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DAST for PCI DSS compliance

DAST for PCI DSS compliance

Edward Chopskie

By mapping Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements, organizations can effectively strengthen their application security and ensure compliance with industry standards. DAST provides a proactive approach to security by enabling businesses to identify vulnerabilities and address them before they can be exploited, thus safeguarding cardholder data and minimizing the risk of data breaches.

Integrating DAST into the PCI DSS security framework allows organizations to adopt best practices in vulnerability management and risk mitigation. By regularly scanning and testing web applications, businesses can identify and remediate security flaws, ensuring the ongoing protection of sensitive payment card information. This proactive stance not only strengthens the overall security posture but also directly demonstrates a commitment to compliance and the protection of customer data.

Moreover, incorporating DAST as a standard practice in the Secure Development Lifecycle (SDLC) ensures that security is ingrained throughout the application development process. By detecting vulnerabilities early on, organizations can address them during the development and testing stages, reducing the potential for security issues in the final product. This approach improves the overall security of applications and reduces the need for costly remediation efforts later on.

By integrating DAST into their security practices, organizations enhance their overall security posture, maintain compliance with PCI DSS, and build trust with customers. This approach ensures the effective protection of cardholder data and minimizes the risk of data breaches, contributing to a secure and reliable payment card environment.

PCI DSS details 

PCI DSS is a set of security standards designed to protect cardholder data and ensure the secure handling, storage, and transmission of payment card information by organizations that accept, process, or store such data. 

PCI DSS consists of 12 high-level requirements that organizations must meet to ensure the security of cardholder data. These requirements are as follows:

1. Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
2. Do not use vendor-supplied default passwords or security parameters.
3. Protect stored cardholder data.
4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.
5. Use and regularly update antivirus software or programs.
6. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
7. Restrict access to cardholder data by business need-to-know.
8. Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access.
9. Restrict physical access to cardholder data.
10. Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data.
11. Regularly test security systems and processes.
12. Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel.

These requirements provide a framework for organizations to protect sensitive cardholder data and maintain a secure environment for handling payment card transactions.

PCI DSS is not a regulation in the traditional sense; rather, it is a set of security standards established by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). These standards are designed to ensure the protection of cardholder data and reduce the risk of data breaches within the payment card industry. 

Compliance with PCI DSS is mandated by card brands and enforced by payment card acquirers and processors, making it a crucial requirement for organizations that handle payment card information. By adhering to PCI DSS, businesses demonstrate their commitment to maintaining a secure environment for processing, storing, and transmitting cardholder data.

Where does DAST fit in? 

DAST aligns to the 6th PCI DSS requirement; developing and maintaining secure applications. In PCI-speak this means to maintain a Vulnerability Management Program. PCI defines vulnerability management as the process of systematically and continuously finding weaknesses in an entity’s payment card infrastructure system. 

Specific to DAST,  PCI DSS Requirements 6.1 and 6.3 states that information security be incorporated into the SDLC. 

6.1 Establish a process to identify security vulnerabilities, using reputable outside sources, and assign a risk ranking (e.g. “high,” “medium,” or “low”) to newly discovered security vulnerabilities.
6.3 Develop internal and external software applications (including web-based administrative access to applications) securely, as follows: In accordance with PCI DSS (for example, secure authentication and logging)Based on industry standards and/or best practices Incorporating information security throughout the software-development life cycle

By using DAST, organizations shift application security left by test early, often and throughout the SDLC. DAST can help developers during unit testing  and throughout the SDLC by identifying vulnerabilities and security weaknesses in the application’s code. 

DAST scans the application in its running state, simulating real-world attacks, and provides immediate feedback to developers, enabling them to address security issues early in the development cycle and improve the overall security of the application. 

Here’s how DAST can assist with PCI DSS compliance:

Vulnerability Detection: DAST tools scan web applications for common security vulnerabilities such as cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection and insecure session management. By identifying these vulnerabilities, organizations can remediate them before they can be exploited by attackers and potentially compromise cardholder data.

Continuous Monitoring: PCI DSS requires regular vulnerability assessments and security testing. DAST tools can be employed to perform ongoing scans and tests in the CI/CD ensuring that vulnerabilities are promptly detected and addressed. Continuous monitoring helps organizations stay compliant with the PCI DSS requirement for regular security testing.

Compliance Reporting: DAST tools often provide comprehensive reports that detail the vulnerabilities discovered during the scanning process. These reports can be used as evidence of compliance with PCI DSS requirements for vulnerability assessments. They can demonstrate that regular testing is being conducted and identify any security gaps that need to be addressed.

Secure Development Lifecycle (SDLC): PCI DSS encourages the integration of security throughout the software development lifecycle. DAST can be incorporated into the SDLC to identify vulnerabilities early in the development process. By scanning applications during development and testing stages, organizations can catch and remediate security issues before they become more expensive and time-consuming to fix in production.

In summary, DAST is an important element for achieving PCI DSS compliance. By actively identifying vulnerabilities, offering continuous monitoring, generating compliance reports, supporting the SDLC, and assisting in risk management, DAST strengthens an organization’s security posture. Its role in enhancing security measures, safeguarding cardholder data, and ensuring adherence to PCI DSS requirements is pivotal. 

Lastly, DAST serves as an essential component within a comprehensive security strategy, enabling organizations to maintain a robust and compliant payment card environment, instilling trust among customers and stakeholders.


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