Click here to close now.


Containers Expo Blog Authors: Elizabeth White, Don MacVittie, Liz McMillan, Anders Wallgren, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, IoT User Interface, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

PCI Compliance for Retailers from the Cloud Perspective

Looking at individual PCI requirements and how they are addressed from the cloud

One of the key drivers to IT security investment is compliance. Several industries are bound by various mandates that require certain transparencies and security features. They are designed to mitigate aspects of risk including maintaining the sacrosanctity of customer information, financial data and other proprietary information.

One such affected vertical is retail. No matter if you’re Wal-Mart or Nana’s Knitted Kittens, if you store customer information; if you process payments using customer’s credit cards, you are required by law to comply with a variety of security standards. Although there are several auditing agencies and mandating bodies, today we will concentrate on the one compliance agency that is typically applicable to every retailer-PCI.

PCI (Payment Card Industry) enforces Data Security Standards that looks to ensure that ALL companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. Now of course, not all merchants are created equal. Nana obviously doesn’t process the volume or the dollar amount of a national or even a high traffic regional retailer. However, this doesn’t let Nana off the hook. Her online shopping cart still needs to be Payment Application DSS validated (PCI compliant). She still is required to pass security audits of her network…just not as often.

But for the sake of this example, let’s assume you are a retailer who processes more than 20,000 transactions a year and the administrative burden of PCI is a real concern. In fact, it is a business necessity to maintain merchant accounts with VISA, American Express and MasterCard. And it is hugely important to keep the confidence of your customers. Fines for non-compliance aside, a breach of your network could cost millions of dollars. And that doesn’t begin to calculate the cost of customer defection through loss of trust.

Most, if not all, retailers have some sort of PCI monitoring in place. However, they are often cumbersome, expensive and resource heavy. Additionally, too many retail organizations don’t employ a compliance officer, much less a dedicated security person. This doesn’t mean these functions aren’t part of someone’s job description. Typically, they are yet another line item in a plethora of competing priorities and mission critical initiatives. In that security can be considered a cost center, the move to simply do the bare minimum to meet compliance is often an attractive alternative. Until now. Until the cloud. More specifically, a holistic enterprise security initiative deployed and managed from the cloud.

So how does cloud-based security/security-as-a-service meet the requirements of PCI while driving down costs, freeing up personnel resources and providing an easy-yet-comprehensive suite of capabilities and functions?

The easiest way to illustrate the potential is to look at the individual PCI requirements and how they are addressed from the cloud:

1. Protect Data: A cloud-based SIEM offering can accomplish the most important feature of this requirement: the ability to instantly recognize any change, intrusion or activity to your firewall IN REAL TIME. That’s the key. There isn’t the lag of looking at all the logs a week later when the damage has been done, or not being able to tell a suspicious action from a white noise false positive. Whereas many SIEM products can do just this, ones from the cloud provide the additional benefit of 7/24/365 monitoring across the entire enterprise. And, you get a scope of visibility of Fortune 500 class protection for literally pennies on the dollar.

2. No vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters: This process is typically enforced by an identity management protocol. The system includes a password management and synchronization feature. The overarching benefit here is SIEM and identity management are two separate functions from two separate applications. However, applying a holistic solution from the cloud gives you the additional flexibility to recognize new accounts, check device configurations and know when and where configurations have deviated from your standards including the entry of too many incorrect passwords

3. Protect cardholder data: Not only are you required to protect and store data, but ensure encryption of any transmission of that data across public networks. The application of situational awareness is  an effective means of capturing, encrypting and storing (and destroying) certain pieces of information and then providing the auditing regulatory agency with proof that your best practices are in line with internal and external policies. This is the heart of your security and should be treated as such. For instance an immediate alert can be escalated if anyone pings the server in which your data is stored and you can instantly move to block them out or allow access depending on their internally designed permissions.

4. Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program: This includes securing SaaS applications and regularly updating anti-virus software. Again the answer is in the clouds. Single sign on and web authentication can tie together all the permissible applications and provide user provisioning. What makes this especially valuable in the cloud is the speed in which connectors can be created and distributed to only those who require the application. For instance, shipping doesn’t need to see the HR applications and marketing doesn’t require access to inventory programs.

5. Implement strong access control methods: As PCI specifically says access to personal and sensitive data is on a “Business need to know,” cloud-based identity managementprovides control and creates specific provisioning on who can see what and have access to which data. It gives you the visibility and the audit reports to show who accessed what, when and from what device.  Again, the cloud version of this solution ties it together with all the other security solutions giving it true enterprise context.

6. Collect logs and applications impacted by PCI: Log management is one of the most time intensive aspects of security. Not only do the logs need to be collected, but they also need to be studied for traffic patterns, suspicious anomalies, improper or failed access and create an audit trail for card processing systems. An automated system can only do so much and most organizations don’t spend a great deal of man hours scouring millions of lines of machine code. That’s where log management from the cloud is a huge time and asset saver. Not only does it have the automation to review and categorize this code, but security-as-a-service provides the additional human expertise to piece together the situational awareness from multiple silos to give a true report of the security of the enterprise. It’s like having an expert analyst on staff without the associated costs. And of course, those logs can be archived in accordance with PCI requirements for 1 year.

PCI is just one agency with its strict set of requirements. Now imagine the cost and personnel savings  when having to comply with multiple agencies. A VP of Ops from a nationally recognized retail company told me he deals with six agencies on a regular basis. Without a holistic and centralized security approach, he would waste endless hours through redundant reporting. With the application of security centralization, 75 hours per month becomes 10. And more importantly, the degree of accuracy of the reporting is significantly better.

In the above six line items, I described four or five different solutions. That in itself can be a heavy investment...unless you look at layering in the cloud. If you are inclined, there is a growing best practice platform of unified security whereby a company can achieve all these goals by leveraging all the solutions into one single source managed from the cloud (cost-effective, enterprise-powered and compliance -ready). But, that is enough ammunition for several other keep posted.

So if compliance is one of your banes of business, maybe it’s time you took a deeper look at the cloud.

Kevin Nikkhoo
Always PCI compliant! (HIPAA compliant too. And CIP, and SOX, GLBA and many, many others!)

More Stories By Kevin Nikkhoo

With more than 32 years of experience in information technology, and an extensive and successful entrepreneurial background, Kevin Nikkhoo is the CEO of the dynamic security-as-a-service startup Cloud Access. CloudAccess is at the forefront of the latest evolution of IT asset protection--the cloud.

Kevin holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from McGill University, Master of Computer Engineering at California State University, Los Angeles, and an MBA from the University of Southern California with emphasis in entrepreneurial studies.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them to design hosted applications.
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk was on IBM Cloudant, Apache CouchDB, and ...
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical to maintaining positive ROI. Raxak Protect is an automated security compliance SaaS platform and ma...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...