During this week’s PCI SSC US Community meeting a demonstration of a Mobile attack highlighted the need for more secure development practices in the mobile payments space.

The demonstration coincided and supported the release of the new guidelines the PCI Mobile Payment Acceptance Security Guidelines which offer software developers and mobile device manufacturer’s guidance on designing appropriate security controls to provide solutions for merchants to accept mobile payments securely.

The demonstration of the top mobile attacks was done by Nicholas J. Percoco, senior vice president of Trustwave’s SpiderLabs, and showed the threats to the security of payments over mobile acceptance devices, including malware and rootkits, jailbreaking vulnerabilities and SSL-man-in-the-middle attacks.

It is important that a best practice guide be developed, by the industry, to educate mobile app developers on methods of securing commerce transactions and risks of not doing so.” said Percoco.

The PCI SSC formed an industry taskforce in 2010 as part of a dedicated effort to address mobile payment acceptance security. Since then, the Council has released guidance on how merchants can apply its current standards to mobile payment acceptance by addressing mobile applications with the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS), and leveraging the PIN Transaction Security (PTS) and Point-to-Point Encryption (P2PE) standards to accept payments on mobile devices more securely.

The guidance for developers is the next piece of the Council’s work in this area. The document organizes the mobile payment-acceptance security guidance into two categories: best practices to secure the payment transaction itself, which addresses cardholder data as it is entered, stored and processed using mobile devices; and guidelines for securing the supporting environment, which addresses security measures essential to the integrity of the broader mobile application platform environment.

Key recommendations include:

  • Isolate sensitive functions and data in trusted environments
  • Implement secure coding best practices
  • Eliminate unnecessary third-party access and privilege escalation
  • Create the ability to remotely disable payment applications
  • Create server-side controls and report unauthorized access

“Applications are going to market so quickly – anyone can design their own app today that can be used to accept payments tomorrow,” said PCI SSC Chief Technology Officer Troy Leach in his presentation to PCI CM attendees. “It’s our hope that in educating this new group of developers, as well as device vendors on what they can do to build security into their design process, that we’ll start to see the market drive more secure options for merchants to protect their customers’ data.”

The council has announced that in 2013 they will be releasing further guidance for merchants to help them leverage mobile payment acceptance securely, while continuing to collaborate with industry subject matter experts to explore how card data security can be addressed in an evolving mobile acceptance environment, and whether additional guidance or requirements must be developed.

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