Point of Sale (POS) Security Issues

Today, cybersecurity is a significant risk for firms in every industry, including retail. There is an ever-increasing amount of information stored and moving between cloud systems. One of the most vulnerable areas in its digital security plan is its point of sale (POS) system.

POS systems are an integral part of almost any brick-and-mortar business that involves transferring money for goods or services. Modern POS devices can process transactions, manage inventory, record orders, and connect to other point-of-sale systems.

See Also: Point of Sale (POS) Security Checklist

However, many POS-related data breaches and security issues in recent years indicate that POS systems are vulnerable and may be at risk from attacks.

Staying educated and proactive in ensuring your business is protected is key to preventing a breach in your retail store. Here are the possible POS system risks that every business owner should know in our article.

Unauthorized access to the point of sale application

Attackers use point-of-sale applications to steal personal and sensitive information such as credit or debit card information. They then use them to make fraudulent purchases that cause financial losses and damage to their credit standing for unsuspecting customers.

This is why fighting fraud is vital to point-of-sale sellers, as it can threaten the business’s existence and has a devastating effect on retailers, who are the main customers of point-of-sale sellers.

Point-of-sale vendors must improve the security of their point-of-sale applications, making it easier to detect suspicious and fraudulent POS transactions and act accordingly to protect shoppers’ sensitive data.

Network and Software Vulnerabilities

An unsecured network causes the most common POS problems. Hackers can infiltrate these weak installations and steal valuable information such as customer credit card numbers and business account data. If possible, your POS technology should be kept on a separate, password-protected network. It’s also a good idea to change passwords at least once every 90 days to avoid data leaks.

It’s also critical to keep your software up to date. Software companies release patches and improvements for their operating systems all the time. Using up-to-date software means having access to the latest security measures and giving you the peace of mind you need.

POS Device Management

Even if the network is protected, your devices also need to be secure. Protecting your computers and tablets with passwords is a significant first step. Train employees to always log out and never share passwords or other information when walking away from your POS system. Choose technology products that have inherent security measures.

Other simple methods to strengthen the security of POS systems can also be implemented. Many people miss the significance of changing the default manufacturer passwords on these devices, for example. However, cybercriminals can access lists of default passwords from these manufacturers’ networks.

Therefore, you need to change the default passwords when you connect the device to your software. It is vital to purchase genuine POS devices from reputable companies, as there are fake devices available that can give cybercriminals easy access to all your customer data.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing is a relatively new hacking technique where hackers trick employees into opening malicious links via email. After clicking a link, hackers can gain access to both your system and your data.

To avoid this, train employees to never open unusual emails or links sent to them. Install an antivirus system that can automatically block this type of malware. Eliminate this problem by training and monitoring POS device usage so employees don’t check their email or surf the web on company-owned devices.

Malware targeting point of sale applications

Malware designed to harm computer systems is one of the critical tools hackers use when attacking POS systems. Malware is used to steal personal information and, in some situations, money from bank accounts directly.

See Also: How to Protect Your POS System from POS Malware

An effective app security technology must be able to detect malware, tampering, rooted or jailbroken point-of-sale devices, and more so that point-of-sale providers can take action before it’s too late.

When using mobile POS devices to process payments or perform other electronic transactions, proper application security technology should include a feature that alerts shops and POS providers.

This attack is made possible by adding malware to the endpoint. Retail organizations can deal with legacy systems that are difficult to patch and easy targets for malware attacks. To avoid malware, retailers need to:

  • Keep POS and server endpoints up to date with regular patching.
  • Avoid having POS endpoints accessing the Internet.
  • Have essential layers of security such as firewalls and anti-malware distributed across all endpoints.

Cyberattacks against point-of-sale application back-end system

A point-of-sale application is just one component of a complete, complex point-of-sale system. Most business transactions are handled on the server-side. This means that most cyber attackers use the point-of-sale application to server entry to launch their attacks against internal business systems.

Once cyber attackers break into the data centers of POS vendors or retailers, they can gain access to the compromised POS application and any other POS application used by the retailer elsewhere.

Attacking the back-end’s entry point is a standard attack method and has resulted in numerous large-scale security breaches.

It is therefore essential that this entry point is kept secure and protected. Point of sale application back-end systems and other business systems hosted in the data center must be protected from direct internet exposure. Otherwise, hackers can easily exploit a single weakness to gain access to many POS retail applications.

Ram Scraping Attacks

Hackers also utilize ram scraping to collect credit card information from POS machines. Before the data on these devices is encrypted on the company’s network, cybercriminals try to copy it. While the ram scraping method is quite old-fashioned, it can be dangerous if proper safety precautions are not taken.

By isolating your important POS system components from the corporate network, you can avoid ram scraping. You can also tighten your firewalls to prevent these systems from connecting with unfamiliar devices.

Skimming Attacks

Unfortunately, recently, retail, in particular, has been becoming a target for skimming attacks. These tiny devices are covertly connected to the POS system hardware to collect, access, and compromise customer credit card information.

While skimmers don’t stand out in many types of retailers, you still need to be alert. Attackers can slide over a device in seconds. As a result, it’s critical to frequently examine your POS device for anything suspect and report any findings to the authorities.

Business interruptions due to inadequate point-of-sale applications

Retailers not only want business and customer data to be kept secure but also expect their point-of-sale applications to be free from disruption to their business due to cyber attacks or technical downtime.

Retailers want to run point-of-sale applications securely and prevent attacks before they happen. For this to happen, the ideal point-of-sale application must have reliable security monitoring and incident response services, as well as powerful POS security technology.

The security monitoring and incident response service should alert IT staff, whether in-house or outsourced, when a breach occurs, monitor POS application-related activities, detect and flag threats, and provide real-time responses to any issues.

As they manage countless data transactions through point-of-sale applications, POS providers may comfort their retail customers and give them peace of mind by using a dependable POS security monitoring and incident response solution.

Cybercrime is growing, becoming more sophisticated and malicious. This is an unfortunate problem, but one that every company must face. When you take preventive measures and are diligent, your POS system and information are much safer.

Surkay Baykarahttp://www.pcidssguide.com
A passionate Senior Information Security Consultant working at Biznet. Over the past 15+ years my professional career has included several positions beginning as a developer and IT administrator, working my way up to a senior Technical Performance Consultant before joining Biznet back in 2015. I had several different roles at Biznet, including Penetration Tester and PCI DSS QSA. In my job as a QSA, I found my passion and worked closely with the Audit and Compliance team. I've been working inside InfoSec for over 15 years, coming from a highly technical background. I have earned several certifications during my professional career including; CEH, CISA, CISSP, and PCI QSA.

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