PCI Security Standards Council publishes security requirements for software-based PIN entry on COTS devices

The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) announced a new PCI Security Standard for software-based PIN entry on commercial off-the-shelf devices (COTS), such as smartphones and tablets. The PCI Software-Based PIN Entry on COTS (SPoC) Standard provides requirements for developing secure solutions enabling EMV contact and contactless transactions with PIN entry on the merchant’s consumer device using a secure PIN entry application and Secure Card Reader for PIN (SCRP).

“Mobile point-of-sale (MPOS) solutions have become very popular with smaller merchants for their flexibility and efficiency,” said Aite Group Senior Analyst Ron van Wezel. “MPOS has enabled them to take orders and accept payments on a tablet or smartphone, anytime and anywhere.

Sam Shawki

“However, some small merchants in markets that require EMV chip-and-PIN acceptance may have found the costs of investing in hardware prohibitive. With the new PIN entry standard, the PCI Council has responded to market need by specifying the security requirements for allowing PIN entry directly on the mobile touchscreen. This means that merchants can accept payments with just their mobile device and a small, cost efficient card reader connected to it along with a secure PIN entry application.

“The payment industry will benefit overall from the wider choice in payment acceptance, as it will drive the growth of electronic transactions.”

“The PCI Council has a long history of developing standards for protecting PIN as a verification method in hardware-based solutions. Existing PCI PIN Standards require hardware-based security protection of the PIN,” said PCI SSC chief technology officer Troy Leach. “We are now building on this foundation with a new standard that allows for an alternative approach to secure PIN entry by isolating the PIN from other data and using a new robust set of security controls that extend beyond the physical hardware device itself. The PCI Software-Based PIN Entry Standard gives solution providers and application developers a baseline of security requirements specifically for accepting EMV contact and contactless transactions using software-based PIN entry.”

Key security principles included in the standard’s security and test requirements are:

  • Active monitoring of the service, to mitigate against potential threats to the payment environment within the phone or tablet;
  • Isolation of the PIN from other account data;
  • Ensuring the software security and integrity of the PIN entry application on the COTS device;
  • Protection of the PIN and account data using a PCI approved Secure Card Reader for PIN (SCRP).

A key industry figure welcomes the efforts.

“We at MagicCube are one of only two companies (the other being Square) that has been at the forefront of developing this technology over the last three years,” co-founder and CEO Sam Shawki said. “We are excited that our customers will get from us one solution from one source that has been built and integrated and ready to go to market once the labs are ready to certify.

“Unlike others who will be stitching together a solution to get to market, our platform was built with these standards in mind: a one-of-its kind security platform that resists side channel attacks; a monitoring system that’s an integral part of the platform and not an afterthought; and a PCI-certified SCRP (secure card reader pin) built for MagicCube by a global leader in manufacturing of point-of-sale peripherals.”

The Software-Based PIN Entry on COTS Security Requirements are for solution providers to use in designing each part of a complete solution. These requirements are available now on the PCI SSC website.

The Software-Based PIN Entry on COTS Test Requirements outline testing processes for laboratories to use in evaluating solutions against the standard. These will be published in the next month, followed by a supporting program that will list PCI validated solutions on the PCI SSC website for merchant use.

“This standard gives solution providers and application developers a baseline of security requirements for how to securely accept PIN-based transactions on a COTS device, and methods to test that security is working, even as updates to the devices and applications occur frequently. PCI validated solutions will meet a robust set of security objectives that have been tested by independent laboratories,” added Mr. Leach. “More and more businesses are now accepting payments with smartphones, tablets and other COTS devices, especially within the small business community. The PCI SSC Software-Based PIN Entry Solution listing will provide these merchants with a resource for selecting PIN entry solutions that have been evaluated and tested by payment security laboratories, and their customers will benefit by having the best available protection for their payment data.”

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