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Five Best Practices for PCI DSS Compliance in the Cloud

Five Best Practices for PCI DSS Compliance in the Cloud

Blog Article Published: 06/14/2023

Originally published by Orca Security.

Written by Vini Mostovoy and Deborah Galea.

If your organization processes credit card payments, you are probably familiar with PCI DSS, a compliance mandate that was initially established in 2004. However, with the increasing adoption of cloud computing, more organizations are storing and processing credit card information in the cloud. This presents new compliance challenges since securing cloud environments requires a totally different approach than on-premise environments.

In this blog post, we will discuss the five best practices for ensuring PCI DSS compliance in the cloud.

What is PCI DSS?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards that organizations processing credit cards must meet in order to protect cardholder data and prevent fraud. PCI DSS includes detailed technical prerequisites to safeguard and fortify payment card information throughout its processing, handling, storage, and transmission. Irrespective of size, all businesses involved in payment card data must adhere to these requirements and maintain PCI compliance, and failure to comply can result in hefty fines, legal penalties, and reputational damage.

PCI DSS Compliance Best Practices

Here are five important best practices that organizations should follow to ensure PCI DSS compliance in their cloud environments:

1. Choose a PCI DSS compliant cloud provider

The first best practice for PCI DSS compliance in the cloud is to choose a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) that is PCI DSS compliant. The CSP should provide a secure infrastructure with secure physical access controls, network security, data encryption, and security monitoring capabilities. Many CSPs will provide third-party audit reports to certify their products for PCI DSS. For example, here are some links that discuss PCI DSS compliance for popular cloud platforms: AWS compliance, Azure compliance, Google Cloud compliance, Alibaba cloud compliance, and Oracle Cloud compliance.

However, it’s important to note that this is only the start, and that organizations are still responsible for ensuring that the cloud assets and applications they run in their cloud are PCI DSS compliant.

2. Implement secure authentication and access controls

The second best practice is to implement strong access controls. Access controls are essential for ensuring that only authorized users can access cardholder data in the cloud. This includes strong authentication mechanisms such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), strong passwords, and password rotation policies.

In addition to authentication mechanisms, organizations must also implement role-based access controls (RBAC) that limit access to cardholder data based on job responsibilities. RBAC ensures that employees only have access to the data necessary to perform their job functions. Access controls must also be reviewed regularly to ensure that access rights are up-to-date and aligned with organizational requirements.

3. Monitor the cloud environment for security threats

Next on the list is to monitor the cloud environment for security threats such as malware, hacking attempts, and unauthorized access attempts. This can be achieved by implementing security information and event management (SIEM) tools that provide real-time monitoring and analysis of security events.

Additionally, organizations must implement intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) that detect and prevent attacks on the cloud environment. IDPS systems can detect and prevent attacks such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Specifically focused on cloud attacks, Cloud Detection & Response solutions detect security incidents through continuous ingestion and analysis of cloud provider logs and threat intelligence feeds. When combining that data with the wider context of the cloud environment, false positives can be avoided and security practitioners have insight into valuable information to quickly facilitate the right response.

4. Encrypt all sensitive data

The fourth best practice is to encrypt cardholder data and implement strong encryption mechanisms such as Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with a key length of 256 bits. Encryption is essential for protecting cardholder data from unauthorized access and theft. Organizations must ensure that all cardholder data is encrypted in the cloud both in transit and at rest. This includes data that is transmitted between the customer and the CSP and data that is stored in the cloud environment.

Additionally, organizations must ensure that encryption keys are managed securely and that they are rotated regularly to prevent unauthorized access.

5. Maintain compliance through regular audits and assessments

Finally, to maintain PCI DSS compliance in the cloud, it is essential to conduct regular audits and risk assessments, including vulnerability scanning. These assessments will help you identify any weaknesses in your system that could be exploited by attackers and enable you to take steps to correct them. By conducting regular assessments, you can ensure that your cloud infrastructure remains secure and compliant with PCI DSS.

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