Security Experts:

PCI Security Standards Council Releases Tokenization Product Guidelines

The PCI Security Standards Council announced on Thursday the availability of guidelines designed to help organizations develop tokenization products.

Tokenization is the process in which sensitive information, such as payment card data, is replaced with a randomly generated unique token or symbol. Tokenization products, which can be software applications, hardware devices or service offerings, can help merchants reduce the risk of having their customers’ financial information stolen by malicious actors.

“Tokenization is one way organizations can limit the locations of cardholder data (CHD). A smaller subset of systems to protect should improve the focus and overall security of those systems, and better security will lead to simpler compliance efforts,” explained PCI SSC Chief Technology Officer Troy Leach.

There are several challenges to implementing tokenization, but reliable solutions already exist and representatives of the merchant community believe this could be an efficient approach to preventing payment card fraud and identity theft.

The Tokenization Product Security Guidelines released by the PCI Council have been developed in collaboration with a dedicated industry taskforce. The report focuses on the generation of tokens, using and storing tokens, and the implementation of solutions that address potential attack vectors against each component. The document also contains a classification of tokens and their use cases.

The recommendations in the guidelines are addressed to tokenization solution and product vendors, tokenization product evaluators, and organizations that want to develop, acquire or use tokenization products and solutions.

“Minimizing the storage of card data is a critical next step in improving the security of payments. And tokenization does just that,” said PCI SSC General Manager Stephen Orfei. “At the Council, we are excited about the recent advancements in this space. Helping merchants take advantage of tokenization, point-to-point encryption (P2PE) and EMV chip technologies as part of a layered security approach in current and emerging payment channels has been a big focus at this week’s PCI Acquirer Forum.”

The PCI Council has pointed out that the guidelines are supplemental and they don’t supercede or replace any of the requirements detailed in the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

PCI DSS 3.0, which focuses on security instead of compliance, went into effect on January 1. Version 3.1 of the PCI DSS, expected to be released this month, targets the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocol. Organizations must ensure that they or their service providers don’t use the old protocol.

Last week, the PCI Council published new guidance to help organizations conduct penetration testing, which is considered a critical component of the PCI DSS.

The Tokenization Product Security Guidelines are available for download in PDF format.

view counter
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.