The migration path to PCI DSS v4.0 can provide a number of significant challenges for larger entities, but in order to understand why you should move to SAQ A v4.0 with the extra control requirements as soon as possible, it may help to first understand the evolution of PCI DSS. Since its inception, the PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) has worked to ensure that the development of the PCI DSS and other PCI security standards balances the need to evolve to face the challenges of a rapidly changing security landscape with the need for constancy. When the PCI DSS standard is updated the goal is to address new or evolving data security threats/vulnerabilities as they emerge.
As a PCI Forensic Investigator (PFI) Company, Foregenix performs hundreds of investigations annually. When we focus on the specific subject of e-commerce site attacks against merchants, a significant percentage of those breaches target the URL redirect process or the iframe implementation which is used to process card transactions. When SAQ A v3.2.1 was released in 2018 the above methods for attacking e-commerce merchants were not actively being implemented; however since its publishing the number of attacks of this nature has grown exponentially.
So now we have the background, lets move forwards with the new requirements in PCI DSS SAQ A:
All payment page scripts that are loaded and executed in the consumer’s browser are managed as follows:
External vulnerability scans are performed as follows:
External vulnerability scans are performed after any significant change as follows:
A change- and tamper-detection mechanism is deployed as follows:
NOTE: These are just the new requirements, requirements which have not significantly changed are not included in the list above. You should check the full SAQ A document for a complete list of requirements.
Now that we have established the requirements, let's look a little deeper into how these controls mitigate the risks associated with compromises of e-commerce sites.
The first requirement to look at is 11.3.2 (and 188.8.131.52); where SAQ A merchants are introduced to the requirements for external vulnerability scanning using an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) provider. External vulnerability scanning is a process where the site is evaluated to identify security weaknesses and issues by an external vendor and a report is provided that details the issues identified and provides some guidance on remediation.
Next the focus shifts to requirements 6.4.3 and 11.6.1; these controls are defined to specifically mitigate the attack path of changing or tampering with hosted payment pages and iframe implementations. Requirement 6.4.3 provides organisations with a full spectrum control (preventative, detective and corrective) by asking for an inventory of scripts and method to approve new scripts onto the site and monitoring for any changes; timely monitoring against the inventory of scripts is going to be key here to close the window of opportunity during any breach.
Requirement 11.6.1 sounds a lot more technical than it may need to be - the first point to note is that where a forced URL redirect method* is used, this requirement is not applicable. For implementing requirement 11.6.1 the PCI SSC in the full PCI DSS v4.0 documentation gives the following guidance:
Mechanisms that detect and report on changes to the headers and content of the payment page include but are not limited to:
The above controls will significantly reduce the risk of cardholder data compromise to merchant e-commerce sites; while you can still be PCI DSS compliant without the above controls until the 31st March 2025 (as the new controls only become mandatory after that date), the controls are designed to mitigate risks that are specifically being used to exploit e-commerce systems and applications at the moment.
We are a world-leading Qualified Security Assessor (QSA), having completed hundreds of PCI DSS Assessments since it's inception.
Foregenix is qualified to deliver against all Assessor programs within all 6 global regions including PCI DSS, PA-DSS/PCI SSF, P2PE, PCI PIN, 3DS and Card Production (CPSA), PCI Forensic Investigation Services (PFI certified). In addition to the PCI standards, Foregenix provides advisory and assessment services for SWIFT Customer Security Program, Security Testing (Internal, External, Web, Mobile and Cloud Application), Information Security Consultancy, Digital Forensics and Incident Response and Risk Management.
You can also contact us for any specific questions on PCI DSS.
* For details about a URL redirect method please see this documentation from Visa: