What Is PCI Point-to-Point Encryption (P2PE)?

Point-to-point encryption or P2PE is a standard for encrypting payment card data. It requires card data to be encrypted after receipt. It must stay secure after reaching your POS terminal. It must stay encrypted until it moves to the payment processor, who can then decrypt the data.

P2PE is a standard from the Payment Card Industry or PCI council. The goal of P2PE is to keep all cardholder data safe as it moves through whatever devices, applications, or other features it will utilize. It provides complete security and prevents outside parties from stealing card data.

How the System Works 

P2PE entails the data going through encryption at the capture point. The point may entail when the card data is read by a terminal. The card data stays encrypted until it reaches a secure endpoint. The data remains unusable until the end party decrypts the content.

The encryption process entails using an algorithm to create different codes and characters for the data you collect. The content becomes illegible and can only return to its original form if someone has the proper decryption key. The credit processing network will have the key to help finish the deal.

The P2PE system also links POS data directly to a payment processing network. The setup does not require any outside parties. You can move the data directly to the processor without risking anyone trying to steal the content.

The work is about preventing outside parties from stealing data. Since the content is encrypted, an external party won’t convert the data to its original form. It becomes impossible to find specific pieces of cardholder data when this feature works.

The effort provides peace of mind to your customers. They will know you’re handling their data well and that they will not be at risk of losing anything at work.

EMV and Tokenization Support

Two parts of what makes P2PE so valuable entails EMV and tokenization support. The EMV standard entails the authentication of a card through a chip on its body. The card is validated through the codes listed in the chip to ensure all data stays secure. It is easier for a P2PE system to read data through an EMV chip than if a traditional magnetic stripe were utilized.

Tokenization is also critical, as it entails ensuring cardholder data remains stored for later use. The work is a process where card data is centralized in part of a network. Unique values are applied to the card content to replace the original data. The tokens are randomly produced based on whatever encryption algorithms the system uses. The business can store this data for as long as necessary, even keeping it when a customer wants to complete a future transaction. The customer who wishes to reuse that data must confirm to the business to reuse those contents as necessary.

What Must a P2PE System Feature?

Your P2PE system will require a few features to make it work:

  • All data must be encrypted at the point of interaction or POI.
  • All applications in your POI must support P2PE activities.
  • Any encryption or decryption systems you utilize must be managed and updated as necessary. The work includes limiting access to only those who are certified to use them.
  • The decryption process must work in a secure environment with limits surrounding who can access the content.
  • Various encryption methods must also work. Cryptographic keys and code injection may work in many cases.

You can contact whoever provides your POS equipment about whether your system can handle P2PE connections. Be sure your system is capable beforehand, and replace anything that doesn’t support P2PE links as necessary.

What Makes It Worthwhile?

P2PE is necessary for how it ensures you’ll retain your credit card data. You can also define the reach of your PCI system. You can confirm that specific devices or programs will be a part of your setup based on what items share your card data. The system ensures you’ll have more control over whatever you collect, as you will keep it safe from outside parties. It also becomes easier for you to maintain a PCI system because you know what features you’re going to maintain in your setup.

Does Your Equipment Qualify?

You can use a card payment terminal and POS that supports P2PE connections to provide the most cardholder protection. Your equipment will be interpreted as being P2PE-ready if you meet these standards:

  • The P2PE setup has full approval from the PCI SSC. The group provides reports on what items can standards can work when protecting cardholder data.
  • All payment card data and device operations are run by the same P2PE setup.
  • All payment terminals are installed based on P2PE installation instructions. These rules will vary surrounding whatever you utilize.
  • The hardware and firmware you use when handling your P2PE solution must be listed on a PCI PTS directory of supported devices.

Check on all the equipment you utilize to confirm that whatever you use can work with P2PE standards for cardholder safety.

What About E2EE?

The concept of point-to-point encryption sounds similar to end-to-end encryption, or E2EE. But P2PE is different from E2EE.

While an E2EE system will encrypt card data from one point to another, it may not encrypt the card data right after collection. It might not work alongside whatever card reader your business uses, for example. It may use a payment app running on your POS setup to encrypt data before it moves out.

P2PE encrypts your data right after the transaction is complete. It provides more protection against data thieves than what you’d get from an E2EE setup. The P2PE setup secures the card data right as the data is collected, ensuring the content stays safe.

A Secure Solution

P2PE is critical for all businesses looking to collect cardholder data. P2PE provides regular protection from outside parties and ensures nothing is stolen in the process. Be sure to note how well this system can work when you’re aiming to process credit and debit cards.

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