A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a network implemented between two or more endpoint devices, typically using public networks such as the internet, to provide security and privacy for the transmissions between the devices. In addition, the VPN offers secure access to authorized resources from remote locations to inside the organization’s private network.

In PCI compliance, businesses use a VPN to secure communications between two or more financial institutions. However, there are strict rules about sending and receiving financial transaction data across the internet. A PCI-compliant VPN will ensure the safety of customer data.

What Is A PCI-Compliant VPN?

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), commonly referred to as tunneling or IPsec VPNs, are set up to deliver client access to IP services at an organization’s remote access site.

There are three commonly used VPN designs:

  • Site-to-Site: Site-to-site VPN allows you to connect two separate sites into one private network. This is helpful when businesses share assets such as files and databases.
  • Remote Access: This architecture allows you to connect your local VPN clients to peripheral devices through remote access VPN. Make use of this architecture to extend your private network to authorized users in other geographical locations.
  • Host-to-Host: Unlike VPNs that utilize a proxy gateway, host-to-host VPNs make connections directly between clients and destination hosts. This is similar to remote access, but instead of stepping through a VPN gateway, a host-to-host VPN user is connected directly to the remote destination.

A PCI-compliant VPN is a security system that conforms to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a set of comprehensive and technical security standards enabling data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Companies that offer end-to-end products and services, such as financial institutions, need a VPN to serve internal websites based on controlled user access.

When connected to a VPN, financial websites and transaction services use a private access virtual IP to connect and authenticate to the target. In addition, the secured connection allows you to send sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, over the internet, thus significantly reducing the risk of exposure to electronic threats.

However, only some VPN products are PCI-Compliant due to the number of safeguards that PCI standards require.

PCI-DSS Compliance Primary Objectives

PCI compliance aims to protect the payment card industry and ensure that transactions are secure. Using a VPN is aligned with the six primary objectives of PCI compliance:

  • Build and maintain a secure network and systems.
  • Protect cardholder data.
  • Maintain a vulnerability management program.
  • Implement strong access control measures.
  • Regularly monitor and test networks.
  • Maintain an information security policy.

PCI-DSS Requirements for a VPN

PCI Risk Assessments and IT Governance have become firm requirements for businesses of all sizes, regardless of whether they are a retailer, a hospital, a bank, or a merchant. PCI-DSS accreditation aims to reduce the risk associated with electronic payments, and network security plays an essential role in securing transactions.

According to PCI-DSS, there are three types of networks:

  • Internal (Isolated Cardholder Data Environment).
  • DMZ (Internet Facing Endpoints).
  • Insecure (Public Internet).

A PCI-compliant VPN is only allowed to traverse a DMZ or insecure network. Direct connections are allowed between the DMZ and the isolated internal network. However, strict rules and requirements exist to stop insecure VPNs from accessing the internal network. A firewall should be configured to deny direct communication between the Insecure and Internal networks.

All VPN traffic must be secured using Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) standards. Tunnel mode must be used except where communication is host-to-host, and Aggressive mode must not be used for tunnel establishment. The device authentication method must use certificates obtained from a trusted Certificate Authority.

SSL and TLS 1.0 security ciphers and certificates are prohibited when configuring a VPN, and all ingress and egress traffic requires encryption using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256 minimum). In addition, control protections are needed to detect unauthorized changes to VPN configuration or user access settings. Monitoring for changes to digital signatures and file checksums is excellent for ensuring the configuration is secure and difficult to tamper with.

All VPN users are required to authenticate to connect. Additional measures, such as MAC address filtering, can only authorize authentic endpoint devices. It is expected that multi-factor authentication will be enabled at all touchpoints for VPN user connectivity and that access must be denied after three consecutive unsuccessful login attempts. Such measures will lock the user account, and only an authorized individual can unlock it. Furthermore, if the VPN connection is idle, it should automatically disconnect within five minutes.

Logging is a principal prerequisite for PCI compliance. All VPN remote access requests and user activity requires logging. PCI-DSS also recommends that logs are reviewed weekly for any suspicious activity. A SIEM platform can be configured to alert against suspicious activity and behavior automatically, and employees can triage these alerts to ensure compliance.

I Need a PCI-Compliant VPN. What Are My Options?

Modern VPNs are highly flexible; you no longer rely on expensive physical appliances. Instead, software VPNs are increasingly popular and meet the needs of an on-demand VPN. There are several open-source solutions available for Windows and Linux servers, and there are several open-source solutions available for Windows and Linux servers.

The three most popular open-source VPN solutions are software-based; software like Softether VPN, Openswan, and Openconnect are often used to create a private network tunnel and, when configured correctly, can be made PCI compliant.

A VPN solution routes traffic to the organizational network, giving an external user the appearance of connecting to the business network from outside. The key to a successful VPN is to ensure you create the connection using VPN software designed explicitly for cloud-based operating systems.

How Can Atlantic.Net help?

Atlantic.Net is a trusted cloud hosting services provider with over 30 years of experience. We offer a range of customized hosting solutions designed to provide companies with the potential to grow and prosper.

Our Cloud Platform has several Linux 1-click applications that create a VPS you can configure as your private VPN. We also feature extensive documentation about how to make your VPN tools.

Atlantic.Net is SOC 2, SOC 3 certified, HIPAA and HITECH audited, PCI-DSS compliant, and regularly audited for security. The many reasons to choose Atlantic.Net to meet your business needs include the following:

  • A 100% uptime service level agreement.
  • World-class data center infrastructure.
  • Industry-leading certifications and partnerships.

Contact our sales team today and discover how your company can benefit from a VPN.