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National Retail Federation pushes for Chip and PIN

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The recent major retail breaches have fueled increased interest by the National Retail Federation to push for implementation of a chip and PIN payment card technology. This would make the magnetic strips on payment cards obsolete and no longer a calling card for hackers.

“We’re here today because the question of data security and cyber theft in retail has become a very important debate in Washington,” said David French, the senior vice president of government relations for the NRF.

The U.S. still relies upon the magnetic strip—buyers or employees swipe the card and sign for the transaction. The chip and PIN means a chip is embedded into the card. A “reader” reads the chip but also requires the cardholder to enter a PIN to complete the purchase: a two-ply authentication process.

Magnetic strips allow thieves to make counterfeit cards that work, but the chip technology would prevent this.

“It’s going to be a very expensive transition,” says Mallory Duncan, NRF senior VP and general counsel, referring to the switch from magnetic strip to PIN and chip. A chipped card costs 4-5x as much as a stripped card: a cost that card issuers are not crazy about investing in.

However, the retail industry isn’t off the hook. Duncan notes that “every one of the (payment) terminals has to be replaced and depending on whether you’re counting just retailers or doctors’ offices and other places that are thought of as retail, it’s going to be between nine to 15 million (pieces of point-of-sale) equipment that have to be replaced.”

That’s more than $1,000 per unit, she adds. The migration to chip technology includes software and training, and based on Great Britain’s cost to migrate, the U.S. could be looking at “$20 billion or $30 billion to swap out equipment,” says Duncan. And that’s an under-estimate.

The starting point for the swap is banks issuing the chipped cards, says Duncan. Then the retail industry will know it’s worth it to finish the job by implementing the terminals.

The banking industry isn’t taking well to the retail industry’s stand on who should make the first move. Banking leaders believe that recent big retail breaches were primarily caused by, as they responded to NRF’s media briefing, “failed computer security at major retailers.”

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to AllClearID. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

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