Solution to Help Washington, D.C., Metro Secure and Audit Access to Credit Card Information

"The need to audit privileged users like database administrators (DBAs) and IT professionals has also increased over the years as external auditors and security groups look to more completely guard access to private data."

by / January 9, 2009

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) has implemented a real-time database security and monitoring solution from Guardium to help safeguard sensitive cardholder data in its heterogeneous, multi-tier database and application environment.

As a tri-jurisdictional government agency authorized by the U.S. Congress, Metro operates the second largest rail transit system in the United States, and transports more than a third of the federal government to work and millions of tourists to landmarks in the Nation's Capital.

With more than 9 million credit and debit card transactions yearly, Metro is classified as a top-tier Level 1 merchant by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), which was jointly developed by American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa. In addition, according to a recent study of ridership trends, demand for the Metro service could grow anywhere from 50 to 100 percent by 2013.

"Our customers trust us to transport them safely and safeguard their personal information," said Victor Iwugo, Chief of Metro IT Security (MITS), Department of Information Technology, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. "Guardium has helped us implement robust, hardened 'security zones' around our critical production databases, with a DBMS-independent architecture that doesn't impact performance or require changes to our databases and applications."

According to IBM, 70% of all frauds occurring today are credit card frauds1. Metro selected and implemented Guardium to simplify what would have been a complex and time-consuming initiative: achieving PCI-DSS compliance in a complex, high-volume data center environment. With Guardium, Metro is now able to secure customer data while passing its audits more quickly and easily.

At the same time, Guardium is also helping Metro simplify enterprise security by automating and centralizing the most challenging controls required for compliance, including:

  • Protecting stored data with granular access controls based on parameters such as source application, IP address, and other criteria (Requirement 3)
  • Maintaining secure systems (Requirement 6)
  • Restricting access to cardholder data (Requirement 7)
  • Tracking and monitoring all access to cardholder data (Requirement 10)

"We initially looked at native DBMS logging and auditing, but it's impractical because of its high overhead, especially when you're capturing every single SELECT (database read operation) in a high-volume environment like ours," said Iwugo. "In addition, native auditing doesn't enforce separation of duties or prevent unauthorized access by privileged insiders."

Metro considered other pure-play solutions, but chose Guardium because of its scalable architecture, automated oversight workflow, preconfigured library of PCI policies and reports, and unique ability to monitor application users and identify fraud in the agency's PeopleSoft environment.

In the future, Metro plans to extend the Guardium platform to its Microsoft SQL Server infrastructure, and add advanced, new Guardium modules such as vulnerability assessment (VA) and the change audit system (CAS), to strengthen existing compliance with PCI-DSS Requirements 2 and 6. VA identifies vulnerabilities such as unpatched systems, misconfigured privileges and vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords, while CAS tracks changes to database configuration files, OS environment variables and scripts that affect database security posture.

"In the past, database auditing was focused primarily on ensuring the accuracy of financial data and largely driven by the requirements of external auditors," according to the October 2007 report The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Database Auditing And Real-Time Protection, Q4 2007. "Today's requirements have expanded to embrace auditing all types of data, including personal data that contains credit card and Social Security numbers, financial and health-related information, and company confidential information. The need to audit privileged users like database administrators (DBAs) and IT professionals has also increased over the years as external auditors and security groups look to more completely guard access to private data. Although the approach to database auditing has not changed in decades, the focus has shifted to more in-depth data access analysis, higher performance and greater scalability, comprehensive audit reporting, role separation, and centralized audit administration across hundreds of databases."