a final note on this article – when we refer to ‘QSA’ or ‘ASV’ under our umbrella, we mean ControlCase International (QSA and ASV), whom PKF have been working with for close to a decade. As to why we do not want to become QSAs ourselves, we take independence and segregation of audit and operations seriously, as accounting and audit is our DNA. An article has been written at lenght on this:
http://www.pkfavantedge.com/it-audit/pci-dss-so-why-arent-we-qsa/

So – drop us a note at pcidss@pkfmalaysia.com for any queries on ASV scans, PCI-DSS or compliance in general. And no, we don’t know how to solve the resolve the Coronavirus yet, but I hope we get there soon. Stay safe and stay well!

PCI-DSS – So Why Aren’t We QSA?

We have faced this question many times before over the course of 7 years working on PCI-DSS in this region. Many customers have asked us, why haven’t we become QSA (Qualified Security Assessor), considering the amount of PCI work we have been involved in, as well as the PCI-DSS knowledge that we are having?

The answer is simply – we choose not to.

Don’t get me wrong. QSAs certainly have their place in our world, and the fact that we work closely with one, as well as representing them in our country states the importance of having a solid auditing foundation in every project that we go in.

But here are the main reasons why we have decided that being a QSA would hinder us, rather than assist us:

a) Conflict of Interest

This is a huge reason why we maintain our consulting and implementation practice, while choosing not to become an auditor. Our business is not just PCI-DSS. We have a huge chunk of consulting practices in ISMS (ISO27001), training as well as upcoming compliances like SOC1,2, Personal Data Protection Act etc. QSAs and the question conflict of interest has been around for a long time. It is also addressed in Provision 2.2.2 in the PCI-DSS validation requirements for QSA

The QSA must describe the company’s practices to maintain and assure auditor independence, including, but not limited to, practices, organizational structure/separation, and employee education in place to prevent conflicts of
interest in a variety of scenarios, such as the following:

The QSA customer uses products or applications developed or manufactured by the QSA company.
The QSA customer uses products or applications managed or configured by the QSA company.
The description must include details with respect to compliance with the Specified Independence Requirements called out in Section 2.1 above.

The thing is, we do a fair bit of work for our clients – including development of policies, reviewing their security, implementing policies and logging products etc – because we are good at it. Before PCI, we were operational guys, guiding SOCs and NOCs, troubleshooting routers and switches, deploying firewalls and SIEMs etc. We weren’t bred as auditors from the start, so most of us have an inherent instinct to just go in and get the job done for our clients. Now, the problem is once we do wear the auditor’s hat, there are a lot of grey areas. We make this demarcation very distinct in our IT general Controls audit – the moment we implement something for our client, we cannot audit or assess it. We can’t audit our own work. This is not just for PCI, this goes across the board for anything we do.

PCI gets around this by ensuring that the QSA has proper internal segregation – meaning it is generally accepted that policies be put into place that mandate a separation of duties between QSA Auditors and QSAs, or other individuals within a QSA certified company who provide remediation support. So generally, any QSA company should have its consulting group separated from its audit group. Now, PCI-SSC doesn’t specifically state that QSA Companies cannot provide remediative services – after all, if the QSAs know what it takes to pass PCI-DSS wouldn’t they be the best source of knowledge to clients after all (and they often are) – but QSAs need to be very aware that they cannot push their products or services as the only option for compliance. Customers must have the options on the table, the knowledge that there are other options in order for them to make informed decisions.

It’s made trickier due to our DNA as a CPA company. PKF wasn’t born an IT company or a security firm – our roots are in accounting and auditing, and most of our partners hail from Big 4 (PWC, KPMG, EY, Deloitte) and even ex-AA. In fact, I am the only non-audit guy in the partner table and my jokes are often not understood. Due to this background, inherently we have this default position whereby if there are any grey areas, it’s safer to err on the side of caution and not do it unless proper conditions are clear. So while in PCI the arrangement of QSACs providing remediation works are allowed with certain conditions, the very memory of how an 89 year old accounting firm had to surrender its CPA license due to the largest auditing scandal in history still lives on in our industry.

b) We Hate Auditing

Well not really. We are auditors after all! We do have a fair bit of audit and assessments as part of our work. But boy, have you ever been in an audit as an auditor? Everyone just hates you. I remember auditing for a very large BPO company for their IT general controls and software development. The head of software looked like he was going to put live electric eels down our pants halfway through our interview. And we weren’t even antagonistic. Asking for documentation of his software practices was like asking for the what Edward Snowden had. Another company had their head of operations sit with us in the room for 1 hour and throughout the entire session, he refused to answer anything without legal in the same room. It was like we were interrogating him for murder instead of just asking if he had a change management procedure. It’s not all like this of course, we do have excellent clients who are on the same page as us mostly and we do feel the whole auditing process is enriching to our professional lives. Really. Even with that, the follow up audits, the report writing and quality assurance process etc, the evidence gathering and formatting into the proper report, the cycle of obtaining management comments etc. It’s just very taxing on the guys. Report writing takes up a chunk. And guess what – in PCI, a normal Report on Compliance (ROC) for level 1 onsite assessments can stretch up to a thousand pages. Yes. A. Thousand. Or more. It’s like asking us to become Leo Tolstoy and start writing War and Peace every single assignment.

c) Cost vs Benefit

Being a QSA is a great achievement. But there is a huge outlay for the company as well. Not only there are fees you need to pay to become QSA, there are fees you need to pay to operate in particular regions as well. Then you have training fees for your QSAs, yearly maintenance etc. It’s a lot of money to run a QSA company and because of that, you need to get your bacon from all over. For instance, if you have license in Asia-Pacific, then you probably want to tackle the China market. Or else, focus on the SEA region and get your QSAs to fly between countries. Focusing on a single country isn’t going to make up for the cost of maintaining your QSA company, at least from our point of view and our brief calculations. Now because of this, we need to fan out. To fan out, we need to expand the company. To expand, we need to hire and get jobs. I’m all for it, but its a matter of being a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. As of this moment, our strategy is not to overstretch ourselves too much and to establish ourselves with the clients we have. It’s not as if PKF is in a hurry to IPO or go anywhere. We’re here for the long run, and in Standard Chartered slogan: We are here for good.

d) Stretching is not fun

We tried it before.

As in not physically, but in terms of a company. We grew our tiny little professional services firm to 16 people once upon a time, with dedicated R&D and Project Management group only to get kicked in the butt by a guy called “No Jobs”. We grew so fast, we didn’t get the sales in to keep up and after the initial projects were done, we were left with a lot of people on the bench playing Pokemon-go. We stretched. But we over did it. It’s not to say we are now not being ambitious. We still are, but we need to be realistic with our goals. If we target to get 10 – 15 tier one customers to keep our benefit more than our cost – how many QSAs do we need to do that? After that, how many consultants to do the remediation work?

Additionally, even if we had 10 QSAs for instance, these guys will be scrambling all over the region doing audits. They won’t have time for operational work. They won’t have time for consulting or providing technical services. They will either be auditing a customer, or they will be on a plane somewhere, or they will be writing or reviewing one of those 1000 pages tomes called the ROC.

e) We Want to Stick with our Customers

The bottom line is this. If we hadn’t found a trusted QSA whom we can work with and who are mostly on the same page as us, we would have gone and gotten our QSA ourselves and went another direction. I think we have enough legs and enough entrenchment in the region and global to do that. But we found a great partner. We found a QSA that we could work with and didn’t do any BS work. We found a QSA that had similar philosophies (although we are still working in synching our concept of deadlines, but hey, that’s like marriage, ain’t it) – and for 7 years, we have been working great together. They like what we do, that they can hands off a lot of the remediation advisory to us and don’t have to get on conference calls all the time or have to fly in and out of our client’s offices for weekly meetings. We like that we can work with our customer, look after our client’s interest and not worry to much about whether we are overstepping our limits as advisors or consultants versus auditors. We can stick with our customers and give them all we have. We can spend a whole day in our customer’s premise working with them without worrying that we need to head off for an audit for 2 weeks in Timbaktu. We don’t have to fly in and out of countries or tell our clients we can only meet 2 weeks later. If you want us within 24 hours, we will have someone there. Best of all, it’s very clear that once auditing starts, we are sitting on the side of our client, and ensuring that our client have what it takes to pass PCI-DSS.

Of course, this is simply our view at this current time. We are well aware of the flowing and ebbing of different forces in our industry and it might come a time whereby this model doesn’t work anymore. But for now, honestly, we just want to get cracking at troubleshooting your Cisco ASA as opposed to writing a War and Peace Novel. Drop us a note at pcidss@pkfmalaysia.com for more information!

The Myths of the Top 10 Myths of PCI-DSS Part Two

pci-compliance

Continuing where we left off yesterday, let’s jump right into the next Myth

Myth 6 – PCI requires us to hire a Qualified Security Assessor

Technically true. Once again for merchant level 3 and below, SAQs are good enough to be compliant. Here’s how it works: merchants complete an SAQ, the management signs it off and they pass the Attestation of Compliance (AoC) over to whoever is asking – generally either the acquiring bank, or the payment gateway. Some of these SAQs are easy. Which SAQ you choose is a little bit more work. While we are not going into SAQ in this article, a quick comparison of SAQ A (mainly for Ecommerce merchants that outsource all processing functions) and SAQ D-MER (generally for merchants who store, process and transmit card data): 14 questions for SAQ A vs 326 questions for SAQ D-MER. That’s right. It’s 23X more work.

So while this Myth is generally true, for a merchant to undergo SAQ D-MER, most do not have the capacity to do it themselves, hence require expertise from either QSAs or consultants outside of the company. What about this Internal Security Auditor (ISA) option?

Here’s where it gets a little strange. In 2012 Mastercard released a statement stating:

“Effective 30 June 2012, Level 1 merchants that choose to conduct an annual onsite assessment using an internal auditor must ensure that primary internal auditor staff engaged in validating PCI DSS compliance attend PCI SSC ISA Training and pass the associated accreditation program annually in order to continue to use internal auditors.”

And

“Effective 30 June 2012, Level 2 merchants that choose to complete an annual self-assessment questionnaire must ensure that staff engaged in the self-assessment attend PCI SSC ISA Training and pass the associated accreditation program annually in order to continue the option of self-assessment for compliance validation. Alternatively, Level 2 merchants may, at their own discretion, complete an annual onsite assessment conducted by a PCI SSC approved Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) rather than complete an annual self-assessment questionnaire.”

What they effectively are saying is that Level 1 to 4 merchants CAN have an option not to engage a QSA, but the caveat is that for level 1 and 2, they need to be ‘validated’ by internal auditors. Not just any internal auditors, but auditors certified as “ISA”, by the PCI council. Yes, it’s a certification that is created to sign off SAQs.

If you do not have an ISA, you are stuck, and you will need a QSA to validate your SAQ. In most cases, having a QSA validate is as much work as having them certify the environment, so you do end up ‘hiring’ a QSA to validate it.

Why not all join in the ISA bandwagon then?

Well, you need to cough out around USD500 for the PCI Fundamentals course, then around USD3,000 – USD4,000 for the ISA course and then every year USD1,000 for requalification training fee. Only companies going for PCI-DSS can have ISA so if you are consultants like us, you are out of luck.

Large merchants probably might want to invest in an ISA. But note of caution, ISA is NON transferable. So if you are an ISA for Company A, and you move to Company B, your ISA status does not go with you. If Company B wants you to be their ISA, you need to go through the entire course again. Yes, even the fundamentals course again.

It is certainly less expensive to get an ISA to validate your SAQ compared to having an external QSA, so large merchants might opt to have one or two ISAs in their stable and invest in them yearly.

Myth 7 – We don’t take enough credit cards to be compliant

PCI likes to state, even if you take ONE credit card, you are supposed to be PCI certified/compliant. But honestly, unless that one credit card transaction is to buy a Bugati Veyron, the acquirer is likely not going to come knocking on your door to ask you to become PCI compliant. The theory is that everyone who deals with credit cards will happily agree to invest in time to go through the SAQ and 12 requirements. The reality is starkly different. Businesses have 600 different things to look into daily, and most business turn a blind eye to PCI as long as there is no burning platform or pressure from above. The card brands push the acquirers, the acquirers push the payment processors and gateways and large merchants, and the payment processors push their service providers. Somehere down the line, the little travel agency around the corner that collects credit card information, jots down the the PAN and CVV on a log book for recording purposes so they can book online flights in behalf of the customer, is overlooked. As long as there is no massive exercise to push everyone to be PCI compliant, there will be organisations that continue to operate outside the PCI requirements. Yes, your CVV will still be kept in a log book by that little travel agency – still oblivious to why storing CVV is such a big deal.

Myth 8 – We completed a SAQ so we’re compliant

Well – technically, you are. Again “being compliant” is not really an end state itself. How can anyone sustain compliance 100%? When Target was breached, they were just re-certified as compliant. Hence, the word compliant is generally just used as punchline for businesses. For instance – Ecommerce starts online payment system. They register with acquirer, acquirer tells them to be ‘PCI Compliant’. They finish their SAQ and submit. Acquirer is happy with the signoff and allows them to connect. Ecommerce proudly displays “PCI Compliant” Logo (which is not allowed, by the way) prominently on their website. They have actually successfully completed an SAQ and they are ‘compliant’ because the acquirer tells them that they are. If they are not compliant, they wouldn’t be able to connect. By the fact that this is allowed, shows that Myth 8 is actually true!

Myth 9 – PCI makes us store cardholder data

It’s true that PCI would rather you NOT store cardholder data. But this myth doesn’t make any sense. It’s not because of PCI that businesses shape their business processes after. It is because of the business processes, that there is a need for PCI. So, it’s up to the business to store, transmit or process cardholder data or not. Nobody goes into PCI-DSS saying, oh, because of PCI-DSS we now need to store data and need to invest in HSMs and key management, encryption etc. Because of PCI, we now need to have a payment business. I have never seen such a client. It’s always the other way round. Based on your business, PCI might or might not apply.

Myth 10 – PCI is too hard

This is the same argument as Myth 5. The PCI SSC makes a good point by saying, it’s good practice regardless to have controls in place, aside from PCI-DSS compliance. But the myth is here because they are actually stating PCI is not hard, simply because you should be practicing good security in the first place. To many, good security is hard! Turnover of staffs, zero day attacks, business as usual priorities, advancement of technologies, software and hardware being obsolete, pressure from management, costing issues, new vulnerabilities and exploits discovered (and not discovered yet) – and the fact that in the cybercrime world, the bad guys are miles ahead of the good guys – security is hard, make no mistake about it.

So there you have it. You would think with a post like this, PCI-DSS is a fruitless endeavor. Far from it. It’s an excellent repository of security practices that all organisations should consider. While some of the standards in there show their age (Anti virus, anyone? Please.), overall, it’s one of the more direct, implementable standards we have experienced (compared to the labyrinth we know as the ISO27001). The point of the post is to clarify that sometimes, standards in practice can turn out quite different from standards in documentation.

Now – should you check if your CVV is stored by your travel agency?

MPSB is PCI-DSS Certified!

 

What started out as a simple enquiry in 2012 turned into a full fledged PCI-DSS Level 1 project for Manage Pay Services Berhad (MPSB), one of our success stories in PCI-DSS compliance. PKF has been the sole representative of Control Case, an internationally recognised Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) from US with a center of excellence in India, in Malaysia since 2011. MPSB was one of our first client together, and while the follow ups and clarifications took some time, we once again demonstrated the value of client relationship and customer closeness that sets our service apart. With PKF Control Case, we are just a call, just a drive away. With additional value added services like update talks, training, technical services and consultancy, we definitely gave MPSB more than they bargained for. It was precisely this working relationship between MPSB, our local team of PCI consultants and the QSAs from India that made this project a resounding success. It was indeed with great pride that in 2014, less than a year from our gap assessment, that we can say: it was a great journey, and now it continues on through maintenance and yearly review.

PCI-DSS can be an extremely arduous project, as it touches major parts of the business and is oftentimes more than 5 – 6 months. Due to this, we have specialised Project Management Professionals (PMP) doing PCI based projects for banks and large enterprises. For more details, drop us an email at avantedge@pkfmalaysia.com. We will contact you immediately and set you up on your compliance journey.

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