Securing modern payment systems

Modern payment systems rely heavily upon cloud technology. While it has been a boon to the industry, it also comes with its own set of security challenges. Learn how to secure modern payment systems.

Across the market, traditional banking institutions are disrupting their operations and embracing a new technology-focused approach: payments-as-a-service (PaaS). Similar to the more commonplace software-as-a-service (SaaS), the shift to PaaS has been driven by the adoption of cloud technology as a new host for payment systems. Private cloud networks allow companies to offer services like digital banking payments, eWallets, and e-commerce gateways, all within a quickly deployed and inexpensive infrastructure.

As more and more businesses recognize the need for a digital-first strategy, Grand View Research predicts that the global PaaS market is set to reach $25.7 billion by 2027. This supports Research & Market’s forecast that the market will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.5% between 2020-2027. With so much growth opportunity on the table, FIs need to ensure that their new system is secured if they want to see results.

Are Cloud Payments Secure?

Cloud technology can eliminate the need for on-premise servers and provide real-time payment ecosystems, while also improving security. This is because cloud providers are specialists and therefore uniquely positioned to understand — and guard against the key threats to their technology. Payments companies then get to benefit from that expertise, as it’s the provider who addresses the most important vulnerabilities.

However, these relationships also rely on a model of shared responsibility: the provider protects the infrastructure, while the customer must secure its work within it. Because of this mutual relationship, it is important that each party understands the risks involved.

The top threats to cloud computing include data loss or leakage; the hijacking of accounts or services; the accidental admittance of malicious insiders; and data breaches — through weak links in the security protocol. Some of these issues must be addressed through “security of the cloud’, while others must be tackled through “security in the cloud.” Both entities must do their part to ensure that the cloud can function safely while protecting all information.

How to Secure Modern Payment Systems

Cloud Security

When selecting a cloud provider, companies must understand what should be provided in terms of security, as well as functionality. There are a few key areas that all providers should be delivering for their customers:

Compliance — As the cloud is being used to support PaaS, there needs to be standard compliance with payments regulations such as PSI DSS and ISO 27018. Any company looking to utilize the cloud for payments should verify that their provider has been certified for these payment processing standards.

Infrastructure security — All internet services can be targeted by DNS (domain name system) poisoning, where a hacker reroutes traffic to a fake site. While the provider may be unable to prevent this from occurring in all instances, they should have an infrastructure in place that can isolate any Denial of Service and avert outages.

People & Processes — Cloud providers ought to commit to training all personnel on enterprise-wide security matters so that they can respond quickly in the case of a security breach. Similarly, experts recommend that there be a process of regular auditing and scanning, to identify risks — and incidents — as early as possible.

Physical Security — Like the digital version of a security guard, physical security refers to the protection of the infrastructure itself and who can access it. Cloud providers should maintain strict and comprehensive access controls, maintain this oversight 24 hours a day, and ensure they are providing any other standardized security protocols.

Data Security — While the payments company is expected to protect its data within the cloud, there is still a base level of security that the cloud provider should maintain. Whether the data is being stored or transferred to another location, the cloud should support any protections that the payments platform wants to enforce.

Application Security — Experts recommend that all software be written in a stringent SDLC (secure development life cycle) environment, for long-term protection.

Security Infrastructure — To help set the customer up for success, the cloud provider should also provide security software that the payments platform can then deploy. Examples include firewalls, log management, and support for forensics.

API Security

Once a cloud system is deployed, there are a few security areas that the payments company needs to address itself. These five steps will help ensure a rigorously protected system:

Identify vulnerabilities — The easiest and quickest way to spot any risks in an existing protocol is to conduct an audit of the system. By testing and verifying each component of the offering, a company can identify its biggest vulnerabilities and create a plan of action.

Use tokens — Comprehensive access controls are critical for a secure cloud-based platform. By assigning access through tokens, which are in turn assigned to individual identities, it is easier to restrict permissions without sharing user credentials. Tokens offer an added layer of security, without convoluting the user experience.

Encrypt data — Encryption is now elementary when it comes to any data but especially for personally identifiable data. Through methods like Transport Layer Security (TLS), companies can build in extra protection should the data be breached or scraped. Additionally, developers may want to consider requiring signatures for those select few, who are able to modify and decrypt data.

Use rate limiting and throttling — APIs enable valuable microservices, but their popularity has also made them a target of hackers. By implementing rate limiting and throttling, platforms can reduce the risk of falling to a DDoS attack by placing limits on how often and when the API can be “called.” This will also help maintain up-time, by reducing any natural spikes in usage — such as during the holiday season.

Use API Gateways — With a gateway in place, payments platforms can direct traffic through a specific trajectory and enforce security protocols and data authentication. The amount of information being funneled through the gateway is also valuable for analysis.

Conclusion

A safe and secure cloud system will take payments processing to the next level, but only if both the cloud provider and the payments platform do their bit. Whether securing the cloud or what’s hosted inside it, following a few key steps can dramatically reduce risk and build layers of protection that will keep the platform, its data, and its customers safe.

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