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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

Payment Applications Can Secure Data Breaches with Key Management

Posted by Liz Townsend on Jul 17, 2013 1:29:00 PM

Overcoming Critical Security Issues Payment Application eBookIf you’re an independent software vendor (ISV) who sells payment applications to retailers, what does it mean when your payment application meets PCI standards, but doesn’t actually protect your customers? A lot of people out there, especially consumers, wouldn’t even think the security of the software that handles their credit card data is an issue. Many people don’t realize that there’s a huge problem with data security in point-of-sale (POS) and retail software applications. However, time and time again we see major data breaches occurring through cash register systems that process credit card data, which invariably means that those systems aren’t adequately protecting consumer data.

The problem with data security in payment applications arises when retail ISVs and POS vendors certify their payment applications with the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI-SSC). The PCI-SSC requires that these businesses use strong encryption and encryption key management in their payment applications. Although most payment application vendors incorporate encryption and encryption key management into their solutions, many of them do it poorly, skating by with the minimum requirements. In the end, their applications pass certifications but would not protect their customers--or themselves--in the event of a data breach.

And data breaches are happening every day! Today data breaches are considered a matter of “when,” not “if.” It is almost a certainty that it is only a matter of time before a data breach affects one of your customers.

Unfortunately, encryption and encryption key management are complicated tools for ISVs to build on their own--in fact, doing a “home grown” encryption project is almost never recommended by encryption experts. Because many ISVs don’t have the resources to create their own encryption and encryption key management, Townsend Security offers an encryption key management solution that retail ISVs and POS vendors can integrate into their applications to provide their customers with industry standard, certified data security solutions.

We recently published an eBook titled, “Overcoming Critical Security Issues - a Guide to Proper Encryption Key Management,” for POS vendors and Retail ISVs. Read an excerpt written by Townsend Security Founder and CEO Patrick Townsend and download the eBook now:

Average cost of a data breach“Merchants are very worried about data breaches and the potential effect of a breach on their business. The average data breach costs a company $5.5 million, which includes the cost of fines as well as the costs associated with lost business, litigation, and brand damage. A successful exploit of poor data security can destroy years of work building brand reputation. Smaller businesses may never fully recover from a well-publicized data breach. Payment application vendors with poor encryption and key management are subjecting not only their customers to these risks, but themselves as well.”

Good encryption and key management for credit card numbers will also give payment application vendors an advantage over their competitors. PCI standards are not set in stone; data security is constantly evolving to meet new challenges and threats. CEOs and Product Managers in the payment application industry should be having a high-level discussion about data security. Now is the time to move to a second generation data security strategy for protecting customer credit card information. You need a solution that doesn’t just look good on paper, but will protect you and your customers in the event of a breach.”

To read more, download the eBook now.

eBook: Overcoming  Critical Security Issues

Topics: Payment Applications, Retail ISV, ISV

How Do You Plan to Overcome Critical Security Issues?

Posted by Michelle Larson on Jul 10, 2013 10:55:00 AM

Four steps to better encryption key management in the retail environment

When the PCI Security Standards Council released the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) in 2008, the security of payment applications took a big leap forward. Today, All retail ISVs providing payment applications must certify their products with PA-DSS (which requires encryption and encryption key management for applications that process credit card data). Merchants expect this level of certification in payment applications they use, and their customers expect personal information to be secured.

Yet time and time again we see news reports about retailers experiencing data breaches through their payment application software. These breaches tell us that PA-DSS certifications alone don’t always equal good security.  

Here are four steps you can take on the road to better security:

1 ) Be Aware of Security Issues

In the rush to meet PA-DSS requirements for credit card encryption, many payment applications incorporated just enough technology to pass the certification requirements around encryption of sensitive data, but not enough to stay current with encryption key management best practices.

Do your payment applications incorporate critical components of encryption key management including:

  • Tested and certified encryption key generation techniques
  • Physical and logical protection of data encryption keys (DEK)
  • Protection of data encryption keys by key encryption keys (KEK)
  • Proper management of the life-cycle of encryption keys
  • Certification of key management solutions to international 
standards such as NIST, FIPS 140-2, and KMIP

2) Use Security Best Practices

In order to protect customers from data breaches and prepare for evolving compliance requirements, retail ISVs should strive to meet these encryption and key management best practices:

  • Use Strong Encryption
    The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the standard when it comes to data encryption. AES has been adopted as a standard by the US government and is the recommended encryption method for PCI, HIPAA/HITECH, GLBA and individual state privacy regulations.
  • Use Key Management Best Practices
    Your encryption is only as good as how well you protect the encryption keys. Encryption keys should be secured away from the encrypted data using an external piece of hardware such as a hardware security module (HSM).
  • Use Certified Solutions
    Always use NIST validated AES encryption and FIPS 140-2 certified encryption key management. These certifications ensure that their key management has been tested by a third-party against government standards and will stand up to scrutiny in the event of a breach.

3) Pick Your Partners Wisely

Townsend Security has redefined what it means to partner with a security company:

Partnership with Townsend Security
  • With our NIST validated and FIPS 140-2 certified encryption and encryption key management solutions, retail ISVs can offer their customers easy, affordable, and powerful data security.
  • Our dedicated team provides our partners with extensive training, back end support, marketing materials, and a cost effective licensing model. You focus on what you do best, and we’ll help you turn encryption and encryption key management into a revenue generating option to help build your business and protect your valued customers.
  • We have more than 20 years of experience supplying encryption and key management solutions to over 3,000 companies worldwide.
  • We help our customers achieve data privacy compliance at an affordable price and with a personalized touch.

4) Download the eBook “Overcoming Critical Security Issues”

This eBook resource is designed to give you the tools and information needed to have a high-level discussion about data security in your company. Click the button below to request your complimentary download!

eBook: Overcoming  Critical Security Issues

Topics: Best Practices, Encryption Key Management, partners, ISV

The Right Data Security Partner Can Make a Difference!

Posted by Michelle Larson on Jun 10, 2013 11:03:00 AM

ISV Executives Can Improve their Payment Applications with the Right Encryption and Key Management Partner

Your company competes against many other ISVs selling niche retail management software and payment applications. You need a strong partner to guarantee you are providing the best encryption and key management to your customers.
Data Security and Key Management Because when payment applications don’t adequately protect encryption keys or use encryption key management best practices to secure cardholder data, they leave your customers extremely vulnerable to data breaches.

At Townsend Security, we offer industry standard AES encryption and certified key management and we believe that good encryption and key management is the cornerstone of good security.  Here are three ways we believe a good partner should help ease the burden of data security:

1. Reduced Cost and Complexity          

I know... you are thinking “Key management is both costly and difficult” - while that reputation was accurate ten years ago, today certified encryption key management using best practices can be achieved quickly, easily, and at an affordable price. We help you by offering encryption key management that is quick and easy to deploy, has a cost effective licensing model, and we will even OEM or “white label” for you because we don’t believe issues around branding should get in the way of good data security.

Podcast on how retail ISV's can improve data security2. Provide Certified Solutions

We believe that data security should be constantly evolving to meet the challenges of new security threats. Retail ISVs and payment application software companies need to know that although their solution may have earned a PA-DSS certification, these standards, like all PCI standards, are not set in stone. Just because a solution has been certified once, outdated encryption and key management practices might not suffice during the next certification process. Since encryption and key management are necessary components of payment application systems, providing customers with third party OEM NIST-certified AES encryption and FIPS 140-2 compliant key management would give an ISV some critical advantages.

Townsend Security not only supplies NIST and FIPS 140-2 certified encryption and key management, we'll help you achieve your own FIPS certification under our OEM program. In order to confidently protect your customers, NIST and FIPS certifications ensure that encryption key management has been tested against government standards and will protect compromised data in the event of a breach.

3. Protect Your Customers

While many payment applications have a PA-DSS certification, in order to protect your customers from a data breach, you must not only meet these certifications, but also build a security solution that will truly protect data at rest and data in transit using industry best practices. Data security must be a critical element in your risk management plan and conveyed well to your customers.

With our NIST and FIPS certified encryption and key management solutions, retail ISVs can offer easy and affordable industry standard data security. Townsend security has redefined what it means to partner with a security company. Our dedicated team provides our partners with extensive training, back end support, marketing materials, and a cost effective licensing model.  So when (not if) your customer experiences a data breach, and you have implemented adequate security that renders the compromised data unreadable, you will not only be your customer’s hero, but your own company’s hero as well.

In this complimentary podcast, security expert Patrick Townsend discusses How Retail ISVs Can Improve Their Payment Applications” with Paul Taylor from Security Insider.

Download Podcast 

As always, we welcome your comments and questions! 

Topics: Payment Applications, Point of Sale (POS), Encryption Key Management, partners, ISV

4 Critical Issues for ISVs Trying to Protect PHI and Meet HITECH Act

Posted by Luke Probasco on Feb 9, 2012 9:45:00 AM

Critical Issues for ISVs

HITECH ISV White Paper

Download the white paper "Healthcare ISVs: Critical Issues in Meeting HITECH Data Protection Regulations."

Click Here to Download Now

As we move closer to the finalized rules for HITECH data protection, some things are now becoming very clear.  The government wants ISVs and service providers to offer encryption of data at rest to their customers, and they want covered entities to use it!  While a careful read of the regulations reveals that they do not mandate encryption, the guidance makes clear that encryption is the ONLY safe harbor from breach notification.  Your customers will interpret this as a mandate, and will start demanding encryption in your products and service solutions.  We are already starting to see this happen.

Healthcare ISVs face some really big challenges as they start to move into the unfamiliar territory of encryption and key management.  Here are four critical issues you will face as you start down the path to securing your data at rest with strong encryption:

1)    The Big Challenge is Encryption Key Management

Encryption itself is not really the biggest technical challenge facing ISVs as they start to encrypt data in their application databases.  Most operating systems, databases, and programming languages offer encryption libraries that you can use right off the shelf.  For example, Microsoft provides encryption libraries in SQL server and the .NET language.  Oracle offers similar support for encryption in their database.  The really big challenge is encryption key management.  Encryption keys are the secrets that must be protected.  Key management systems create, store, and protect keys from loss, and this will be the hardest thing to get right.

2)    NIST & FIPS Certification

The HITECH guidance is full of references to the National Institute of standards and Technology (NIST) for encryption standards and best practices.  Advanced Encryption standard (AES) is the recommended technology for encryption.  And the NIST recommendations for key management are the gold standard for key management solutions.  Serious key management vendors submit their solutions to NIST for certification under the FIPS 140 protocol, and these vendors are easy to locate on the NIST web site.

3)    Getting Encryption and Key Management Right

You will be tempted to push the responsibility for encryption and key management to an outside vendor.  If it is really hard to do, why not let someone else do the job? You can refer your customers to the vendor for the solution, and the vendor can do the work of getting the database encrypted.  It seems easy.  Until you discover that your customers are not going to distinguish between your vendor and you when problems happen!  You will be ultimately responsible for any problems with data protection.

4)    The Right Partnership

Many ISVs discover that finding the right partner for encryption key management solutions is the biggest hidden challenge in their projects. Not only is the technology very specialized, there are a small number of vendors who offer FIPS 140 certified solutions.  You have to offer solutions to your customers that are easy to deploy and meet your product pricing objectives.  What if you need a customized key management solution?  Are there any vendors who are willing to help you with these requirements?  Finding the right partner is as important as finding the right technology.

Visit our ISV Partner Program page for more information on becoming a partner or download our white paper titled Healthcare ISVs: Critical Issues in Meeting HITECH Data Protection Regulations.

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Topics: HITECH, Encryption Key Management, ISV

Definitive Guide to VMware Encryption & Key Management


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