Security Experts:

MasterCard, Visa to Introduce New Cybersecurity Enhancements

Credit card companies MasterCard and Visa announced last week plans to roll out new cybersecurity features and expand existing technologies to protect consumers, merchants and banks against fraud and other threats.

In September 2014, Visa launched the Visa Token Service (VTS), which replaces sensitive credit card information, such as the 16-digit account numbers, expiration dates and security codes, with so-called tokens. The tokens are a unique series of numbers that can be used to make payments without exposing the actual financial information.

According to Visa, over 500 financial institutions have already started implementing VTS and the service will be expanded this year to more payment environments. The company says tech companies and device manufacturers will begin deploying VTS on mobile devices. Furthermore, merchants will start using the solution to secure transactions made through mobile payment applications.

Online retailers are also expected to deploy the tokenization service because it represents an efficient way to protect payment information.

Tokenization has also been embraced by American Express, and the retail industry has expressed its intention to develop a universal tokenization standard.

“Removing card account numbers from the processing and storage of payments represents one of the most innovative and promising technologies we’ve seen in decades,” said Charlie Scharf, CEO of Visa . “This, combined with chip card technology, advances in account holder authentication through analytics and biometrics, and more sophisticated risk monitoring, will allow Visa account holders to enjoy new, secure payment experiences.”

As for MasterCard, the payment giant announced last week that it plans to invest $20 million in cybersecurity-related technology enhancements. This spring, the company wants to roll out MasterCard Safety Net in the United States. The solution is designed to block fraudulent activity by analyzing specific transactions based on selected criteria.

MasterCard also intends to launch a new biometrics pilot program in collaboration with First Tech Federal Credit Union. The program will enable consumers to authenticate and verify transactions by using facial and voice recognition, and fingerprint matching.

“These new activities will help us continue to deliver the tools and solutions that instill a peace of mind by protecting each transaction that crosses our network,” commented Chris McWilton, president of North American Markets at MasterCard. “While progress is being made with the move to EMV and mobile payments, our continued investments reinforce the efforts we are taking to protect the payments system for cardholders, merchants and issuers. That’s at the heart of what our cardholders expect when they see our brand mark.”

Last year, MasterCard and Visa joined forces to create a new cross-industry group focused on enhancing payment system security. The group’s first objective is the adoption of EMV chip technology in the United States.

The financial sector is highly targeted by malicious actors. A perfect example is Carbanak/Anunak, a sophisticated cybercrime group that is believed to have stolen up to $1 billion from more than 100 banks across 30 countries.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.