Do you sell products or services and accept credit or debit card payments? If yes, then you must comply with PCI DSS requirements. In case you’re wondering, the Payment Credit Card Industry Data Security Standard or PCI DSS is a security protocol that keeps payment card transactions secure and protects cardholders’ data from cyber threats, vulnerabilities, and risks.
In essence, PCI DSS compliance requires businesses handling cardholder data (CHD) to protect it through:
- Maintenance of a secure firewall
- Provision of access controls
- Networks monitoring
- Implementation of vulnerability management programs
If you use cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services, AWS it’s natural to outsource services like securing cardholder data to a cloud vendor. And that’s acceptable! However, while it at, it’s worth noting that most public cloud platforms, including AWS, usually subscribe to shared responsibility. That means it only focuses on protecting the platform and not the specific information stored there (that’s partly your responsibility).
Luckily, the PCI DSS security compliance protocols encompass the entire cardholder environment, including the cloud provider. But in the spirit of shared responsibility, you must do your part by following up to ensure that your cloud service provider stores your data securely. Plus, you must conduct a background check to define the PCI DSS standards you, the provider, and third-parties are supposed to meet.
AWS PCI Compliance
There’s no denying it; AWS offers one of the most secure cloud solutions. However, it also comes with its share of cybersecurity risks, especially for users who don’t do their part. The sooner you understand that you’re primarily responsible for protecting your users’ cardholder data, the safer you’ll be. That you’re transferring the security risks to your cloud service provider doesn’t mean you’re 100% immune. We can’t stress that enough!
How Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Helps Protect Data
Amazon VPC is an isolated segment of the AWS cloud that allows a vendor to reserve a private network for storing cardholder data. This comes a long way in ensuring that businesses meet the PCI DSS segmentation requirement. Segmenting cardholder data keeps it maximally protected from threats across the entire IT environment.
Think of it as a jewelry collection; costume jewelry commands less value, and the owner may leave it at home. Silver jewelry is considerably valuable and might prompt the owner to store it in a private room hidden inside a safety box. However, precious stones like diamonds and gold are treasured, prompting the owner to transfer them from their home and store them in a bank’s private deposit box.
Amazon VPC takes a similar route. It segments cardholder data (the most precious data) and separately stores it to provide an extra security layer. But that’s just a sneak peek; let’s get to the details of how Amazon VPC protects users’ information.
How AWS VPC Helps Protect Information
There’s more to segmentation than simply separating CHD from the entire cloud environment; it means bolstering protection in the private cloud as well. And Amazon VPC takes care of that excellently.
It leverages Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to provide an extra layer of protection for starters. Put simply; it empowers computers all over the internet to collaborate in bolstering security. How so?
For websites to verify authenticity, browsers usually request an SSL certificate, and only until then does it grant access. Therefore, users confirm that the website is “official” and not some malware-or-virus-infected duplicate website out to steal or compromise their data. This is called a TLS Handshake in the tech world, i.e., the act of computers communicating with each other by trading encrypted data back and forth.
Here’s one small catch, though; the back and forth trading of encrypted data tends to delay information transmission, angering some end users. Luckily Amazon’s got a solution: elastic load balancing (ELB). This is the act of speeding up network processes by distributing requests across multiple servers while adding extra security layers.
The Role of AWS in Meeting PCI Compliance Requirements
Earlier, we mentioned that PCI DSS standards dictate that every party, from businesses using cloud services to cloud platforms like AWS, must remain compliant. AWS swiftly fulfills its end of the bargain by empowering customers to customize their use via the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).
Thanks to the service, users can create their personalized cloud-based environment using their operating system. Customers only need to choose Application Programming Interfaces (API) and let the vendor use that to build bespoke services matching their particular needs.
Even more amazingly, Amazon EC2 lets you set up a virtual version of your computer using Amazon Machine Image, AMI – a software configuration template. This enables you to conveniently run a set of instances/objects such as a shopping cart or CHDs like customer name. What’s more, AMI lets you run several instances simultaneously, allowing you to customize AWS services according to your business needs.
Conclusion: Is AWS PCI DSS Compliant?
You bet it is! On its “Services in Scope” page, AWS lists all the services that Qualified Security Assessors (QSA) have certified and attested of being compliant. Presently, there are more than 120 AWS services that have been confirmed to be PCI compliant.