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Vulnerabilities / Threats

9/12/2016
05:30 PM
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PCI Security Update Targets PIN System Vendors

New requirements cover physical and logical security controls.

The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council has updated its requirements for payment device vendors to address increased threats and attacks against point of sale (POS) and so-called point of interaction (POI) systems in recent years.

PoS attacks have resulted in tens of millions of credit and debit cards being compromised at enormous costs for the breached organizations, for card issuing banks, and others in the payment industry. Many of the attacks have involved adversaries placing malware on POS systems and on PIN entry devices, or using skimmers to capture credit and debit card data before it is encrypted.

The latest PCI security updates are targeted specifically at vendors of PIN entry devices, unattended payment terminals, PIN pads that are integrated with POS terminals, and encrypting card readers. Payment devices that directly consume card information from a magnetic stripe or from the chip of an EMV card remain a top target for attackers, the PCI Security Standards Council said in a statement announcing the latest updates.

"Criminals constantly attempt to break security controls to find ways to exploit data,"  said Troy Leach, chief technology officer for the PCI Council. Innovative new skimming devices and attack methods are continuing to put cardholder data at risk for fraud, he said. "The newest PCI standard for payment devices recognizes this challenge by requiring protections against advancements in attack techniques."

The modular requirements for PIN Transaction Security (PTS) and Point of Interaction systems represent a combination of new security controls and updated guidance on a slew of existing requirements. They cover physical security characteristics, such as the attributes of a device that deter an attack, and logical controls, including measures for preventing the use of clear-text PIN encryption keys on a device.

The new guidance also covers the manner in which payment devices are manufactured, stored, and transported to the merchants that end up using the devices.

On the physical security front, the PCI Security Council now wants payment device vendors to demonstrate that changes in operational or environmental conditions do not end up compromising a device. “An example includes subjecting the device to temperatures or operating voltages outside the stated operating ranges,” the Council said in its guidance.

Starting with this week’s update, payment devices are also required to support firmware updates. The device must be able to cryptographically authenticate the firmware and be able to reject and delete an update if the firmware cannot be authenticated. That is crucial to preventing malicious "updates" from attackers.

Vendors of POI and PIN entry devices are now required to ensure their devices cannot be modified or tampered with while bring transported to a customer facility. To that end, the PCI Security Standards Council wants vendors to provide customers with detailed documentation instructing them on how to validate device integrity and to spot any evidence of tampering. The Council urged POI system vendors to ensure that all partners involved in shipping a product to the customer follow secure practices.

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Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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