This week the PCI Security Standards Council released a new software security standard that is designed to help it validate the security of payment ecosystems in the face of newer software architectures and modern development methods like DevOps and continuous delivery. The new standard would ultimately replace the PCI Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS).
"Software development practices have evolved over time, and the new standards address these changes with an alternative approach for assessing software security," explains Troy Leach, chief technology officer for the PCI Security Standards Council, explaining the impetus to roll out the PCI Software Security Framework. "The PCI Software Security Framework introduces objective-focused security practices that can support both existing ways to demonstrate good application security and a variety of newer payment platforms and development practices."
Like many other standards and guidance documents from the council, the framework was developed with input from a range of industry experts across the payment technology and security communities.
"They're really trying to make a standard that works for modern software development," says Jeff Williams, co-founder and CTO of Contrast Security and a participant in the expert council that contributed to the new standard.
Williams explains that the current PA-DSS standard is "very brittle." It doesn't offer enough flexibility, he says, to account for growing trends in DevOps adoption and software delivered in a world of microservices, hybrid cloud, containerization and so on.
"It said you had to do A, B, and C and it just didn't work for a lot of different kinds of software," Williams says. "So when you're looking at DevOps projects that are releasing seven times a day and moving super fast and using tons of libraries, and building APIs, and deploying in the cloud, that old standard just didn't work well."
As a part of the new standard, the council allows organizations greater freedom of choice in the security testing methods they use to find vulnerabilities in software. Notably, in addition to static, dynamic, and manual testing, the new framework also adds interactive application security testing (IAST) as a viable method. This continuous testing architecture is one that is designed to monitor security in the face of rapid development cycles seen in mature DevOps organizations, Williams says.
In developing the framework, the council needed to walk a line between validating security in payment software delivered via traditional software development methods while also accounting for newer methods. Whereas PA-DSS is meant to guide traditional payment software developers in securing the software development lifecycle (SDLC), the new framework expands beyond this to address overall software security resilience, Leach says.
"The framework provides a new methodology and approach to validating software security and a separate secure software lifecycle qualification for vendors with robust security design and development practices," he says, comparing the framework to PCI PA-DSS. "In other words, they're not mutually exclusive but offer a progressive approach that allows for additional alternatives to demonstrating secure software practices."
The ultimate endgame is to retire PA-DSS and assess all applications under the new framework. A validation program is expected to be released in 2019.
"There will be a gradual transition period to allow organizations with current investments in PA-DSS to continue to leverage those investments," Leach explains, stating that current PA-DSS validated applications will still be governed under that program until 2022.