But the changes confirmed by the PCI Security Standards Council this week—which have been circulated among members for the last few weeks—provide few other substantive changes, delivering the mild tweaks and updates the council has publicly promised.
The document lists some 30 changes to the current PCI Version 1.1 and PCI officials promise that the official and final version—now slated for release on Oct. 1, a few weeks earlier than originally expected—will include yet more changes.
Still, the document provides a fairly detailed peek into the council's thinking. The most significant change is language that addresses the much-maligned WEP and tried to balance conflicting member interests, from those who argued that such a weak security approach should be banned as soon as possible and their opposite numbers, who spoke to the cost and effort that retailers would need to deploy to make the change.
"We needed to give people enough time to be able to comply. We wanted to make sure that there was enough time," said Bob Russo, the council's general manager. "There's a lot of expense for a merchant. We had feedback from some merchants that it would cause them some stress."
The new rule will say that "new implementations of WEP are not allowed after March 31, 2009" and that "current implementations must discontinue use of WEP after June 30, 2010."
Gartner security analyst Avivah Litan said the move is the right one, but quickly added that "they could have put out an amendment to upgrade this (WEP) requirement earlier. This is so long overdue that I don't know what the right word is."
PCI consultant Walter Conway, a former Visa VP, said the date compromise for WEP "reflects some business realities. I would have wanted the WEP changes, I would have wanted something much stricter and much sooner. I mean two years? I would have expected something stronger there."
Ed Adams, president of a security vendor called Security Innovation, said he had reviewed the changes and wanted to "criticize the council for caving in to vendor pressure more than anything else with the new changes. It’s getting as bad as Capitol Hill filibustering and lobbyist groups setting new legislation."
David Taylor, a former Gartner analyst and currently the head of the PCI Knowledge Base, said some of the changes read as though they were "cutting some people a break."
For example, Taylor spoke of the section that requires annual visits to offsite storage sites. Taylor mentioned a few concerns about that requirement.
"Because some of these locations are outside the U.S., sounds like a travel burden for the merchant and a 'hospitality burden' for the service providers," Taylor said. "Also, a lot of banks and large merchants do visitation programs now. That’s not how you find problems, by doing an annual tour of the facilities. It’s done by asking lots of tough questions about process, reviewing procedures, etc. All you can see is that these places are physically locked down and that they are typically much more physically secure than retailers, so these visits won’t prove anything."
An area that allowed retailers to not necessarily have video cameras watching every sensitive area is a mixed blessing, Taylor said.
"This will be a huge savings to some retailers who have been told by assessors to have cameras on every register, as well as in multiple places in the back office," he said. "That's all fine, I suppose, except that these tapes and discs are never reviewed until forensics people are brought in after a breach. Their main role has been to place blame, rather than to actually reduce the risk of a security breach. So this is a good thing that they're doing." (Taylor has a column in this issue pointing out that PCI has completely avoided addressing virtualization. And that he believes their silence ultimately will make no difference.)
Gartner's Litan said the changes were, for the most part, good, but they didn't address the key problems that have surrounded PCI. "A few things I was looking for were there, but it’s kind of a yawner in terms of solving the real problems," Litan said. "This is good, it’s an improvement, but the standard’s never been the biggest issue."
Some of the other key changes: