HolidayBuyer's Guide

Credit card companies form security council

Five major credit card companies team up in the hope of creating better security.

Five major credit card companies have teamed up in the interest of creating better security.

American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa International announced Thursday the creation of an organization to develop and maintain security standards for credit and debit card payments. It's the first time the five brands have agreed on a single, common framework.

The newly formed Payment Card International (PCI) Security Standards Council will manage the PCI Data Security Standard, first established in January 2005 with the intention of making its implementation more efficient for all parties involved in a payment card transaction. That includes merchants, payment processors, point-of-sale vendors, financial institutions and more than a billion card holders worldwide.

The companies have come together despite being in competition with each other because they say ensuring better security will benefit everyone.

"First of all, it's to protect the information of our mutual customers and to make the process of data security compliance easier," said Rob Tourt, vice president of network services for Discover.

Having a single data-security standard is a critical issue for the entire industry and will simplify the process, said Brian Buckley, Visa's senior vice president of international risk management.

"Our view is that this is first and foremost an important initiative to get data security in place for payment cards," he said.

Having the common accepted set of rules should foster broader compliance, said Bruce Rutherford, MasterCard's vice president of payments. Those rules include instructions on proper data encryption, common technical standards and security audit procedures.

The first action of the new council was to update the PCI security standard, which was promised in May. The revision gives instructions for how to implement the new standards and clarifies language that was previously considered vague. For example, terms such as "periodically" and "regularly" were swapped for definite deadlines like "annually" or "quarterly" where appropriate. A statement released by the newly formed council said the revisions were the result of feedback from vendors, merchants and payment processors.

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