Book Review: PCI Compliance: Implementing Effective PCI Data Security Standards

pciWhen I first received this book from Syngress I was very excited. I knew nothing about PCI compliance — other than it was big ticket item and everyone processing Visa transactions was affected in some way because of it. I can honestly say that I tore through this book and didn’t put it down until I reached chapter 13. I was completely wrapped up in it as it was something I knew nothing about and wanted to know more!

Chapters 1 through 3 introduce you to the concepts behind PCI compliance including what it is and who needs to comply. These chapters really set the stage for what the rest of the book has to offer the reader.

Chapter 4 provides a technology overview of firewalls, intrusion systems, antivirus solutions, and common system default settings. Personally I felt that Chapter 4 was filler content just to add a chapter. It may, however, serve as a good reference for those in management roles who do not have “hands-on” interaction with the architecture of their environment.

Chapter 5 explains how to go about protecting your cardholder data as dictated by PCI requirements 3 & 4. This is a great chapter for anyone new to securing infrastructure to meet the requirements of a PCI audit. The authors also provide a fantastic section entitled “The Absolute Essentials” which offers suggestions on the minimum protection you can employ to protect your cardholder data.

Chapter 6 was by far my most favorite chapter and Syngress has offered it as a free download from their website. Many of you know what I do for a living and know how important understanding logging and requirements for logging is for my day-to-day duties. This chapter focuses around PCI Requirement 10 which details how you must handle the log data collected in your PCI environment. As soon as I started reading this chapter I knew that Dr. Anton Chuvakin had written this section of the book, or at least had a heavy insight into its direction. This chapter alone makes the book worth its weight in gold.

Chapter 7 details the importance of access control in your PCI environment. For obvious reasons, access to your cardholder data must be recorded and checked with a fine tooth comb. User privileges, authentication, authorization, and user education is also covered in this chapter. This chapter goes further to provide examples of ensuring your Windows, Unix/Linux, and Cisco infrastructure meet PCI requirements.

Chapter 8 explains how to leverage vulnerability management solutions to meet the requirements outlined in sections 5, 6, and 11 of the PCI requirement. The authors also provide two very good case studies to help the reader put things into perspective.

Chapter 9 focusses on the monitoring and testing of your environment. The authors are quick to point out that monitoring and testing must continue even after the audit in order to ensure you remain compliant.

Chapter 10 details how to drive your PCI project from the business side in order to ensure you accomplish your objectives. Suggestions are provided on budgeting time and resources, keeping staff in the loop, and justifying the business case to your executive team. The authors also offer a step-by-step “checklist” for ensuring your project runs smoothly and that all of your bases are covered.

Chapter 11 explains the various responsibilities within the organization for ensuring the PCI project succeeds. One of the key things to take away from this chapter is the role of the Incident Response team and its need to understand the requirements of PCI compliance.

Chapter 12 is a really good “eye-opener” that prepares you for the failure of your first audit. The key thing to take away from this is chapter is to not blame the auditor the same way you shouldn’t blame a referee in sports. They’re simply there to do their job to the best of their ability. If you have a problem with the way they are doing their job, bring it up with their superior. Perhaps their decision will get overturned?

Chapter 13 brings you into a “OK, now what?” phase. This chapter provides a detailed overview of the various requirements and breaks each requirement into “Policy Checks” and “Hands-on Assessments” sections. The policy checks discuss policies that should be reviewed to verify that they are up-to-date and the hands-on assessments sections give ideas on testing these policies. The beauty part is that the authors suggest open source solutions to help you protect your PCI compliant investment.

I give this book 5 stars as it is the best PCI reference I have found on the market. Everything I found in this book will allow me to understand the compliance requirements of my existing customers, their process, and their overall goals. Hats off to the entire team of authors.

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