data breachIn recent years, POS systems have become a point of emphasis for attackers looking to steal credit and debit card information. Last fall, cyber criminals reportedly used malware to compromise credit card information for approximately 56 million consumers who shop in Home Depot’s 2,000 U.S. and Canadian stores.

The Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) said there are ways cyber criminals have been targeting consumer data entered in POS systems, which consist of the hardware and the software that tells the hardware what to do with the information it captures. To protect and increase the security of your point of sale system from unauthorized access make sure to follow this six tips:

#1 Use Strong Passwords

Installers often use the default passwords for simplicity on initial setup. However, the default passwords can be easily obtained online by cyber criminals. It is highly recommended that business owners change passwords to their POS systems regularly, using unique account names and complex passwords.

#2 Install A Firewall

Firewalls should be utilized to protect POS system from outside attacks. A firewall can prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network by blocking traffic from hackers, viruses, worms or other types of malware specifically designed to compromise your system.

#3 Update Your Software

Ensure that your POS system is using the latest updated software. POS systems, in the same way as computers, are vulnerable to malware attacks when required updates are not downloaded and installed on a timely basis.

#4 Implement more secure payment methods

While merchants that operate outside the U.S. are less likely to become victims of data breaches, those that have not fallen prey to hackers at all have probably embraced the EMV (Europay/MasterCard/Visa) or “chip-and-PIN” smartcard standard. This approach does not necessarily stop the theft of payment card data, but it reduces hackers’ incentive to breach the POS database because the collected data is not as accessible as it would otherwise be.

#5 Restrict Internet access

Restrict access to POS system computers or terminals to prevent users from accidentally exposing the system to security threats on the Internet. POS systems should only be utilized online to conduct POS-related activities and not for general Internet use.

#6 Conduct regular scans

Regularly scanning your systems, including your POS system, is the most effective means of determining whether they have been compromised. For a fairly low annual fee, you can engage a security vendor to remotely scan all of your external systems access points and assess whether any are vulnerable to intrusion. Check references before hiring such a company.

How Can Customers Protect Their Information?

Security_BreachMost customers no longer carry cash everywhere they go, so it is important that they are equipped with the information to help them to keep their finances safe.

Here are a few key tips for consumers:

  • Sign up for online access to credit card accounts via the credit card company’s website, or download the app.
  • Track online transactions and regularly verify purchases.
  • Report any suspicious transactions to a credit card company immediately. In most cases, fraudulent charges can be reversed, and the account frozen to prevent any further theft.

With more developing new hacking schemes every day, business operators must be ever more vigilant when it comes to protecting their POS system. The above six tips are an excellent framework for doing so.