Enough With The PCI Finger Pointing Already

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky's and Moe's Southwestern Grill).

When it comes to PCI compliance, I am sick and tired of everyone pointing fingers at someone else. Nobody wants to be in the line of fire when (not "if") a breach happens.

As a result, they spend most of their energy trying to figure out how to avoid liability rather than actually addressing the problem. One company, Radiant Systems, is bucking this trend. At the Radiant User Summit this week, the company announced it will now be offering security services aimed at keeping merchants secure (and, oh, by the way, PCI compliant).

The majority of credit card breaches in 2009 were with Level 4 Merchants (under a million Visa transactions). Very few of these small merchants understand PCI compliance. Even fewer are actually compliant. Only a handful of small merchants are actually secure (at least relatively). Everyone in the payments ecosystem knows it is a huge problem, the 800-pound gorilla in the room. But no one has an answer.

As you read in my post about the Visa Franchisor Symposium, even Visa thinks the answer is to educate people about the problem. But very few companies are actually stepping up to help solve it. Radiant announced it currently has in limited release a set of security services aimed at protecting merchant data. The services include Threat Defender (virus protection, file integrity monitoring, scanning and white-listing), Secure Remote Access and Site Shield (firewalls). Radiant is considering log monitoring services in the future.

Sold as a service offering, Radiant will deploy hardware and software to a merchant location and fully manage the solution. Customers purchasing all of these services will get a business-class firewall actively managed by Radiant. They will get virus protection, file integrity monitoring and white-listing software installed on their back-office servers and terminals that utilizes information about threats gathered at one site (or merchant) to help protect others. Those customers will actually call out malware known to have been be used to harvest credit card data into a separate class. They will get a dual-factor authentication remote access system for remote access to the site (currently working with their QSA to certify an SMS text to a cell phone as the second factor of authentication).

As part of announcing this new service, Radiant is working to provide a free security audit to its existing locations that outlines the threats and risks associated with the current configuration. It helps locations understand their current vulnerabilities, including if they already have malicious credit card harvesting software always running on the systems.

Radiant believes that by offering these services across its install base it can get to a very competitive price point. Although final prices have not been released, Radiant's target pricing is very attractive. Utilizing its existing POS management infrastructure, the company will be able to offer these solutions using interfaces that current Radiant Aloha customers are familiar with. (If you want to approve an application to the white list, you can use the same tool that adds a new menu button.)

The good news is that Radiant gets it. The company has people dedicated to information security and PCI compliance. Radiant is taking an active role in addressing the issues, versus trying to figure out whose problem it is. I am very impressed by the leadership role the company is taking.

Leave a comment, or E-mail me at [email protected]. You can also follow me on Twitter: @todd_michaud.

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