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Visa yanks creds for payment card processing pair

RBS, Heartland no longer PCI compliant

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Visa on Friday alerted the world that RBS WorldPay and Heartland Payment Systems are not on its list of payment card processors who are in good standing with industry-mandated standards for data security.

The move follows announcements by both companies that they experienced data breaches that exposed details for a large number of credit cards to criminal hackers. RBS said the security lapse exposed 1.5 million cards. Heartland has yet to say how many cards were affected.

In a statement, Visa said the two processors were no longer considered compliant with the Data Security Standards established by the Payment Card Industry Security Council.

"Based on compromise event findings, Visa has removed Heartland and RBS WorldPay from its list of PCI DSS compliant service providers, which can be found at www.visa.com/cisp," Visa said in a statement. "Heartland and RBS WorldPay are actively working on revalidation of PCI DSS compliance using a Qualified Security Assessor."

The move puts both payment processors in an awkward spot, said Gartner analyst Avivah Litan, who tracks payment card security.

"Retailers and other companies are not allowed to do business with processors that are not PCI compliant so this puts all of Heartland's customers and all of RBS's customers out of compliance," she told The Register. "It's nebulous, as most of PCI enforcement is."

Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and two other organizations require all merchants who use their cards to comply with the DSS. Each merchant must by be audited once per year by a PCI-approved assessor.

Heartland executives have said that their last audit was in April of 2008 and that the company was in good standing with the regulations when its network was infected with keylogging malware late last year. It issued a statement on Friday that said Heartland was undergoing its 2009 audit now and expected to be assessed compliant by May.

"Heartland is cooperating fully with Visa and other card brands and we are committed to having a safe and secure processing environment," the statement read.

RBS said it expects to be recertified by April, SCMagazine reported. The magazine said both processors continue to process Visa transactions.

The ability of attackers to penetrate both companies while they were in good standing with the PCI guidelines has prompted some to criticize them as little more than a rubber stamp designed to make the public feel more comfortable using credit cards.

It's a refrain members of the PCI security standards council have heard often lately. A few weeks ago, Liberato de Veyra, the council's chair, took the opportunity to defend the DSS.

"From the council's point of view, the PCI DSS is solid," he said. "It's an effective way to secure cardholder data." ®

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