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Best Practices for Credit-Card Software

With us today is Tyler Hannan, Platform Evangelist for IP Commerce, a company that provides on-demand access to commerce services.

DDJ: Tyler, what is PABP validation?

TH: According to Visa, vulnerable payment applications have proved to be the leading cause of compromised card data, particularly among small merchants. In an effort to combat cardholder data breaches that result in credit card fraud, Visa developed Payment Applications Best Practices (PABP) and will begin implementing a series of mandates starting January 1, 2008, to eliminate the use of non-secure payment applications from the Visa payment system.

A PABP-validated application plays a large part in ensuring that retailers and those who accept card payments do not use payment applications that retain sensitive customer information such as the full contents of any magnetic strip and PIN data. To help software developers create and maintain secure payment applications, IP Commerce and Coalfire Systems established the PABP Rapid Compliance program. This program gives software developers a more efficient and cost-effective way to gain PABP validation for applications based on the Commerce Toolkit for Applications.

PABP mandates were recently adopted by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council, the global forum for card data security, into their Payment Applications Data Security Standards (PA-DSS). PA-DSS regulations are expected to be detailed in early 2008.

DDJ: From a software developer's perspective, what are some of the Best Practices PABP addresses?

TH: Increasingly, merchants will not use a payment application that is not PABP-verified. In fact, in a recent letter, Visa stated they will prohibit all new merchants from using non-secure payment applications beginning as early as January 1, 2008. Non-compliant merchants may soon face hefty fines and could even be banned from accepting credit cards if they do not follow the Data Security Standard set by PCI Security Standards Council. If software developers want to remain competitive in the marketplace, they must develop PABP-compliant payment applications. By staying ahead of the PCI Data Security Standards mandates, they are demonstrating that they are knowledgeable about the changing industry and proactive about end-user security. Thereby, protecting their merchants and their merchants' customers.

The Commerce Toolkit for Applications provides a number of components that address the functional requirements necessary for meeting PABP compliance including: functionality for providing secure user authentication, data encryption, key management, and activity logging.

DDJ: What kind of obstacles have software developers historically faced in obtaining compliance?

TH: Small- and medium-sized software developers have historically faced two main obstacles when implementing PABP requirements. Technically, many lack the developer resources and expertise needed to implement security best practices adequately and operationally. Some software developers find required controls to be cost prohibitive, and lack internal resources to incorporate control remediation into their policies and procedures. The PABP Rapid Compliance Program addresses these issues and makes the process of gaining compliance more understandable, more affordable and more manageable.

DDJ: What benefits does the PABP Rapid Compliance Program offer software developers?

TH: The program is designed to promote awareness about best practices, reduce costs and complexity, and streamline the process of compliance validation for software developers.

One key benefit of participating in the Rapid Compliance Program is that completing the program significantly expedites the process to obtain PABP validation from Visa. Instead of taking six months to a year to initiate the process, software vendors can now receive the PABP validation within months. The reason for this is because of IP Commerce's partnership with Coalfire Systems, a leading information security solutions provider. Because Coalfire auditors are already intimately familiar with the PABP components built into Commerce Toolkit for Applications, the verification process conducted by Coalfire auditors requires less time and resources. What's more is that by taking a proactive approach to end-user security and receiving PABP validation for their software now, software developers eliminate the need to rewrite code for their commerce-enabled applications down the road once PABP compliance is mandated for all merchants and service providers that store, process or transmit cardholder data.

Also, many merchants who are actively involved in a compliance program typically won't select an application that is not PABP validated. Therefore, this program helps software developers get a competitive advantage when it comes to developing applications that will manage customer cardholder data according to Visa's standards. This helps mitigate risk for the software developers' merchant customers, because if a customer's personal information is compromised, the merchant is held accountable.

DDJ: Is there a web site that readers can go to for more information on PABP and the issues that surround it?

TH: For more information on PABP compliance, visit usa.visa.com/merchants/risk_management/cisp_payment_applications.html. To learn more about PABP compliance and the Rapid Compliance Program, you can visit ipcommerce.com/Developers/Rapid_Compliance.aspx.

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