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Still, it wasn’t enough.
Point of sale systems are particularly vulnerable, TrustedSec’s Kennedy said, because companies typically don’t want to make changes to them, such as adding security enhancements. After all, taking systems down for any length of time can directly affect sales.
“These POS networks are usually Swiss cheese,” Kennedy said. “They’re just terrible.”
McAfee’s Brown said he doesn’t think the industry’s safe-practice guidelines, called the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards and referred to as PCI, do much to address the data vulnerabilities in a company’s supply chain.
“It doesn’t explicitly call out third-party relationships like we’re talking about,” Brown said.
Bob Russo, general manager of the PCI Security Standards Council, said the guidelines require merchants to use what’s called “two-factor authentication” for all third parties using remote network access to a company’s network, if the access could lead to the area where cardholder data exists. Such login verification requires two out of three things, he said: something you have (such as a smart card), something you know (a password) or something you are (fingerprint or eye scan, for instance.)
Vendors need watching
The PCI standards don’t specifically address all vendor connections or require formal vendor risk assessments, Russo said in a written response to questions, but vendor connections should be part of the annual risk assessment companies are required to conduct.
PCI standards don’t require card encryption at the point of sale, which means there’s a millisecond after a swipe when information is out in the open, unencrypted.
“The key message here is to understand the security controls your vendors and business partners have in place when allowing them access to your network,” said Chad Boeckmann CEO of Secure Digital Solutions in Minneapolis. “I know many big companies conduct those exercises, but sometimes those exercises aren’t conducted frequently enough or they’re not conducted thoroughly enough.”
Cybercrime cost $113 billion in 2013 and exposed 435 million people to information theft, Frank Rosch of the computer security software firm Symantec told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing last week. Targeted attacks on computer systems such as Target’s are expanding, he added.
Isle, at Adventium Labs, says a breach was probably inevitable given the Secret Service’s description of the criminals as relentless, well-organized and sophisticated.
“With unlimited people, time and money, they will get in,” said Isle. “Target may or may not have screwed up, but the people who came at them were good.”
Jim Spencer • 202-383-6123
Jennifer Bjorhus 612-673-4683