What Does PCI Compliant Software Development Mean for Developers

The highly specialized nature of payment software today has exposed them to many different types of threats. Indeed, apps can be used as access gateways to capture credit card numbers, location data, and even your customers’ addresses.

Because of these risks, application developers need to know the most common regulations covering their field. Therefore, any application that will process credit card data must comply with specific PCI DSS requirements.

Major credit card payment brands enforce PCI security standards to protect payment data. Because many applications include product purchases, subscription fees, or one-time costs, PCI requirements aim to ensure that all payment data processed through your app is safe and secure.

See Also: Source Code Analysis for PCI DSS Application Security

Application developers should always be aware of PCI standards and how to ensure continued compliance. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in hefty fines, additional fees, or even the loss of sensitive customer information.

The following guide will explain what PCI requirements mean for application developers and how you can plan for ongoing compliance to avoid serious consequences.

What Do PCI Requirements Mean for Developers?

PCI DSS contains a set of high-level technical requirements implemented to protect cardholder data. Because credit card information is so sensitive, PCI requirements help prevent breaches exposing credit card numbers and other sensitive customer information.

See Also: PCI Web Application Security Requirements

PCI requirements differ depending on the size of the business. Companies that handle more than 6 million transactions per year, for example, must take stricter measures than those that handle less than 1 million transactions per year.

When it comes to PCI compliance, you also need to determine the level of compliance required for your particular operations.

Many PCI DSS requirements cover IT infrastructure, so when developing, testing, and preparing to launch applications, you should consider the network in which these applications run.

See Also: Best Practices and Recommendations for API Security

It would help if you also considered security controls to detect and prevent threats and access measures limiting unauthorized distribution of cardholder data. PCI compliance will include regular testing and monitoring of networks to develop robust security policies that keep payment information safe.

Being aware of PCI requirements will help you streamline application development, so you don’t suffer from security breaches.

What Are the PCI Compliance Requirements for Application Developers?

While there are numerous data security requirements for application developers to be aware of, PCI compliance is one of the most important for those developing applications that involve credit card transactions. Most applications fall under requirements 3, 4, and 6 of the PCI requirements. These requirements cover cardholder data storage, encryption practices, access control, and network security.

As long as your applications run in a secure environment, encrypt sensitive data in transit, and control who can access sensitive information, it will be easier to establish and maintain ongoing PCI compliance.

Protect Stored Cardholder Data

Keeping cardholder data safe and secure for applications that accept credit card payments is an essential component of PCI compliance. Cardholder data includes a wide range of information, including credit card numbers, names, and expiration dates.

While the application is running, this information should always be kept in a secure environment. Whether the card data is printed, processed, stored, or transmitted, appropriate safeguards must be in place to prevent data loss or unauthorized use.

In addition, application developers must implement additional policies for the storage of payment data. In the ideal scenario, you should not retain cardholder data unless necessary. The fewer card data you store, the fewer resources will be required to maintain PCI compliance.

PCI DSS requirement 3 also includes limiting data storage times by business transactions and other legal guidelines. Also, authentication data should not be stored in the system to avoid breaches.

Encryption can be helpful when it is necessary to store card data, but customers can only view portions of the PAN data when completing recurring transactions. Appropriate storage, transmission, and display of cardholder data will be a critical part of application development, as applications increase the risk of unauthorized use.

Encrypt Cardholder Data Transferred over Public Networks

PCI DSS requirement 4 stipulates that you must always encrypt cardholder data transmitted over an unsecured network. Encrypting cardholder data is essential when sharing sensitive card information between open networks. When developing applications, you should consider the data encryption protocols most relevant to your operations.

You can ensure that payment data is unreadable even if it falls into the wrong hands by using effective SSH, TLS, and SSL protocols. Encrypting sensitive data during transmission makes it difficult for hackers to use any encrypted information they may have obtained.

Because users can access their services from multiple places, app developers should take encryption even more seriously. By looking at security standards best practices, you can determine how this data is transmitted to and from the machining center.

Develop and Maintain Secure Apps

Secure application development falls under PCI DSS requirement 6. PCI DSS requirement 6 aims to help application professionals maintain secure internal and external operational environments.

See Also: PCI DSS Session Timeout Requirements

A secure application environment includes timely patches and performance monitoring so you can stay one step ahead of hackers. By clearly documenting all phases of the application development process, you can easily document issues and perform audits. You can also identify any potential vulnerabilities that may be encountered while encoding.

See Also: PCI Secure Coding Training Requirements

PCI DSS requirement 6.3 requires you to securely develop internal and external software applications that comply with PCI DSS and industry standards or best practices. You also need to include information security throughout the software development lifecycle.

The details of secure software development under PCI DSS requirement 6.3 include:

  • Develop software in accordance with PCI DSS. The goal here is to ensure that once an application goes into production, it can be deployed in a fully hardened environment and is PCI compliant. This requirement means that all requirements of PCI DSS must be incorporated into the software processes. Examples include requirements such as masking cardholder data, encryption, authentication, logging, or secure transmission.
  • Develop software based on industry standards or best practices. This requirement intends that when developing software, the organization must have a directed security activity and consider known vulnerabilities.
  • All developers must understand the security framework they are trying to develop defensively. PCI DSS refers to OWASP and focuses on the top 10 Web-based application vulnerabilities. Additionally, you can check out the security framework CWE Top 25.
  • Include information security throughout the software development lifecycle. You can use a development methodology based on AGILE, JAD/RAD, Waterfall, or some derivatives.

A securely developed software application should have various capabilities covering software security. It must be able to run in a hardened application or operating system.

The application must encrypt sensitive data in storage and transmission. It should run on a system that supports antivirus. Securely developed software supports authentication checks. It should also have the ability to be patched and constantly updated.

How to Develop Secure Software Applications Under PCI DSS?

Secure software applications must be developed in accordance with industry best practices to meet PCI DSS software requirements. There are several development methodologies to work with at this point, such as Waterfall or Scrum.

However, according to PCI DSS, the best way to ensure you develop software applications securely is to incorporate information security into various stages of your development process. From a PCI DSS perspective, it doesn’t matter what methodology is used to develop software, as long as there are identifiable software development stages:

  • Requirements Gathering – Your organization should spend time determining the functional and specification requirements an application should run on. Requirements define how the application will run. In a mature software development process, specific requirements should define security requirements. Also, note that the requirements must cover the applicable PCI DSS requirements.
  • Design – The way your organization designs an application should ensure that the application is developed according to the requirements specified in the previous stage. During the design phase of SDLC, it is tried to ensure that the security requirements specified in the requirements phase are designed in practice. It should also be checked that the design itself is based on safe practices. When the design is done, there should usually be a link to the Development phase and the testing phase. This is why the test team will need to develop test scripts and test cases.
  • Development – ​​Software developers, must develop secure code. Your organization should train your staff at least annually on how to develop secure code. During the development phase, software developers must have received training in developing secure code within the last year. The secure software development training content should cover the necessary features and technologies for the developed applications.
  • Testing – The testing phase ensures that an application is fully hardened before it goes into production. The most straightforward way to know that an application is safe when it goes into production is to review the application source code. Another way is to run appropriate experimental tests to ensure that the software meets predefined security requirements and is implemented correctly. An evaluator will collect your test cases to verify that the requirement specifications, design functions, and included security functions are secure.
  • Stage – This stage of development is where there should be a separation of duties between production staff and development staff. Development personnel should not go into production, and production personnel should not go into development. This control ensures that code is not promoted to production without the proper security controls defined by SDLC. It should be noted that if information security is not included in each of these stages, vulnerabilities can be introduced into the production environment unintentionally or maliciously. In production, PCI DSS requires segregation of tasks to secure the software implementation further. Just as developers must be separate from production managers, the development environment must be separated from production.
  • Lifecycle – During the lifecycle phase, you need to ensure that any remaining cardholder data is securely handled or deleted. That’s why you need to define how to disable the app for such cases.

Create a Software Development Plan for Continuous PCI Compliance

Developing your applications in accordance with PCI DSS requirements is the first step towards achieving PCI compliance. But after development, you also need to consider how you can maintain PCI compliance. As long as your app processes cardholder data, the threat of breach will always exist.

Consistent PCI compliance helps you ensure your work environment is up to standards and you can keep customer data safe. But PCI compliance involves much more than meeting all the requirements in a checklist.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure continued PCI DSS compliance:

Have a Plan for Access Control

Determine which types of personnel can access, modify, or process cardholder data when the application processes information. During application development, access control will be a critical security step. It also facilitates PCI compliance by monitoring who has access to payment processing systems, storage devices, and physical infrastructure.

Develop Policies Compliant with PCI DSS Requirements

Incorporating PCI standards into your company policy will make continued compliance much more manageable. Company policies bring all stakeholders together while creating a culture of accountability. Therefore, incorporate steps such as secure networks, data encryption, and data storage into your enforcement policies to make continued compliance more affordable.

Test Your Apps Regularly

Testing, also included in PCI requirements, is a proactive approach that helps you determine how well the application is ready to handle cardholder data. You can test your application systems by performing a risk analysis, checking systems against PCI requirements, and issuing external audits. This way, vulnerabilities in your payment processing infrastructure can be detected and fixed promptly.

Regular practice testing should be considered in conjunction with risk management. Such tests can reveal vulnerabilities from unauthorized device access, device loss, theft, compromised processes, malware, and phishing attacks.

Keep Detailed Records of the Application

An essential part of application development is keeping detailed logs of your operations. With these records, you can identify weak points in application performance while ensuring PCI compliance.

Detailed application records provide the foundation to streamline PCI compliance tasks and even increase your payment processing without compromising security standards.

Involve Management in the Process

Finally, continuous PCI compliance would not be possible without the involvement of team leaders. Management should be at the forefront of promoting best practices that help make payment transactions safer, more convenient, and more reliable for customers.

Surkay Baykara
Surkay Baykarahttps://www.pcidssguide.com
A passionate Senior Information Security Consultant working at Cyberwise. Over the past 15+ years my professional career has included several positions beginning as a developer and IT administrator, working my way up to a senior Technical Performance Consultant before joining Biznet back in 2015. I had several different roles at Cyberwise, including Penetration Tester and PCI DSS QSA. In my job as a QSA, I found my passion and worked closely with the Audit and Compliance team. I've been working inside InfoSec for over 15 years, coming from a highly technical background. I have earned several certifications during my professional career including; CEH, CISA, CISSP, and PCI QSA.

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