How to Achieve PCI-DSS Compliance with the Push of a Button 

Payment security is a complex art that can be difficult to fully unlock. This is partially because electronic transactions are so common, having almost completely eclipsed cash transactions in the United States and Europe (and Asia). These are difficult to secure because they represent such a juicy target for attackers, who are always looking to make a quick buck for as little work or risk of exposure as possible.

It is because of these factors that in 2004, the major credit card companies (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB) formed the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) to manage and administer the PCI-DSS standards. The council was formed to design and enforce the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). This framework aims to protect cardholder data and secure credit and debit card transactions against data theft and fraud. It’s important to understand that these are not laws, per se. Rather they are a contractual agreement between vendors and credit card companies. However, certain states and federal government agencies have written these same requirements into their laws or regulations to curb credit card fraud.

The consequences of non-compliance with PCI-DSS can be severe, ranging from hefty fines to increased transaction fees, or even the revocation of the ability to process credit card payments. In cases where companies experienced breaches due to non-compliance, fines have reached into the millions. For example, Target was fined $18 million for violating PCI standards and allowing the data of 40 million card holders to be exposed.

So now we’ve established a goal, but how exactly one effectively achieves compliance can be a messy, confusing and expensive process. This is where our Java Security Platform comes in. Waratek helps businesses enforce the stringent security controls required by PCI-DSS by using a “Security-as-Code” approach. We integrate rules directly into application runtimes to ensure that security policies are applied consistently and effectively. This allows our customers to essentially eliminate the most common vulnerabilities that lead to data breaches and cyberattacks that compromise payment systems. In the following sections, we will explore the specifics of PCI compliance requirements and demonstrate how Waratek acts as an essential tool for businesses to secure their payment environments.

Overview of PCI-DSS Requirements

The PCI-DSS guidelines include 12 central tenets, each supported by more detailed sub-requirements. For a full list of the guidelines, click here.

Now, there are obviously certain requirements on this list that Waratek cannot help with. Namely, the first two: firewalls are typically managed at the network or operating system level and password management is an administrative task. However, the rest of the list can be distilled into five overarching themes:

  • Protect and encrypt cardholder data
  • Maintain a vulnerability management program
  • Implement strong access control measures
  • Regularly monitor and test networks
  • Compliance reporting and documentation

Let’s take a deeper look at these requirements and examine how Waratek’s Java Security features can ensure you never have to worry about how to achieve them.

Requirements 3 & 4: Protect and Encrypt Cardholder Data

Protecting stored cardholder data and ensuring the encryption of cardholder data transmitted across public networks is the baseline of any data protection initiative. Credit card and transaction data are hot commodities among attackers. Both for the safety and security of customers and for the reputation and regulatory requirements discussed, data security should be a top priority for any business that handles credit transactions. Waratek makes adhering to these stringent requirements relatively simple. Using advanced application security measures, we can help you establish an effective posture for protecting sensitive data that is relatively easy to set up and requires very little maintenance.

Waratek offers strong application-level encryption capabilities designed to secure cardholder data at rest. By integrating directly into application runtimes, Waratek provides a seamless approach for encrypting sensitive data before it is stored in databases or other storage systems. This method of encryption is highly efficient, since it leverages the application’s existing infrastructure, minimizing performance overhead and eliminating the need for external encryption services or modifications to the application’s core architecture.

Meanwhile, Waratek safeguards the endpoints and interactions within your applications that initiate data transfers. Although direct management of data transmissions typically involves using secure transmission protocols like TLS, Waratek enhances the security posture by ensuring that the data handled by the application is managed securely before it is transmitted. This includes securing API endpoints, sanitizing data inputs to prevent injection attacks, and monitoring data flows within the application to detect and mitigate potential security risks in real-time. By establishing a strong security framework within the application, Waratek helps ensure that data is secure at rest and in transit.

Requirements 5 & 6: Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program

PCI-DSS Requirements 5 and 6 focus on maintaining a proactive vulnerability management program, crucial for protecting against the deluge of threats targeting payment environments.

Requirement 5 of PCI-DSS mandates the use of antivirus software and the regular update of such programs to protect against malware. While traditional antivirus solutions operate at the network or host levels, Waratek enhances the security posture at the application level. We do this by virtually patching vulnerabilities in the application stack. This includes patches for the Java framework, application libraries, and servers without needing downtime or immediate code changes, aligning with PCI-DSS’s directive for timely application of security patches.

Meanwhile, Waratek’s approach is particularly valuable in the development and maintenance of secure systems and applications. Waratek enables organizations to define specific rules that mitigate the risk of SQL injection, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), and other common attacks.

In scenarios where traditional patches are not feasible—whether due to system criticality, stability concerns, or patch availability—Waratek’s rules act as effective compensating controls. For example, if an unpatched vulnerability is known to allow unauthorized file reads through directory traversal, Waratek can craft and implement a rule that detects and blocks such actions. Like Waratek’s virtual patches, rules can be applied instantly with no app downtime or tuning required.

This capability ensures continuous protection and compliance, protecting data integrity and availability while new patches are being developed and tested. By integrating these protective measures directly into the application runtime, Waratek helps fulfil PCI-DSS requirements by fortifying the application against emerging security threats.

Requirements 7, 8 & 9: Implement Strong Access Control Measures

PCI-DSS Requirements 7, 8, and 9 mandate that companies implement strong access control measures. This means protecting cardholder data by ensuring that access is allowed only to authorized users and under strict conditions. Waratek helps achieve this by providing fine-grained access controls and robust execution prevention mechanisms within the application runtime.

Requirement 7 essentially mandates least privilege. This means that access to system components and cardholder data is restricted to individuals whose job requires access. Waratek helps enforce this requirement by enabling precise control over the actions that applications can perform at runtime. We ensure that each part of the application is granted only the minimum necessary privileges needed to perform its functions. Since Waratek operates directly within the application layer, the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches is greatly reduced.

Companies are also required to assign a unique ID to each person with computer access. Waratek’s security architecture is capable of logging and monitoring application activities by user session. Although Waratek does not manage user identities or authentication mechanisms, its ability to log application behavior based on user actions helps maintain accountability and traceability.

Meanwhile, Waratek controls which files and executables can be run within the environment. This includes blocking execution by unauthorized software and malicious executables. Even if risks are introduced into the system physically, they are still blocked before they are able to do any harm. By blocking the execution of unauthorized or malicious processes, Waratek provides a critical security layer that complements physical access controls. This helps prevent attacks that exploit physical security gaps.

Requirements 10 & 11: Regularly Monitor and Test Networks

PCI-DSS Requirements 10 and 11 are crucial for ensuring that all activities involving cardholder data are tracked, and that security measures are regularly tested to detect any vulnerabilities. Waratek provides key capabilities that support these requirements through its detailed logging features and real-time alert systems.

Requirement 10 mandates the tracking and monitoring of all access to network resources and cardholder data. With Waratek, all companies have access to automated, detailed logging of every action executed within the application. That includes access attempts, configuration settings changes, or specific transactions involving cardholder data. By capturing detailed information about both blocked and allowed actions, Waratek helps organizations maintain a clear record of what data was accessed, by whom, and under what circumstances. These logs provide comprehensive audit trails that comply with PCI-DSS standards. They also enhance security by allowing for immediate analysis and response to potential security threats.

To remain compliant, companies must also conduct regular testing of security systems and processes. Waratek can be configured to trigger alerts based on specific security events, such as attempts to exploit known vulnerabilities, unauthorized access attempts, or deviations from normal operational patterns. These real-time alerts enable security teams to respond promptly to potential security incidents, significantly reducing the risk of a data breach. Moreover, the capability to continuously monitor and test the effectiveness of the security controls in place allows organizations to maintain a proactive stance in their security operations, ensuring that they can quickly adapt to new threats as they arise.

Other security and monitoring tools — WAFs in particular — have a big performance hit and generate false positives. Waratek does neither. Teams often switch WAFs into detect (or monitor) mode because of the performance overhead & FP rate. Waratek addresses both issues: no performance drag, no false positives and no way (or reason) for teams to switch off the protections offered by Waratek which improve performance and reduce false positives.

Requirement 12: Compliance Reporting and Documentation

Requirement 12 states that organizations must maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel. Every company handling credit transactions must have well-documented and communicated security policies and procedures that guide the organization’s approach to maintaining a secure environment for cardholder data.

Waratek facilitates compliance reporting by generating automated reports based on detailed logs and security events. These reports are invaluable during audits, as they provide verifiable evidence of the organization’s adherence to PCI-DSS requirements. By keeping precise records of security policies, incidents, and the state of the application security posture, Waratek helps organizations demonstrate their compliance in a structured and easily reviewable manner. This is particularly crucial for Requirement 12, as it helps in showcasing a proactive approach to information security management and governance.

Additionally, Waratek’s use of declarative and imperative rules for defining security policies means that these policies are not only enforced but well-documented. Each security rule in Waratek’s framework is codified, which serves as clear documentation of what security measures are in place and how they are implemented. This approach provides auditors and security teams with transparent insights into the security controls that protect the organization’s data environment. The clarity and accessibility of these documents simplify the process of ensuring that security policies are up to date and in line with industry standards.

But compliance isn’t a one time box to check; it must be continually watched and upgraded where necessary. These features ensure that security measures are not forgotten after they are implemented. They are continuously monitored, updated, and reported in line with PCI’s required comprehensive compliance management.

Avoid the PCC-DSS Compliance Headaches

Electronic transactions dominate financial exchanges across the globe. Securing these transactions against fraud and data breaches is more critical than ever. Failing to do so can lead to heavy financial losses and operational disruptions. The PCI-DSS offers a comprehensive framework to protect cardholder data, but achieving and maintaining compliance remains a challenging task for many organizations.

Waratek’s Java Security Platform simplifies this complex challenge by embedding security directly into application runtimes. By enforcing stringent security controls and eliminating common vulnerabilities that lead to data breaches, Waratek helps businesses meet PCI-DSS requirements. 

To learn more about how Waratek can transform your approach to payment security and help you achieve PCI-DSS compliance take a tour of the platform here.

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