Risk
12/3/2009
02:10 PM
50%
50%

The Point-Of-Sale Problem

Retailers must take sensible steps to protect POS systems or face the consequences.

Point-of-sale systems, where customer credit or debit cards are swiped for payment, are one of the most frequently used computing systems in the developed world.

They're also targeted by criminals. For instance, in 2005 attackers compromised POS systems at a Marshalls retail store and stole cardholder data. That same year, attackers stole the source code for Wal-Mart's custom-built POS systems. No customer data was compromised, but it's a clear indication that criminals put a bull's-eye on POS systems.

Today, attackers have only become more sophisticated, using advanced software techniques to avoid detection by antivirus software. In the physical realm, attackers attach card-reading devices, known as skimmers, to ATMs and POS devices. When users insert their cards, skimmers copy the numbers. Thieves also attach hidden cameras along with skimmers to record PIN numbers as users type them in.

InformationWeek Reports

Add It Up

Companies take one of three approaches to develop and deploy POS terminals: buy a purpose-built platform that usually runs on a proprietary or embedded operating system, use a common PC running Windows and a POS application, or build and deploy a custom-built POS system. They can maintain the POS systems themselves, outsource maintenance and operations, or use some combination of both.

Regardless of the approach they take, business owners typically estimate total cost of ownership based on critical features, deployment, and ongoing support. POS security is usually an afterthought. Yet if a breach occurs, the resulting costs can easily eclipse the price tag for the POS system deployment.

Part of the challenge is that it's difficult to calculate how much a breach costs. If your organization loses credit card or personal data, you incur notification, incident response, investigation, and legal costs, along with a PR nightmare, potential customer churn, and possible fines and lawsuits.

DIG DEEPER
Get Proactive About Risk Management
Get this Analytics Report
Informationweek Analytics
How much does that tally up to? Some researchers says a breach can cost $1 per customer record, while other sources go as high as $200. That range makes accurate calculations tricky.

That said, there are some numbers to work with. For instance, Heartland Payment Systems has set aside $73 million as a pre-tax provision for its breach costs. According to an InformationWeek article, TJX absorbed an $118 million charge to address costs related to its breach of over 45 million cardholder records in 2007.

Smart companies can estimate how much lost data might cost them and bring that number into the TCO conversation. Why? Because without factoring in the risks present in POS systems and the controls required to address those risks, the total cost of ownership can't be accurately calculated.

POS BEST PRACTICES
1. Apply sensible security operations and practices to POS devices, just as you would to other critical systems.
2. Choose POS devices approved by the PCI Security Standards Council. They aren't attacker-proof, but they'll meet PCI requirements.
3. If your POS devices are also general-purpose PCs, limit employee access.
4. If employees use POS devices for Internet access, deploy supplemental controls, such as whitelisting software so only approved applications will run, and strictly limit Web access.
5. If a third party is responsible for maintaining POS devices, follow up regularly to ensure they're doing so.
6. Consider adopting chip and pin, tokenization, and end-to-end encryption when these features become available in POS systems.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-2086
Published: 2015-02-26
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the live preview in the Panopoly Magic module before 7.x-1.17 for Drupal allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a pane title.

CVE-2015-2087
Published: 2015-02-26
Unrestricted file upload vulnerability in the Avatar Uploader module before 6.x-1.3 for Drupal allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary PHP code by uploading a file with a PHP extension, then accessing it via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-2088
Published: 2015-02-26
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in unspecified administration pages in the Term Queue module before 6.x-1.1 for Drupal allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unknown vectors.

CVE-2015-2089
Published: 2015-02-26
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in the CrossSlide jQuery (crossslide-jquery-plugin-for-wordpress) plugin 2.0.5 for WordPress allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) change plugin settings or conduct cross-site scripting (...

CVE-2015-2090
Published: 2015-02-26
SQL injection vulnerability in the ajax_survey function in settings.php in the WordPress Survey and Poll plugin 1.1.7 for Wordpress allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the survey_id parameter in an ajax_survey action to wp-admin/admin-ajax.php.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
How can security professionals better engage with their peers, both in person and online? In this Dark Reading Radio show, we will talk to leaders at some of the security industry’s professional organizations about how security pros can get more involved – with their colleagues in the same industry, with their peers in other industries, and with the IT security community as a whole.