Cisco beefs up Wi-Fi mobile payment security

Cisco is beefing up wireless transaction security with new software features for its Wi-Fi access points. The vendor says the changes add needed protection over and above that mandated by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standard.

More on Wi-Fi: 6 useful Wi-Fi tools for Windows 

A December 2010 survey by Cisco of 500 retail customers found that about one-third of them pass payment or credit card data over internal Wi-Fi networks. (For more details from that study, check out "Survey on PCI: How it's impacting network security".)

The PCI specification, set by the PCI Security Standards Council, outlines how payment-card data is to be secured and stored. Several provisions apply to wireless networks used to transmit that information. The 2.0 PCI spec was released in October 2010 (and formally ratified in January 2011), but doesn't fully address the fast-rising use of mobile payment technologies.

One issue is that the standard requires physical and logical inspections, to detect when a device attaches to the network, and whether it's an authorized device. But it doesn't specify how this is done. In practice, according to Cisco, the PCI specification focuses on only one key threat: rogue wireless access points. "But it can't address [others such as] ad hoc wireless bridging, evil twin/honeypot exploits, denial of service, reconnaissance, or cracking tools," says Cisco's Chris Kozup, director, mobility and borderless networks.

To fill this gap, Cisco has created a feature called Enhanced Local Mode (ELM) for its Adaptive Wireless Intrusion Prevention System. ELM expands the number of threats that IT groups can monitor, and lets the monitoring be done with existing Cisco access points.

Previously, Cisco offered only basic rogue detection, and individual access points had to be dedicated to radio monitoring, unable to support data traffic.

With ELM active on one two-radio access point, the monitoring functions can jump from channel to channel, now able to cover all channels in both Wi-Fi frequencies (2.4 and 5 GHz), and covering a much wider range of threats. No dedicated access points or separate sensors are needed to implement a full Wi-Fi intrusion-prevention system.

Cisco also added expanded PCI-specific reporting features to its Cisco Wireless Control System (WCS). In the past, Cisco offered a general PCI compliance report. Now, WCS can create summary reports, and use filters to focus on compliance in individual locations or even individual devices. Enterprise security staff can administer reports and audits and keep a continuous eye on PCI compliance.

Using the new ELM feature with access points that make use of Cisco CleanAir technology lets IT identify access points running on non-standard channels or running proprietary extensions.

The new PCI-related features will be part of a free software upgrade to all Cisco 11n access points in late March 2011.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.


Blog RSS feed:

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Wi-FiNetworkingsecurityWi-Fi SecuritywirelessWLANs / Wi-FiPCI Security Standards Council

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Cox

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q – Reign beyond virtual world

Learn more >

D-Link TAIPAN AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Modem Router (DSL-4320L)

Learn more >

D-Link PowerLine AV2 2000 Gigabit Network Kit

Learn more >

Crucial® BX200 SATA 2.5” 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal Solid State Drive

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >


Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

ASUS VivoPC VM62 - Incredibly Powerful, Unbelievably Small

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Lexar Professional 2000x SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Best Deals on PC World

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.


Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?