Interviews

A secondary problem that often shows up when an IT organization turns PCI cardholder data over to a service provider occurs when copies of the cardholder data, either complete or partial, are mistakenly left on the organization’s mainframe. PCI requirements state that the organization must be able to show that no such data exists outside of “known data repositories.” These scenarios show how sensitive data can leak outside the scope of a known data repository and become a security and audit risk to the organization.
 
EE: OK, I can see how data leakage can occur especially over a long period of time and with changes of personnel. But how does data leakage add risk to an IT organization’s bottom line?

Guski: Risk assessments are fundamental requirements found in almost all regulations and requirements, and they have long been a tool for mainframe security auditors. They’re important in determining how data should be protected whether it’s stored, transmitted or archived. Since data leakage has only recently begun to be recognized as a threat, it has only now begun to be included in mainframe risk assessments by auditors. To ignore data leakage in mainframe risk assessments presents an obvious loophole. If a mainframe risk assessment hasn’t been conducted at all, then it’s highly likely that little thought has been given to the mainframe data leakage problem.

Furthermore, if this risk wasn’t identified and included in a mainframe risk assessment, management isn’t positioned to make an intelligent decision regarding potential risk to the organization such as “accept the risk and associated consequences if a breach does occur,” or “demonstrate due diligence by initiating a data discovery project to scan and find all data repositories for unknown cardholder data.” Identifying and documenting mainframe data leakage in a risk assessment also removes the “plausible denial” factor.

To further expand on this point with PCI as the example, let’s consider an instance where all known cardholder data has been identified and is included in the scope of the Cardholder Data Environment (CDE), and any unknown cardholder data is considered to be outside the scope of the CDE.

The following excerpts are from the PCI DSS 2.0:

Scope of Assessment for Compliance with PCI DSS Requirements

The first step of a PCI DSS assessment is to accurately determine the scope of the review. At least annually and prior to the annual assessment, the assessed entity should confirm the accuracy of their PCI DSS scope by identifying all locations and flows of cardholder data and ensuring they are included in the PCI DSS scope. To confirm the accuracy and appropriateness of PCI DSS scope, perform the following:

• The assessed entity identifies and documents the existence of all cardholder data in their environment to verify that no cardholder data exists outside of the currently defined cardholder data environment (CDE).
• Once all locations of cardholder data are identified and documented, the entity uses the results to verify that PCI DSS scope is appropriate (for example, the results may be a diagram or an inventory of cardholder data locations).
• The entity considers any cardholder data found to be in scope of the PCI DSS assessment and part of the CDE unless such data is deleted or migrated/consolidated into the currently defined CDE.
• The entity retains documentation that shows how PCI DSS scope was confirmed and the results retained, for assessor review and/or for reference during the next annual PCI SCC scope confirmation activity.

To be a bit more specific, there are several PCI requirements that will be identified as “Not in Place” when “undiscovered” cardholder data exists outside the defined CDE on a mainframe. I will cite two of these requirements as examples, along with the risk associated with not knowing if and where all such data exists:

PCI Requirement 3.1.1.d: Verify that policies and procedures include at least one of the following: A programmatic process (automatic or manual) to remove, at least quarterly, stored cardholder data that exceeds requirements defined in the data retention policy. The risk associated with data leakage is that unknown cardholder data that leaks out of the confines of the known environment will be non-compliant with the PCI organization’s data retention policy.

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