Breaches Pushing Retailers to Adopt PCI

The massive data breach at The TJX Companies Inc. disclosed earlier this year and a string of smaller breaches at other companies appears to be goading merchants to accelerate adoption of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard.

Visa U.S.A. Inc. last week reported that about 96% of the worlds largest businesses that accept credit and debit cards have stopped storing magnetic stripe information in their systems, meeting a key PCI requirement.

Purging magnetic stripe information, which includes cardholders personal data, marks an important step toward full compliance with PCI, said Michael Smith, senior vice president of enterprise risk and compliance at San Francisco-based Visa.

Breaches Pushing Retailers to Adopt PCI

Retailers have been directed to meet the PCI standard by credit card suppliers Visa, MasterCard Worldwide, American Express Co., Discover Financial Services LLC and JCB International Credit Card Co.

The progress comes amid an overall uptick in the adoption of all the controls mandated by PCI, Smith noted.

According to Visa, about 40% of 327 Level 1 merchants those processing more than 6 million transactions annually have demonstrated their compliance with the standard, up from 36% of the 230 Level 1 retailers counted at the end of 2006.

Visa noted that 97 Level 1 merchants have proved that they are in compliance since last December.

Much of the adoption has been driven by a fear that merchants could become victims of a major breach, said Eduardo Perez, vice president of payment system risk at Visa U.S.A.

Recent events, he said, have caused other players and merchants in the system to secure their systems.

I think the progress is mainly due to the fear factor that a merchant wont end up as the next TJX, said Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner Inc.

Litan also noted that there is much frustration among retailers about what they perceive as changing interpretations of PCI rules by various card suppliers, and about the heavy costs involved in upgrading their point-of-sale systems to ensure that they dont store magnetic stripe data.

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