Mobile point of sale gets a PCI security standard

Because crooks salivate when you punch a PIN into a smartmobe at a market stall

The advent of mobile point-of-sale (MPOS) systems has been a boon for consumers and retailers of modest means, but the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council's security wonks worried that they can't adhere to the strict hardware standards that merchants' credit card merchant terminals.

Hence the announcement [PDF] of a new standard that aims to advise merchants on how they can let you pay with a PIN on a mobile device without letting crims steal creds.

The standard's four key principles are that a service has to be actively monitored, in case a device like a phone or tablet is compromised; the PIN has to be isolated from other account data; ensuring the “software and integrity of the PIN entry application” on common off-the-shelf (COTS) devices; and protecting both PIN and account data “using a PCI approved Secure Card Reader-PIN (SCRP).”

As the PCI SSC's Troy Leach explains in this blog post, the aim is to “mitigate risks associated with a software-centric solution”.

The all-important isolation of account data from the PIN, Leach said, “happens as the Primary Account Number (PAN) is never entered on the mobile device with the PIN. Instead that information is captured by an EMV Chip reader that is approved as a Secure Card Reader for PIN (SCRP) that encrypts the contact or contactless transaction.”

Back-end security controls include “attestation (to ensure the security mechanisms are intact and operational), detection (to notify when anomalies are present) and response (controls to alert and take action) to address anomalies,” Leach said.

As well as security requirements, which apply to companies providing the payment solutions, the standard includes a test requirements document. Leach said the test requirements, which will be published in February, “create validation mechanisms for payment security laboratories to evaluate the security of a solution”.

As devices pass the Council's testing, they'll be listed on its Web site. ®

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