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May 12, 2024
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 min read

Is AWS S3 PCI Compliant?

Compliance in Cloud Storage: Is AWS S3 Equipped for PCI DSS 4.0?

Is AWS S3 PCI Compliant?
Calendar Icon White
May 12, 2024
Clock Icon
 min read

Is AWS S3 PCI Compliant?

Compliance in Cloud Storage: Is AWS S3 Equipped for PCI DSS 4.0?



  • AWS S3 can be configured to store PCI data securely with encryption, access controls and logging features.
  • Risks of data leakage from AWS S3 exist if not configured properly, including misconfigured buckets and poor encryption practices.
  • PCI DSS 4.0 introduces stringent requirements for encryption validation, access management, and logging on platforms like AWS S3.
  • Strac's DLP capabilities enhance data security on AWS S3 with robust detection, seamless integration, advanced redaction technologies, and developer support.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 is a scalable object storage service used by companies worldwide to store and retrieve large amounts of data.

When it comes to managing sensitive information such as Payment Card Information (PCI), the compliance of such platforms with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is critical.

This article examines whether AWS S3 is suitable for storing PCI data, the risks of data leakage, and the implications of the new PCI DSS 4.0 requirements on the use of AWS S3.

Can You Store PCI Data in AWS S3?

AWS S3 can be configured to store PCI data securely. According to AWS’s own documentation, S3 supports several compliance certifications, including PCI DSS. For organizations looking to store PCI data in S3, AWS provides a host of security features that can help meet PCI DSS requirements. These include:

  • Encryption: S3 offers a range of encryption options for data at rest and in transit, helping protect data from unauthorized access.
  • Access Controls: You can define who can access the S3 resources using Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies.
  • Logging and Monitoring: AWS S3 integrates with AWS CloudTrail and AWS Config to log and monitor all access and changes to S3 resources, ensuring that you have a trail of all activities for auditing purposes.

While AWS provides the tools to create a PCI-compliant environment, it is ultimately the responsibility of the S3 user to configure these settings correctly and ensure that all aspects of their PCI DSS responsibilities are met.

How to Secure Sensitive Data in AWS S3?
Securing AWS S3 Data

Can PCI Data be Leaked from AWS S3?

Despite its robust security features, the risk of data leakage from AWS S3 exists if it is not configured properly.

Common causes of data leaks include:

  • Misconfigured Buckets: Incorrectly setting S3 bucket permissions can expose sensitive data to the public.
  • Poor Encryption Practices: Not enabling or improperly configuring encryption can leave data vulnerable to interception.
  • Inadequate Access Controls: Weak policies or overly permissive access settings can allow unauthorized access to sensitive data.

To mitigate these risks, organizations must employ best practices in security configuration, regular audits and continuous monitoring.

What are the New PCI 4.0 Requirements for PCI Data in AWS S3?

PCI DSS 4.0 ushers in stringent requirements, particularly affecting the storage and handling of PCI data in cloud platforms such as AWS S3. Here are the essential updates and their implications for AWS S3 users:

1. No Unauthorized Copy/Relocation of PAN

The objective of Requirement 3.4.2 is to ensure that the Primary Account Number (PAN) is protected from unauthorized copying or relocation across all platforms, including remote-access technologies such as AWS S3.

The update requires implementing strict technical controls that restrict the ability to copy or relocate PAN to only those personnel who have explicit, documented authorization and a legitimate business need.

This requirement is critical in cloud environments like AWS S3, where data is often more susceptible to unauthorized access due to its remote and distributed nature.

2. PAN Must Be Unreadable

Requirement focuses on making PAN unreadable in storage, including databases, files, and logs hosted on services like AWS S3.

The objective here is to enhance data security by using keyed cryptographic hashes of the entire PAN, supported by robust key management processes in accordance with PCI DSS Requirements 3.6 and 3.7.

This update ensures that PAN data remains encrypted and indecipherable, thus protecting it from unauthorized access and breaches, particularly in a cloud storage solution like AWS S3 where scalability and accessibility of data storage can otherwise increase vulnerability.

3. Incident Response for PAN Data Leaks

Requirement 12.10.7 mandates having proactive incident response procedures ready to be deployed upon the detection of PAN in any unauthorized location, including cloud environments such as AWS S3.

The objective is to rapidly address any potential data leaks by analyzing, retrieving, and securely deleting or relocating the PAN to a defined secure environment.

This requirement emphasizes the need for continuous monitoring and immediate response capabilities in AWS S3, where data dynamics can change swiftly, thus requiring agile and effective incident management strategies.

4. Protecting Payment Information on AWS S3

Organizations should avoid storing any cardholder data unless absolutely necessary. Key steps to protecting PCI data include:

  • Payment card terminals and other vulnerable endpoint devices should not retain payment card data.
  • Printed payment card information should be truncated or masked on receipts to protect the cardholder's data.
  • Servers and storage devices, particularly in environments like AWS S3, must be kept locked, secure and access-controlled.
  • Strict access controls must be enforced to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing stored cardholder data.

These measures collectively help safeguard sensitive cardholder information stored in cloud services like AWS S3, addressing both digital and physical security concerns.

Sample PCI Data

‎To stay compliant with PCI DSS 4.0, entities using AWS S3 must critically assess and possibly upgrade their existing configurations and operational practices.

This involves regular audits of their AWS S3 setups to ensure continuous alignment with the more rigorous demands of PCI DSS 4.0, focusing particularly on encryption validation, access controls, and logging mechanisms.

How Does Strac Enhance Data Security on Platforms like AWS S3?

Strac's comprehensive suite of Data Loss Prevention (DLP) capabilities significantly bolsters the security measures for sensitive data on platforms such as AWS S3. Here's how Strac can transform your security landscape:

  • Robust Detection and Customization: Strac is equipped with built-in and customizable detectors for all major data protection regulations, including PCI, SOC 2, HIPAA, NIST and more. Strac also extends its detection capabilities to images and deep content within documents, ensuring that no sensitive data slips through unnoticed. Explore Strac’s full catalog of sensitive data elements.
  • Deep Integration with AWS S3: Learn more about Strac's AWS S3 integration.
  • Seamless Integration and Real-Time Protection: Integration with existing SaaS apps takes under 10 minutes, enabling immediate DLP actions and real-time data protection. Learn more about Strac's complete range of DLP integrations.
  • Advanced Redaction Technologies: Strac's machine learning models detect sensitive data with high accuracy, reducing false positives and enabling inline redaction to prevent data leaks effectively.
  • Developer Support: Strac offers extensive API support, allowing customization to meet specific security needs. Check out Strac's Developer Documentation for more details.

Strac ensures that your organization’s adherence to PCI compliance standards is seamless and efficient. Explore more about Strac’s capabilities and set up a personalized demo to see these features in action and understand how they can protect your sensitive data.

Book a Free 30-Minute Demo with Strac to learn more about safeguarding your data with leading-edge security solutions.

Founder, Strac. ex-Amazon Payments Infrastructure (Widget, API, Security) Builder for 11 years.

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