Brian Pennington

A blog about Cyber Security & Compliance


February 2014

P2Pe, Pseudo-P2Pe, End-2-End Encryption, Linked Encryption, they are all good

This week’s Vendorcom Secure Payments Special Interest Group (SIG) met to discuss P2Pe and it became clear that there are many ways to achieve a compliant outcome.

My first impression was the large number of attendees at the SIG, 50+, only one of them was a Merchant. The rest were a mixed bag of Acquirers, PSPs, QSAs, Vendors and Consultants making it more of a Vested Interest Group than a Special one.

The Logic Group (TLG) started the presentations and covered their listed P2Pe solutions and how they achieved compliance. They explained all the hard work getting all the elements through the audits and the 970 P2Pe Controls (more than double that of PCI DSS).

TLG cited the issues of key custody and management and how once during the development period it required 6 people to cover the physical as well as the logical security requirements.

The Q&A session before lunch was mostly aimed at John Elliot of VISA Europe who handled even the most difficult questions very well and delivered the answers with humour. He even confirmed that next week there is a gathering in the US to ratify the much discussed Tokenization standard and some clarifications to the PCI DSS version 3.0. He however was wrong on one prediction that the new Self Assessment Questionnaires (SAQ) would be out on Thursday and they weren’t but to be fair to John almost everyone associated with PCI has tried to predict the arrival of the new SAQs and got it wrong. They finally came out today (28th February 2014).

After lunch Spire Payments and MagTek presented on their device solutions and their compatibility with the PCI PTS SRED and how they could fit into a P2Pe compliant solution.

Next up were Vodat International with their alternative to P2Pe. The Vodat solution is a managed end to end solution with encryption and resilience. Ian Martin’s presentation was supported by VISA Europe as a way to achieve PCI DSS compliance.

Some other discussion point

  • Linked Encryption combined with EMV could make a significant security improvement for the US market
  • Some merchants think switching to Ingenico gives them P2Pe
  • Some merchants and the PCI SSC are concerned that there are only two listed P2Pe solutions
  • PCI SSC would like to make P2Pe modular e.g. if you want to do your own key management or choose your own PEDs, etc.
  • An April deadline for moving to TLS 1.1 or above is not true, maintaining secure software is always required.
  • All mobile payments are mandated to have P2Pe
  • P2Pe will probably never be mandatory, except for mobile
  • If you have a certified P2Pe solution you can complete an SAQ no matter what size of merchant you are

It was an interesting day and after all the presentations and discussions what became clear is there are many ways to achieve PCI DSS compliance; Point to Point Encryption (P2Pe), Pseudo-P2Pe, End-2-End Encryption and Linked Encryption or a combination of them.

What is not in doubt is the chosen solutions must meet the business profile of the merchant and help them achieve PCI DSS compliance. The solution itself will not achieve compliance because there is more to compliance than installing a solution for example there is the on going maintenance of compliance and the human element.

Whichever solution you represent or are looking to buy lets hope it is installed and maintained well enough to meet and maintain continuous security and PCI DSS compliance.

Increasing Security and Reducing Fraud with EMV Chip and PCI Standards an Infographic

When data is exposed, it puts your customers and your reputation as a business at serious risk. EMV chip technology combined with PCI Security Standards offer a powerful combination for increasing card data security and reducing fraud.

Dell's New Unknown Threats Infographic

According to Dell organisations are overlooking powerful new unknown threats.

Read more here

PA DSS and PCI DSS version 3.0 now available in 9 languages

The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), have announced that the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) 3.0 are now available in nine languages.

“It’s important that organizations around the globe have the resources they need to protect card data,” said Bob Russo, general manager, PCI Security Standards Council. “We’re happy to make the PCI Standards available in a number of languages to assist organizations as they work to make payment security part of their business-as-usual practices.”

PCI DSS and PA-DSS 3.0 were published in November 2013, with updates made based on feedback from the Council’s global constituents and response to market needs.

Over 50% of this feedback came from outside of the U.S., emphasizing the Council’s active international membership base.

The PCI SSC website supports translated pages and PCI materials including the new PCI DSS v3.0 and PA-DSS v3.0 in the following languages:

  • Chinese
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish

“We continue to be encouraged by the growing participation from global stakeholders in PCI Standards development, said Jeremy King, international director, PCI Security Standards Council. “We’re optimistic that these translations will increase awareness and adoption of the standards and drive improved payment security.”

EMV – The perspective of a QSA who has worked on both sides of the Atlantic

With the spate of cyber attackers on US retailers recently Coalfire’s European MD, Andrew Barratt considers how the attacks on retailers differ outside the US and what the potential impact of similar attacks is in a world where Chip and Pin technology is more widely deployed.

Working in both the US and Europe gives us a good perspective on the payment security landscape.  The US has a much higher rate of credit card usage than most European countries, loyalty schemes and reward incentives are much more mature and embedded in consumer culture.  In Europe card usage is increasing but the type of card varies by country.  In the UK credit card use is moving in a similar direction to the US and includes a high rate of debit card usage; cards are quickly replacing cash. The UK now has lots of innovative mobile tech trying to disrupt the card market as well.   Germany is very different, credit card usage is very low (consumer culture is quite averse to borrowing) and the debit scheme is a closed system.  However both of Europe’s large economies moved away from using the magnetic stripe years ago.

EMV or Chip and Pin as it is more commonly referred to in the UK has been in heavy use since 2006 which has helped lower the impact of brick and mortar retail breaches significantly.  It doesn’t rely on sending the full track information to the payment processor meaning that the data is easier to secure.

With retailers adopting more of the security controls detailed in the Payment card industry data security standard and with widespread adoption of Chip and Pin for authenticating customers huge losses from face to face retailers are less common.

Large US retailers are being targeted for smash and grab style payment card data breaches because the data is easier to use fraudulently.  If a cyber-attack steals a lot of magnetic stripe data, this can be used to clone cards, which can then be used in stores to make fraudulent purchases.

Where transactions are authenticated using EMV’s Chip and Pin verification method less data is transmitted to the processor.  If this data is stolen it is harder to be used fraudulently.  It’s not impossible but a lot harder.  EMV is not without its flaws and a number of attacks have been demonstrated by Professor Ross Anderson’s research team at Cambridge University.  These typically attack the card reader and try to grab the Pin as it is sent to the smart card on the Chip for verification.

For US retailers minimizing exfiltration possibilities should be a high priority, lock down and monitor the outbound connections.

The fraud bubble has been squeezed attackers focus on e-commerce operations in the UK, service providers and other businesses that handle lots of cardholder not present transactions.  As the cost of implementing attacks against the smart card declines Europe serves to be a good learning ground for the US.  If the US adopts a future EMV model adoption can be considered with lessons learned overseas for more consumer protection.

Article written by Andrew Barratt

Twitter:     @Andrew_barratt


BYOD, Cloud and the Internet are the top areas of concern for security threats.

A Dell global security survey reveals “the majority of IT leaders say they do not view these threats as top security concerns and are not prioritizing how to find and address them across the many points of origin”.

Key findings of Dell’s research include:

  • 37% ranked unknown threats as a top security concern in the next five years
  • 64% of respondents agree that organizations will need to restructure/reorganize their IT processes, and be more collaborative with other departments to stay ahead of the next security threat. Of those surveyed in the United States, 85% said this approach is needed, contrasting with Canada at 45% followed by the U.K. at 43%
  • 78% in the Unites States think the federal government plays a positive role in protecting organizations against both internal and external threats, which underscores the need for strong leadership and guidance from public sector organizations in helping secure the private sector
  • 67% of survey respondents say they have increased funds spent on education and training of employees in the past 12 months
  • 50% believe security training for both new and current employees is a priority
  • 54% have increased spending in monitoring services over the past year; this number rises to 72% in the United States

Among the IT decision-makers surveyed, BYOD, cloud and the Internet were the top areas of concern for security threats.

BYOD. A sizable number of respondents highlighted mobility as the root cause of a breach, with increased mobility and user choice flooding networks with access devices that provide many paths for exposing data and applications to risk.

  • 93% of organizations surveyed allow personal devices for work. 31% of end users access the network on personal devices (37% in the United States)
  • 44% of respondents said instituting policies for BYOD security is of high importance in preventing security breaches
  • 57% ranked increased use of mobile devices as a top security concern in the next five years (71% in the U.K.)
  • 24% said misuse of mobile devices/operating system vulnerabilities is the root cause of security breaches

Cloud. Many organizations today use cloud computing, potentially introducing unknown security threats that lead to targeted attacks on organizational data and applications. Survey findings prove these stealthy threats come with high risk.

  • 73% of respondents report their organizations currently use cloud (90% in the United States)
  • 49% ranked increased use of cloud as a top security concern in the next five years, only 22% said moving data to the cloud was a top security concern today
  • In organizations where security is a top priority for next year, 86% are using cloud
  • 21% said cloud apps or service usage are the root cause of their security breaches

Internet. The significance of the unknown threats that result from heavy use of Internet communication and distributed networks is evidenced by

  • 63% of respondents ranked increased reliance upon internet and browser-based applications as a top concern in the next five years.
  • More than one-fifth of respondents consider infection from untrusted remote access (Public Wifi) among the top three security concerns for their organization
  • 47% identified malware, viruses and intrusions often available through web apps, OS patching issues, and other application-related vulnerabilities as the root causes of breaches
  • 70% are currently using email security to prevent outsider attacks from accessing the network via their email channel

76% of IT leaders surveyed (93% in the United States) agree that to combat today’s threats, an organization must protect itself both inside and outside of its perimeters.

The full Dell report can be found here.

UK, US and Global Business have different opinions on the risk of Cyber Security

The UK lags the US in prioritising cyber security according to a BT survey.

  • 17% of UK business leaders see cyber security as a major priority
  • 41% in the US business leaders see cyber security as a major priority
  • 21% respondents in the UK are able to measure the return on investment (ROI) of their cyber security measures
  • 90% US companies can measure their ROI on their cyber security measures
  • 86% of US directors and senior decision makers are given IT security training
  • 37% of UK directors and senior decision makers are given IT security training

The percentage of IT decision-makers stated that their boards underestimate the importance of cyber security:-

  • 55% of UK boards underestimate the importance of cyber security
  • 58% of IT decision-makers globally stated that their boards underestimate the importance of cyber security
  • 74% of US boards underestimate the importance of cyber security

The difference in levels of preparedness correlates with attitudes to threats.

The difference in levels of preparedness correlates with attitudes to threats. Non-malicious insider threats (e.g. accidental loss of data) are currently the most commonly cited security concern globally, being reported as a serious threat by 65 per cent of IT decision makers

In the UK this falls to 60 per cent followed by:-

  • 51% malicious insider threats
  • 37% hacktivism
  • 32% organised crime
  • 15% nation states
  • 12% terrorism

In the US the proportion of IT decision makers who see non-malicious insider threats as a severe threat increases to 85% and is followed by

  • 79% malicious insider threats
  • 77% hacktivism
  • 75% organised crime
  • 72% terrorism
  • 70% nation states

Globally the respondents believe the following will pose a greater threat:-

  • 54% hacktivism
  • 53% malicious insider threats

In the US they believe:-

  • 73% hacktivism
  • 74% malicious insider threats

In the UK:-

  • 29% hacktivism
  • 23% malicious insider threats

Emerging threats:-

  • 75% of IT decision makers globally say they would like to overhaul their infrastructure and design them with security features from the ground up
  • 74% would like to train all staff in cyber security best practice
  • 54% say they would like to engage an external vendor to monitor the system and prevent attacks.

BT Article

European Union: Data Protection and the dangers of the web

It’s something we all worry about: 76% of Europeans are concerned that their personal data is not safe in the hands of private companies demonstrates the extent of the fear.

The Infograph was published as part of “Data Protection Day: the challenge of keeping your personal information safe – Citizens’ rights − 28-01-2014”

The European Cybercrime Centre – one year on

What are the main future cybercrime threats on the horizon? And how has the European Cybercrime Center (EC3) contributed to protect European citizens and businesses since its launch in January 2013? 

These questions are at the core of an EC3 report presented today, and discussed at a conference organised by the Commission, with participants from law enforcement authorities, national and EU institutions and the private sector.

Criminal behaviour is changing fast, exploiting technological developments and legal loopholes. Criminals will continue to be creative and deploy sophisticated attacks to make more money, and we must be able to keep up with them. The expertise of the EC3 is helping us to fight this battle and boost European cooperation. Through several successful, far-reaching operations in the past year, the European Cybercrime Centre has already earned well-deserved fame amongst law enforcement agencies”, said Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.

Troels Örting, Head of the European Cybercrime Centre added: “In the 12 months since EC3 opened we have been extremely busy helping EU law enforcement authorities to prevent and investigate cross-border cybercrime. I am proud and satisfied with our results so far, however we cannot rest on our laurels. I am especially worried about the increasingly complex forms of malware that are surfacing, along with more technologically advanced cyber-scams, and the so-called ‘sextortion’ of minors. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg, but EC3, backed by our valued stakeholders and partners, is dedicated to supporting Member States’ future frontline cybercrime operations.

According to a recent Eurobarometer

  • 12% of European internet users have had their social media or email account hacked
  • 7% have been the victim of credit card or banking fraud online

EC3 achievement highlights

The main task of the European Cybercrime Centre is to disrupt the operations of organised crime networks that commit serious and organised cybercrime (for more details, see MEMO/13/6 and infographics).Concretely, the EC3 supports and coordinates operations and investigations conducted by Member States’ authorities in several areas. Recent examples include:

High-tech crimes (cyber-attacks, malware)

In its first year, the EC3 assisted in the coordination of 19 major cybercrime operations, for instance: 

  • Two major international investigations (Ransom and Ransom II) were concluded, related to so-called Police Ransomware – a type of malware that blocks the victim’s computer, accusing the victim of having visited illegal websites containing child abuse material or other illegal activity. Criminals request the payment of a “fine” to unblock the victim’s computer, making the Ransomware look as if it comes from a legitimate law enforcement agency. Cybercriminals convince the victim to pay the ‘fine’ of around €100 through two types of payment gateways – virtual and anonymous. The criminals investigated by EC3 infected tens of thousands of computers worldwide, bringing in profits in excess of one million euros per year. 13 arrests were made (mainly in Spain) and the networks were broken up.
  • EC3 has also supported several international initiatives in the areas of botnet takedowns, disruption and investigation of criminal forums and malware attacks against financial institutions, such as the recent takedown of the ZeroAccess botnet together with Microsoft and high-tech crime units from the German BKA, Netherlands, Latvia, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

Online child sexual exploitation

At present, EC3 supports 9 large child sexual exploitation police operations within the European Union. In the first year of EC3, significant efforts – jointly with many Member States and non-EU cooperation partners – were put into combating the illegal activities of paedophiles engaged in the online sexual exploitation of children using hidden services.

EC3 is involved in many operations and joint investigations targeting the production and distribution of child abuse material on various internet platforms. It is providing ongoing operational and analytical support to investigations on the dark net, where paedophiles trade in illicit child abuse material in hidden forums, as well as to investigations into ‘sextortion’. Sextortion is the term given to the phenomenon where child abusers gain access to inappropriate pictures of minors and use the images to coerce victims into further acts or the abuser will forward the images to family and friends of the victim.

Payment fraud

The EC3 is currently providing operational and analytical support to 16 investigations, regarding payment fraud. In 2013 it supported investigations resulting in three different international networks of credit card fraudsters being dismantled: 

  • One operation led to the arrest of 29 suspects who had made a 9 million Euro profit by compromising the payment credentials of 30,000 credit card holders. 
  • The second network that was tackled resulted in 44 arrests during the operation (which followed 15 previous arrests; 59 arrests in total) in several Member States, two illegal workshops for producing devices and software to manipulate Point-of-Sale terminals dismantled, illegal electronic equipment, financial data, cloned cards, and cash seized. The organised crime group had affected approximately 36.000 bank/credit card holders in 16 European countries. 
  • The third operation targeted an Asian criminal network responsible for illegal transactions and the purchasing of airline tickets. Two members of the criminal gang, travelling on false documents, were arrested at Helsinki airport. Around 15,000 compromised credit card numbers were found on seized computers. The network had been using card details stolen from cardholders worldwide. In Europe, over 70,000 euros in losses were suffered by card holders and banks. 
  • An operation against airline fraudsters using fraudulent credit cards to purchase airline tickets was coordinated by the EC3 in 38 airports from 16 European countries. During the operation, more than 200 suspicious transactions were reported by the industry and 43 individuals were arrested (followed by another 74 arrests after the action day; 117 arrests in total). These were all found to be linked to other criminal activities, such as the distribution of credit card data via the internet, intrusions into financial institutions’ databases, other suspicious transactions, drug trafficking, human smuggling, counterfeit documents including IDs, and other types of fraud. Some of those detained were already wanted by judicial authorities under European Arrest Warrants.

Future threats and trends in cybercrime

Currently, around 2, 5 billion people worldwide have access to the internet and estimates suggest that around another 1, 5 billion people will gain access in the next four years. As our online life, with all its immense advantages, will continue to grow, so will our exposure to online crime. In its first yearly report, the EC3 looks at future cybercrime threats and trends. Among others, it points to the following: 

Growing ranks of criminals. The threshold for stepping into the business of cybercrime is becoming very low. Already now, a complete underground economy has developed, where all sorts of criminal products and services are traded, including, drugs, weapons, hired killings, stolen payment credentials and child abuse. Any kind of cybercrime can be procured even without technical skills – password cracking, hacking, tailor-made malware or DDoS attacks.

More demand. It is expected that the demand for and use of cybercrime services will increase, resulting in an even stronger growth of the development, testing and distribution of malware; building and deployment of botnets; theft and trade in payment credentials as well as money laundering services.

Increased sophistication. The development of more aggressive and resistant types of malware is expected. This includes ransomware with more advanced encryption complexity; more resilient botnets; and banking malware and Trojans with advanced sophistication, in order to circumvent protection measures by financial institutions.

Even more global. Due to rapidly spreading internet connectivity, cybercrime originating in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America will grow.

Going mobile. A shift of malware development is expected towards the operation on, and distribution through, mobile devices.

Smarter distribution. New ways of distributing aggressive and resistant types of malware are expected in the coming years. There is also an increasing, worrying trend of offering child abuse through live streaming, which leaves police without evidence unless intercepted at the time of transmission.

Increased need for money-laundering. Criminals will seek easy ways of cashing and laundering profits. Targeting large numbers of citizens and small to mid-sized companies for relatively small amounts is a scenario likely to continue. But also the use of payment credentials for online purchases will grow. The demand for e-currencies and other anonymous payment systems will rise further.

Targeting of cloud services. The hacking of cloud services becomes more and more interesting for criminals. It is expected that criminals will increasingly aim at hacking such services for the purpose of spying, retrieval of credentials and extortion.

To address these developments and fight a crime that by its very nature knows no borders or jurisdictions, the EC3 will continue to provide operational support to law enforcement agencies from EU Member States and from non-EU cooperation partners. It will further develop its expertise in training and capacity building, strategic analysis and digital forensic support.

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