Retailers seeking to improve security system to combat cyber-attacks

RetailME Bureau

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has urged the Congress to take a comprehensive approach as it contemplates a national response to criminal cyber-attacks in which millions of consumers’ credit and debit card numbers were stolen. NRF said retailers a re willing to do their part to improve security, but that banks and card companies must also take major steps to shore up the current fraud-prone payments system. “When a criminal breach occurs in the payments system, all of the businesses that participate in that system and their shared customers are victimised,” says Mallory Duncan, NRF senior vice president and general counsel. “Rather than resort to blame and shame, the parties should work together to ensure that the data breach is remedied and steps are taken to prevent and mitigate future breaches,” he adds.

Duncan continues, “Retailers are taking the increasing incidence of payment card fraud very seriously. While we have every reason to want to see fraud reduced, but we have only a portion of the ability to make that happen. We did not design the [payments] system, we do not configure the cards and we do not issue the cards. We will work to effectively upgrade the system, but we cannot do it alone. This is a continuous battle against determined fraudsters. Every party in the payment system, financial institutions, networks, processors, retailers and consumers, has a role to play in reducing fraud.”

According to him, in the short term the banking industry needs to replace current cards that store consumer data on 1960s-era magnetic strips and have users sign their name with modern cards that encrypt data on an embedded microchip and require use of a secret Personal Identification Number (PIN). Instead, banks and card companies have pushed so-called EMV – Europay, MasterCard and Visa – proprietary cards that use a chip but remain open to fraud by allowing the use of a signature. Duncan believes replacement of easily forged signatures with a PIN and Chip card is essential to security.

In his testimony, Duncan urged the US to look beyond the Payment Card Industry’s (PCI) security standards and proposed EMV cards, and embrace a more secure and technologically-advanced payments system that is as innovative as it is competitive. In the longer term, Duncan said further improvements, such as point-to-point encryption of data, ‘tokenisation’ of transactions and mobile payments offer potential solutions to better protect consumers. Duncan also urged the Congress to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which would make it easier for the commercial sector to share information about cyber threats and ensure that cybercrimes are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted. He said NRF also wants Congress to replace the varying data breach notification laws currently on the books in 46 states and the District of Columbia with a single, uniform nationwide standard and bolster law enforcement agencies’ abilities to combat cyber-attacks.