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PROTECTING AGAINST CREDIT CARD DATA THEFT – SECURING POINT OF SALE SYSTEMS IS CRITICAL

Author: Lucas Zaichkowsky, Enterprise Defense Architect at AccessData

Card data theft is a rampant problem. Each year, thousands of businesses are hacked over the Internet by criminals stealing credit cards processed through inadequately protected Point of Sale (POS) systems. With millions of potential victims connected to the Internet and little chance of prosecuting offenders, there is no end in sight to this issue.

Lucas Zaichkowsky
Lucas Zaichkowsky

Credit card data can be very easily stolen even from modern payment systems thought to be secure. I’d like to share advice based on payment card breaches of all sizes and sophistication I’ve observed over the years.

Small and Medium Businesses

The most effective action is educating local point of sale (POS) dealers that sell and maintain equipment for merchants.

  •  The most common way small businesses get breached is through remote desktop software with weak security. For remote access and support, use solutions that support two-factor authentication such as sending a one-time PIN (OTP) to a mobile phone to complete the login process.
  •  Filter Internet traffic from POS systems. Checking email and Facebook accounts from the same systems used to accept credit cards is a bad idea.
  •  Invest in encrypting card readers supported by your credit card processor. These readers should support magstripe, EMV chips, and manually keyed in card numbers. Not only are these solutions secure, the benefits of PCI scope reduction offered by these solutions will more than pay for the cost of hardware.

Large Businesses

  •  Follow the same advice offered to small businesses to avoid being the victim of opportunistic attackers.
  •  Know your network in relation to the flow of cardholder data. Maintain a keen eye towards protecting the card data environment (CDE) from the rest of your network. Your business network will likely be traversed by attackers as they manoeuver past all layers of defences, finding ways to pivot into your card data environment.
  •  Know your enemy and don’t underestimate them. Articles covering breaches tend to focus on one point of failure, creating an illusion that these incidents could have easily been prevented. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The attackers targeting large victims are highly skilled and capable of circumventing all layers of defence.
  •  Spend energy identifying and investigating attacks in progress. By seeking out attacker behaviours and their tools, you stand a much better chance of putting a stop to it before major damage is done.
  •  Obtain executive support to harden systems. Removing local admin rights from your users is a battle especially worth fighting. By having a risk discussion leveraging reputable data sources such as breach reports by incident response companies, your executive team will be much more likely to support a lockdown to avoid being the next headline.

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