Retailers take swipe at PCI security standard

Simmering discontent within the retail industry over the payment card industry (PCI) data security standards has erupted, with the global umbrella organisation for retailers asking credit card companies to stop forcing retailers to store payment card data.

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Simmering discontent within the retail industry over the payment card industry (PCI) data security standards has erupted, with the global umbrella organisation for retailers, the US-headquartered National Retail Federation (NRF), asking credit card companies to stop forcing retailers to store payment card data.

In a tersely worded letter to the PCI Security Standards Council, which oversees implementation of the standard, NRF CIO David Hogan asked credit card companies to stop making retailers "jump through hoops to create an impenetrable fortress" to protect card data. Instead, "retailers want to eliminate the incentive for hackers to break into their systems in the first place."

"With this letter, we are officially putting the credit card industry on notice," Hogan said.

In an interview with Computerworld, Hogan said the letter was provoked by a "lot of frustration" in the industry about PCI guidelines and the deadlines associated with implementing them.

“If the goal of PCI is to protect credit card data, the easiest and most common sense approach is to stop requiring merchants to store the data in the first place”, he said.

PCI is a data security standard mandated by Visa International, MasterCard Worldwide, American Express, Discover and the Japan Credit Bureau (JCB). It requires companies to implement a set of prescribed security controls for protecting cardholder data. Though it went into affect more than two years ago, a large number of big retailers are still non-compliant because of a variety of issues that include legacy system challenges, rules interpretation issues and continuously evolving guidelines.

According to Hogan, credit card companies require retailers and others accepting payment card transactions to store certain card data sometimes for up to 18 months so that it can be retrieved in the event of charge backs and other disputes.

But rather than have thousands of retailers store the data, credit card companies and their banks should do so, Hogan said. Retailers only need an authorisation code provided at the time of a sale to validate a charge, and a receipt with truncated credit card information to handle returns and refunds. If that were done, he said, most retailers probably wouldn't store any cardholder data.

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