Visa tests new credit card security initiatives
US trials aim to make customers feel more secure
By Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld (US) | Published: 14:37, 20 March 2009
Credit card company Visa is set to go beyond the controls offered by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard. A senior Visa executive has described two new initiatives to reduce payment card fraud currently being tested in the US, where chip-and-pin technology is not used.
One of the pilots involves Fifth Third Bank, which is testing the use of magnetic stripe technology to create unique digital fingerprints for cards, said Ellen Richey, Visa's chief enterprise risk officer. Each stripe contains unique characteristics that can be captured and used to verify the digital identity of the card, Richey said during at a security event being hosted by Visa today. The goal is to stop the creation and use of counterfeit cards based on stolen payment card data.
Another initiative, being piloted by retailer OfficeMax, involves the use of a challenge-response technique at the point of sale. The project is aimed at testing the efficacy of asking consumers to respond to specific questions such as their ZIP code, the last four digits of their phone numbers, or the first three digits of their area codes, as part of the transaction approval process.
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Dan Roeber, vice president and manager of merchant PCI compliance at Fifth Third, said the bank had rolled out about 1,000 card readers to retailers who have not been informed about the pilot effort. The terminals are capable of reading the magnetic stripe information and creating a "DNA picture" of the card which is then matched during the authorization process, against baseline information for that card stored by the card issuer, he said during a panel discussion at the event Thursday.
During the pilot process, baseline images or fingerprints for a card are created when it is first swiped through one of the new readers, Roeber said. But going forward, if the approach works, baseline images for each card could be created and stored during the card issuing process itself, Roeber said. "Even if somebody gets into a database and makes fraudulent cards, the DNS fingerprints are not going to match," Roeber said. "The thing I really like about this technology is that there are no key management issues," as is the case with the use of end to end encryption for protecting cardholder data.
"We are very excited about this technology," he said.
William Van Orman, treasurer for OfficeMax, said the retailer had rolled out its challenge-response process to about 1,000 of its stores across Illinois, Indiana and Florida. The process, which has required changes to point-of-sale systems at these locations, involves asking customers ZIP codes or other personal information after swiping a card. The responses are then matched against responses to these questions that were previously selected by the consumer.
For the pilot, the emphasis was on simply trying to understand what kind of changes needed to be made to the point-of-sale systems, and the kind of impact the new authorisation process would have on merchants and consumers, Van Orman said. Customers were informed that the data was being requested for a pilot project and had the chance to opt out if they chose to, Orman said. After an initial six-month period, the pilot project has been extended by another four months at the request of Visa, he said. "Overall we think it's a successful project," he said.
Richey said that while these projects were not quite ready for broad roll-out yet, they were indicative of the kind of approaches that could be used to make stolen data useless at the point of sale.
Richey said Visa was not opposed in the future to the idea of using chip and pin technologies that are used widely in Europe. They require consumers to enter pin numbers, instead of signing, when making credit card transactions. The approach is widely considered to be safer than purely signature-based transaction, but it would require considerable investments on the part of card issuers to make the change. Richey said today that Visa "fully" supports the technology and said it was not a matter of "if" but "when" and "how" the technology would be adopted in the US.
No one in the company's internal system would have access to any cardholder data, and even the portion of the network that deals with card transactions would be handled by an outside vendor, Weick said. "We are very early on in this," he said, adding that the plan was to first roll out the approach to company-owned restaurants before deploying it across all franchises.