Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

12/10/2007
05:05 AM
50%
50%

Beyond the PCI Band-Aid

Web application firewalls can help retailers pass their audits, but app firewalls aren't enough to secure customer data

Personal data is at risk in the retail environment, and consumers are justifiably worried. The TJX breach may have come as no surprise to the computer security industry, but the story continues to reverberate into the holiday shopping season. The TJX case was recently featured on 60 Minutes. According to the 60 Minutes report, retailers blame credit card companies for forcing them to store transaction data in case of a dispute (what?!). Credit card consortiums point the finger right back at retailers, claiming that storing and transmitting transaction data in a secure fashion is doable.

The Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards provide a low bar for data security in the retail environment. Nevertheless, many retailers are having trouble complying with the PCI Data Security Standard. Now politicians are getting involved, and vendors are coming out of the woodwork with magic solutions. (See PCI Costs, But Not as Much as a Data Breach.) The Web application firewall (WAF) has become a major player in the PCI space, but an app firewall won't even begin to solve the PCI problem.

Web application firewalls do their job by watching port 80 traffic as it interacts at the application layer using deep packet inspection. (See Review: Web Application Firewalls.) Security vendors hyperbolically claim that application firewalls completely solve the software security problem by blocking application-level attacks caused by bad software, but that’s just silly. Sure, application firewalls can stop easy-to-spot attacks like SQL injection or cross-site scripting as they whiz by on port 80, but they do so using simplistic matching algorithms that look for known attack patterns and anomalous input. They do nothing to fix the bad software that causes the vulnerability in the first place.

Nobody disputes the idea that data protection should be carried out as close as possible to where data are created, managed, and stored. Application firewalls are certainly getting closer to the right kind of solution by focusing on applications (at least when it comes to the Web) instead of other network traffic. However, a real solution requires solid software security for both Web apps and non-Web apps, combined with state of the art data security. (See Security Vendors Turn Toward Data Loss Prevention and Want Turns to Need.)

One thing application firewalls can do is stop the bleeding in tricky operational situations: That is, they can buy you some time. (See Wait for WAFs.) If a known breach is causing you to fail a PCI audit, for instance, installing an app firewall and stopping the set of known attacks the auditor is using will allow you to pass the audit.

This paradigm also works for real attacks as they unfold in the real world. If your software is under attack, and you know what the particular attack is, an app firewall can stop it cold. Still, the problem of bad software remains and is very likely to grow as more broken application code gets created. Smart security uses the time window provided by quick provisioning of an app firewall to fix the vulnerable software, and trains developers to do the right thing.

Meanwhile, consumers simply want their data protected. That means those retailers focused the spirit of PCI compliance – actually protecting customer data with better software security – rather than those just focused on the letter of PCI compliance (passing an audit with an app firewall), will win in the end. Customers demand no less.

— Gary McGraw is CTO of Cigital Inc. Special to Dark Reading

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 6/5/2020
How AI and Automation Can Help Bridge the Cybersecurity Talent Gap
Peter Barker, Chief Product Officer at ForgeRock,  6/1/2020
Cybersecurity Spending Hits 'Temporary Pause' Amid Pandemic
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  6/2/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: What? IT said I needed virus protection!
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-13864
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
The Elementor Page Builder plugin before 2.9.9 for WordPress suffers from a stored XSS vulnerability. An author user can create posts that result in a stored XSS by using a crafted payload in custom links.
CVE-2020-13865
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
The Elementor Page Builder plugin before 2.9.9 for WordPress suffers from multiple stored XSS vulnerabilities. An author user can create posts that result in stored XSS vulnerabilities, by using a crafted link in the custom URL or by applying custom attributes.
CVE-2020-11696
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
In Combodo iTop a menu shortcut name can be exploited with a stored XSS payload. This is fixed in all iTop packages (community, essential, professional) in version 2.7.0 and iTop essential and iTop professional in version 2.6.4.
CVE-2020-11697
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
In Combodo iTop, dashboard ids can be exploited with a reflective XSS payload. This is fixed in all iTop packages (community, essential, professional) for version 2.7.0 and in iTop essential and iTop professional packages for version 2.6.4.
CVE-2020-13646
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-05
In the cheetah free wifi 5.1 driver file liebaonat.sys, local users are allowed to cause a denial of service (BSOD) or other unknown impact due to failure to verify the value of a specific IOCTL.