Managed File Transfer and Network Solutions

Required MFT Server Password Settings for PCI DSS Compliance - Part 2

Posted by John Carl Villanueva on Fri, May 25, 2012 @ 02:15 PM

In part 1, we enumerated all PCI-DSS requirements that directly affected password settings and practices. Here, we're going to show you how and where in JSCAPE MFT Server you can configure settings in order to meet those requirements.

All I'll have here are the numbers corresponding to those PCI DSS requirements, each immediately followed by the setting that will help you meet them. So I suggest you open Part 1 in another tab so it will be easier for you to refer to the details of a requirement on which a particular setting is based on. 

Ready? Let's begin.

Requirement #2

Although JSCAPE's managed file transfer server does not come with any default system username and password, you might be tempted to enter the sample admin username and password written in the documentation's installation instructions.

For example, in the installation instructions for Linux, there's a part in the documentation that says:

linux installatin config

Don't use "secret" for your admin password. In fact, if possible, don't use "admin" for your admin username either.


Requirement 2.3

All communications between the JSCAPE MFT Server Manager and the server itself are carried out via SSL. Consequently, administrative passwords are encrypted during transmission.

Requirement 6.3.1

A fresh installation of JSCAPE MFT Server does not come with any custom accounts and passwords.


Requirement 6.5.5

The exact error message displayed as a result of a failed login attempt on JSCAPE MFT Server normally depends on the file transfer client used. Here's what you'll get on AnyClient whether you enter a wrong username, a wrong password, or both. 


ftp client failed login


This kind of vague information isn't going to be very helpful to a hacker as he wouldn't know whether he was able to guess at least one login detail (username or password) or not.


Requirement 8.2

Every time you create a user account on your server, make sure you supply a password. If you don't, unauthorized personnel will be able to log in using that user account without anything barring their way. 




Requirement 8.4

Some network protocols, like FTP and HTTP, send usernames and passwords in the clear. So you really have to avoid them. To comply with Requirement 8.4, stick with secure protocols like HTTPS, FTPS and SFTP, which encrypt your login credentials before transmission.  

If you choose FTP/S for your Service Type when adding a new service, make sure you avoid regular, which is plain FTP. Instead, select explicit SSL, forced explicit SSL, or implicit SSL. The connections used by any of these three types are protected with SSL encryption.




Likewise, if you're using HTTP-based file transfer protocols (e.g. HTTP, WebDAV, AS2), make sure you protect them with SSL. In other words, enable HTTPS and configure your service to use it.





Another option would be to choose SFTP/SCP for the Service Type. SFTP/SCP connections are encrypted through SSH. 




Requirement 8.5.2

There are a couple of ways to meet this requirement. If you are not face to face with the person requesting the password reset, you should throw him/her a challenge question. Of course, you would need to have a separate database containing challenge questions associated with your end users.

Alternatively, you can ask the person to send a text message from a phone number associated with that person. It would be less likely that an impersonator would also have the legit user's cell phone on hand. But like in the challenge question option described above, this verification option requires the presence of a separate database containing your users and cellphone numbers associated with them.

Now, there's actually an automated method for resetting passwords. It's a feature that comes with the JSCAPE MFT Server Web Gateway, which supports web-based secure file transfers. 


ftp web upload request password reset 2


Like most modern web-based applications, the password reset is done automatically via email. I'll cover this in more detail in a separate post. In the meantime, here's a sample email notification a user would receive after that user requests for a password reset.


mft server email notification for password reset


Please note however that this automated password reset method may not have the stringent identity verification process that PCI DSS requires. There's no challenge question here. If the email account is compromised, anyone can easily pose as a legit user. To be sure about the acceptability of this method, please consult your PCI-DSS QSA or ISA.


Requirement 8.5.3

As mentioned in Requirement 8.2, when you create a new user, you always need to assign a password to it. But even that is not enough. 8.5.3 adds that that temporary password has to be unique and that the user should change it immediately after first use. The same should hold true for passwords temporarily assigned after password reset requests.

In JSCAPE MFT Server, new users can be forced to change their passwords during their first logins. This would require activation of the JSCAPE MFT Server Web Gateway feature described in the previous section (Requirement 8.5.2). Once that feature has already been activated and the user has already been assigned a working email account, you can go to the Compliance node and tick the Require password reset on first time login check box.  




Before the user can start using his JSCAPE MFT Server account, he should first go to the web interface described earlier, click the Reset password link, and then change the password as instructed.


Requirement 8.5.8

In JSCAPE MFT Server, it's possible to create Groups to which certain user accounts belong. But that doesn't mean those accounts share the same username and password. Each of those accounts still retain their own username and password. They even retain their individual identities in the logs. All that's actually shared between group members are directories and the files stored in them. 

So, for example, even if Bill and Sam belong to the Bill and Sam Group




Bill's activities are logged separate from Sam's. Thus, accountability can still be readily enforced.


mft server log of bill


Requirements 8.5.9 - 8.5.12 

To comply with requirements 8.5.9 to 8.5.12, just navigate to the Compliance node and do the following:

for 8.5.9: 

Tick the "Maximum password age of" check box and set it to 90 days (or less).

for 8.5.10:

Tick the "Minimum password length of" check box and set it to 7 characters (or more).

for 8.5.11:

Tick the "Numeric (0-9)" check box.

Note that you can even require a combination of uppercase & lowercase characters, numeric characters, and even non-alphanumeric characters. 

for 8.5.12:

Tick the "Password must not match previous" check box and set it to 4 passwords (or more).

Here's a bonus feature. In case you want to send an automated notice reminding your users of an approaching password expiration date, tick the check box Email password change reminder and then select the number of days before expiration you want the reminder to be sent.

Finally, to make sure all these password rules are enforced, tick the "Deny login for password non-compliance" check box, and then click Apply




Notice that we've also ticked "Require password reset on first time login". This setting will ensure that your users will be forced to set their passwords according to the rules starting from their first login and whenever they request for a password reset.

Here's the error message a user will get upon entering a password that fails to meet those password rules. 


mft server password reset error


See to it that all users are given proper guidance regarding these stringent password rules. Otherwise, your Help Desk will be receiving a lot of calls from irate users.  


Requirements 8.5.13 and 8.5.14

To lock out a user account for 30 minutes (or more) after 6 failed access attempts, navigate to the Connections node, tick the "Disable account after" check box, select 6 (or less) invalid password attempts, select a time duration over which the 6 failed attempts can be carried out (in _ min), and select the number of minutes the account should be locked out (for _ min).




Want to learn more about the consequences of having weak passwords? We recommend the blog post:  Protecting FTP Passwords from Brute Force Attacks.


In this 2-part article, we started by talking about the PCI-DSS requirements that dealt with passwords and then showed you how you could meet those requirements in a JSCAPE MFT Server environment. Be aware that I am not a certified PCI-DSS specialist, and my views are based on my own interpretation of the PCI-DSS requirements. For proper guidance whether these features do meet PCI-DSS requirements, please consult your PCI-DSS QSA or ISA.


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Topics: JSCAPE MFT Server, Managed File Transfer, Security, Compliance, Secure File Transfer