The recently disclosed $45 million ATM worldwide cashout heist (see bankinfosecurity.com ) points to many practical business and technology issues that payment system participants face.
Here are just a few of them:
a) One of the more troubling issues of these breaches is the difficulty in determining the points of the network chain that were breached by the fraudsters. This makes it very difficult for card issuers to recover their lost funds because they don’t know who is liable for the breach.
b) From conversations I’ve had with various issuer clients regarding recent breaches, the card brands (Visa and MasterCard) are often not has helpful in helping card issuers recover funds as the issuers would like them to be, perhaps because the card brands don’t know where to assign the liability.
c) Frankly, from a holistic viewpoint, companies that accept or process card payments are in a no-win situation when it comes to a breach. They can do their best and spend lots of money and time becoming PCI certified, but this gives them no safe harbor from penalties that are incurred if they are still breached. And the auditors (qualified security assessors) that certify these eventually breached companies as PCI compliant have BIG disclaimers in their contracts that they take NO responsibility if in fact their clients are breached.
d) There are so many parties in the payment chain that it is very difficult to assign blame in these types of breaches. For example, there can easily be seven roundtrip hops or more between an ATM cash disbursement request and the cash disbursement. The leakage can happen at any of those points or hops.
e) A point-the-finger and assign-blame approach is in the end, a dead-end approach and a lose-lose for all parties concerned. A win-win approach would be to strengthen the security of the card payment system through stronger user authentication and more secure media used to request payments or cash withdrawals (e.g. CHIP and PIN based on the EMV standard).
f) Until then, we will continue to try to keep a leaky insecure payment system secure. It reminds me of the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dyke and successfully stopped the sea water from flooding his home town. He was successful because he stopped the leak when it was very small. I think we are too late when it comes to our global card payment systems. We probably need at the least, a major cyber-army, in this instance.
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