Securing data in transit: A guide to PCI-validated P2PE

Securing data in transit: A guide to PCI-validated P2PE
Tim Barnett CIO Bluefin
Oct 2, 2023

As data breaches and cyberattacks grow more common, businesses need robust security measures to protect sensitive customer payment data. This is especially evident in the retail industry, where an increasing number of acceptance endpoints amplifies merchants’ vulnerability to data compromises and breaches.

Point-to-point encryption (P2PE) offers a powerful solution that encrypts payment card data from the moment it enters a system until it reaches the payment processor. In today’s business environment, merchants rely on PCI-validated P2PE solutions to simplify compliance and keep customer data secure.

Unlike many end-to-end encryption methods, PCI-validated P2PE undergoes a rigorous certification process by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council to ensure its reliability and compliance with industry standards. With a PCI-validated P2PE solution, merchants gain the ability to devalue their data, mitigating the impact of potential data breaches and safeguarding customer privacy.

What is PCI-validated P2PE?

To achieve PCI-validated status, a P2PE solution must undergo a thorough assessment by a P2PE Qualified Security Assessor (QSA). The assessment evaluates the solution's security architecture, encryption methods, key management, device management, and overall compliance with the PCI P2PE Standard.

Using a PCI-validated P2PE solution ensures you are compliant with the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which is a set of security standards for merchants that accept credit cards. It also helps reduce the risk of data breaches because the data is encrypted from the moment it’s entered into the payment terminal until it reaches the payment processor.

It’s not enough to just protect data - you need to devalue it too.

In today’s rapidly evolving cyberthreat landscape, cyberdefense tactics alone are no longer enough to protect your data. You also need to devalue it with P2PE, because when bad actors pierce your defenses, you want them to find useless data.

Imagine your cyberdefenses as a bank vault. Historically, the emphasis has been on strengthening security measures to keep potential intruders out, like reinforcing the vault door and installing advanced alarm systems.

However, data devaluation takes a different approach. Instead of solely relying on fortifying the vault's defenses, it renders the contents of the vault useless to anyone who manages to break in. So, instead of finding valuable assets inside the vault, what the intruder accesses is worthless.

Data devaluation aims to make the data and personally identifiable information (PII) in a system unappealing and devoid of value to unauthorized individuals. The stolen data holds no real worth or sensitive information even if a breach occurs. This approach complements traditional security measures and provides an additional layer of protection by ensuring that even if unauthorized access occurs, the compromised data poses limited risks to individuals and organizations.

Devaluing data can be accomplished through two approaches: encryption and tokenization. Encryption safeguards data during transmission and while transactions are taking place. It makes the information unreadable to individuals who lack the corresponding digital key.

Tokenization enables you to securely store PII over extended periods, for example, keeping a customer’s credit card on file. Instead of storing the actual information, each piece of PII is encoded with a random series of numbers, known as a token, which is then stored on your servers. The token serves as a reference to the original PII and can be linked back to it through secure external storage. With a P2PE-approved device, you can unlock encrypted and tokenized data.

Protect customer data with PCI-validated P2PE.

Customers trust merchants with their data. But to keep their trust — especially in the face of escalating cyberattacks — we recommend that merchants should prioritize robust data security measures.

To reduce the risks associated with data breaches and data compromises, it’s critical to devalue your data so that even if an attacker gains access to the data, the modified information is less likely to cause harm or enable malicious activities. With a PCI-validated P2PE solution, you can ensure compliance with data protection regulations and safeguard your customers’ privacy.

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