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What’s next in payment security?

Aug 02, 20188 mins
Application SecurityCloud SecurityData and Information Security

The three fundamental changes that every card-accepting business and payment solution provider must know.

There’s a revolution going on in the payment technology space right now, no doubt about it. However, it’s vitally important for businesses to embrace payment security innovations at the same time and at the same pace. Hardware-based POS terminals and infrastructure are quickly being replaced with faster, more open, more mobile and more software-oriented payment solutions. These innovations bring convenience to customers and in the process, raise revenue for businesses.

New entrants are building much of this software with little or no traditional payment processing or payment security experience. For conventional payment processing companies, the software and systems they are creating are based on open operating systems and Internet connectivity which may be new for them. At the same time, all of this constant newness and interconnectedness is stressing security teams. It’s no wonder that breaches are happening at an alarming and growing rate.    

Over the past few months, people have been asking me what I think is going on with compliance and where I think things are headed. I believe three fundamental changes are going on in payment security that every card-accepting business and payment solution provider must know.

Certified security solutions vs. DIY compliance

The first thing to be aware of is that compliance is solutionizing. While it’s been happening for a while, the pace is picking up. The PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) is made up of roughly 335 security controls that card-accepting businesses are required to be compliant with 365 days a year. Most companies have tried to comply by following each requirement to secure their cardholder data environment. I call this DIY (do it yourself) Compliance. With DIY Compliance, businesses do their best to purchase and configure payment solutions and to secure their networks and workstations.       

However, you might say, my payment application is validated, and my payment gateway is a PCI-Compliant Service Provider. Oftentimes, certified payment applications, providers and devices don’t completely solve the security situation for businesses. Businesses often buy into a payment acceptance system that is touted as secure only to realize a few months in that they are still required to secure the network and workstations that these applications run on, or they may even have much work to do to secure the data in their own custom applications before it is sent to their payment gateway. This is a common but unnecessary situation in an age where Certified P2PE (point-to-point encryption) and tokenization can not only secure the payment application and cardholder data environment but also reduce scope and security controls for the merchant. With certified P2PE and tokenization in place, a business’ compliance requirements can be reduced from 335 down to about 35 security controls, which is much more manageable for businesses of any size.                               

Often payment application and software platform providers (like POS’s) don’t go the extra mile to offer these kinds of security technologies because smaller merchants aren’t demanding it. An unfortunate choice because the smaller merchants are the ones that need it the most since they probably don’t have firewalls and security technologies and if they do, they probably aren’t correctly configured. I think one day P2PE and tokenization will be required for solutions marketed to smaller merchants as most of them are not able to manage a DIY Compliance approach. However, any of them can purchase a certified solution today.            

When you are looking for payment security solutions, the keyword is “solutions.” A secure device or application is essential. However, a certified solution means that all of the components, applications, providers, and devices in the solution have been separately assessed for listing. It also means that all of the pieces have been put together and then evaluated again as a complete solution by a specially qualified solution assessor. So often these days, a breach occurs even after a well-meaning merchant has purchased good secure components. However, if these secure components are not put together and configured right, then the systems and sensitive data are still vulnerable. Proper controls, configuration, and compliance is the assurance that certified and validated PCI solutions like PCI P2PE can offer.      

The concept of solutionizing is taking off in payment security and compliance. Tokenization for card data storage is very commonplace. In fact, I haven’t seen a new payment solution in the past five years that hasn’t opted to support token storage in its more modern versions. Adoption of PCI-validated P2PE is trending as well. Bluefin, the company I founded, has over 80 P2PE-connected payment gateways, payment processors and payment software platforms. See my last blog for a thorough explanation of PCI P2PE if you’d like to learn more.  

Companies all over the world depend on vendors for key point solutions in their architecture. I’m glad to see that’s happening now in security and compliance. As an analogy, even UPS and FedEx don’t build their own trucks. That’s because even though trucks are very important to their business model, they are in the fulfillment and logistics business. They stick to what they do best and partner for the rest.

Certified Solutions are becoming readily available to plug-in. These solutions help security professionals be more efficient and effective at their job by freeing them up to focus on securing things like PII and proprietary business information, not just payment card data. I use “certified” a lot here. That’s because without assessor-certified and PCI-listed solutions, your company is really just relying on the word and reputation of your solution vendor. 

PCI SPoC solutions and 3DS SDK product listings are here

It doesn’t stop with tokenization and P2PE. The PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) has recently posted two new security solution and product certification areas: SPoC Solutions and 3DS SDK Products. There are no listed providers as of yet, that’s how new it is. But you can be sure that these validation listings will start appearing soon. Also, I know many PCI Assessors who are getting certified to audit these solutions.

From PCI’s website: “Software-Based PIN Entry on COTS (SPoC) Solutions enable EMV contact and contactless transactions with PIN entry on the merchant’s consumer device using a secure PIN entry application in combination with a Secure Card Reader for PIN (SCRP).”

“A 3DS SDK is software embedded into a merchant mobile application for facilitating cardholder authentication. It is a component that is incorporated into the 3DS Requestor Application and performs functions related to 3DS on behalf of the 3DS Server and the Access Control Server. This listing is a resource for merchants to use in selecting a 3DS SDK Product.”

SPoC is essential for markets where EMV PIN is required, like Europe. With these solutions, the merchant can accept the EMV transaction through an inexpensive dip reader and accept the PIN on “glass.” The PIN is translated inside of the SCRP, so everything is secured.    

Troy Leach, CTO PCI had this to say about the 3DS SDK standard and its validation program: “The goal of our standard is to promote good software security to enable secure mobile authentication as designed by the EMVCo specification. The requirements cover security objectives such as integrity protection, data protection, proper use of cryptography, vulnerability management, and implementation guidance, as they pertain specifically to 3DS SDK products.”

3-2-1 contactless!

The contactless countdown is here. Contactless Payments will be the Next PCI Standard and Solution. That’s right; the PCI SSC recently stated: “PCI SSC is in the beginning stages of developing a security standard for accepting contactless payments on a merchant’s commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) phone or tablet.”

Troy Leach added, “The aim is to develop security requirements for solutions that enable a merchant’s COTS device to accept contactless payments without the need for a dongle or other type of peripheral reader by leveraging the native NFC capabilities inherent to a COTS phone or tablet.”

In the previous section, we talked about the PIN-on-glass solution called SPoC. With this new announcement, the Council is looking to take it even further by creating a new standard and a whole new group of solutions for merchants to secure Contactless EMV on COTS and tablets.

In the US, most issuing banks haven’t issued contactless cards. However, from everything I see on the issuing, device capability, and standards fronts, that is all going to change in late 2018 and on into 2019.  While many of you may not yet have a contactless-enabled card in your wallet today, my bet is that you will have more than one in 2019. And, of course contactless has been alive and well for some time on consumer phones.

Data devaluation versus defensive depth is quickly becoming best practice

In my last blog, I talked about using data devaluation technologies to remove the value from card data so that even if a hacker gets ahold of it, it is rendered useless with P2PE and tokenization.

Although P2PE and tokenization remain optional, both of these solutions are quickly becoming best practice and required in many of the RFP’s that we see. Providers are scrambling to catch up on these fronts as smart businesses force them to create or partner with PCI Certified Solutions. Whether you’re a merchant or a service provider, don’t be the slowest gazelle in the pack. It’s time to take solutionizing and data devaluation seriously.

If you are still relying on a 100% DIY approach to compliance and security, you may not only be robbing your company of time and money, but you may also be putting it at risk of breach.


Ruston Miles has over 15 years of experience in payment processing, specializing in developing secure payment gateway technologies. As Chief Strategy Officer and Founder of Bluefin, Ruston serves as the company’s payment technology evangelist, speaking all over North America on payment trends and technologies, educating the business world on the highest levels of payment security.

Ruston is a PCI Professional (PCIP), Certified Payment Professional (CPP), Certified Internet Business Strategist (CIBS), and an active participant with the PCI Security Standards Council.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Ruston Miles and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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