Encryption options from the POS/Payment Device/Terminal


There are a few different ways of implementing "encryption" from the POS/Payment Device/Terminal, I though I’d look at a few in a short post:

1) Tunneling – using existing applications and their connections over an encrypted tunnel   e.g.over a VPN, SSH, stunnel, etc. This approach doesn’t require any changes to devices or message formats or the payment "server"

2) Transport level – using TLS/SSL over TCP/IP Sockets – or at a higher level (web server/web service) using HTTPS. – devices needs to support the ability and make this type of connection, message formats are not modified.

3) Data Element or Field level — if you only want to encrypt the PAN or other specific fields, and these fields are defined to support the increased length required of the encrypted payload  — this requires changes to the message formats, devices and payment "server" software. Consider truncating the Account Number/Track Data in DE 2 or DE 35 in ISO8583  for use of displaying purposes on the terminals screen or receipt and consider using another Private ISO field for the payload.

The approach will depending on what the "devices" sending the transaction can support, both from a connection perspective as well as a software perspective. I’d also recommend consider using asymmetric encryption rather than symmetric here, as then the devices would not have the ability to "decrypt" as they would not have the private/secret key, and would help with eliminating private key storage at the device level if you choose option 3. There are implementations that use HSM’s and the DUKPUT algorithm as well.

We have an implementation of #3 that I wrote about here. — relevant paragraph below:

Some of our implementations of OLS.Switch supports field or data element level encryption that is passed on from the Point of Sale system to our switch. The main thing that allow us to perform this is that:  We or our customer "own/control" the POS message format to us and can adapt and handle the programming of the POS System and POS message formats – our account number fields are not limited to 16 digits – we can handle a much large encrypted value. So over the wire – these implementations are "protected" from eavesdropping or sniffing.

I plan to write more on E2EE (End to End Encryption) in the coming weeks as well, so stay tuned !

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