Massive data breach at Heartland Payment Systems
News of the massive data breach at Heartland Payment Systems that may have compromised tens of millions of credit and debit transactions was all over the Internets today. It appears to have been a targeted attack involving malicious software installed on the company’s payment processing network that was designed to track and report the magnetic information stored on the back of a credit card as it was being sent for processing to Heartland by thousands of the company’s retail clients. Rich Mogul over at securosis observes that, “the biggest breaches now involve attacks installing malicious software to sniff data — including TJX, Hannaford, Cardsystems, and now Heartland Payment Systems.”
It’s worth noting that as a level 1 payment processor, Heartland is required to be PCI compliant. PCI requires that you segment your transaction data from other networks, that you have a firewall that restricts connections between public servers and cardholder data, and that you document and justify the services and ports necessary for business. The new PCI DSS Compliance report available in the recent release of Athena FirePAC automates the process of assessing firewalls for compliance.
All of which is well and good and will certainly provide reasonable protection from random hacking attempts. The trouble is that even though PCI is among the most advanced security compliance standards out there, passing a compliance audit won’t really protect you from targeted attacks such as this. You have to know what’s going on in your network and how your defenses really behave. A simple inspection of your firewall rules won’t identify the true exposures in your network or identify the data assets at risk. You need to know exactly which services and ports are allowed to connect to all of your IT and network assets. This comes from understanding how the ACLs, address translations, and the routing table all work together to control the traffic flowing through your firewall. Although difficult to get right, Athena FirePAC excels at this kind of policy analysis. It can identify exactly which assets are exposed to risky services and which rules cause the most problems. It can tell you what the impact of changes to the firewall configuration will be before deploying them to the device. This kind of information is invaluable when trying to track down and repair exposures in your network before the data thieves find their way in.