Payment Security: Online vs Offline Transactions

The popular belief that online transactions aren’t as secure as offline transactions is being proven as more fiction than fact. Payment security is more important than ever with the increasing popularity of online purchases, advancements of digital payment technology, shifts in demographic and the ever-changing landscape of cyber-security. Consumers and retailers are facing this trend in security head-on.

Which is safer?

The realization that the protection included with online transactions is now stronger than with offline transactions is leading towards the expectation of eCommerce growth continuing to boom. Major retailers are experiencing high-profile security breaches and hacks, leaving companies vividly aware of their vulnerability to attack. Target experienced an invasive hack resulting in the theft of at least 70 million customer account’s personal information during a two-week period in 2013. Following that, millions of credit cards had been exposed and compromised at Home Depot, P.F. Chang’s, Neiman Marcus and more. Prior to these attacks, payment processor CyberSource reported that retailers were losing around $3.5 billion in eCommerce sales per year from credit card fraud.

When physically paying in-store, the merchant stores the data on their computer, which is traditionally running ancient Point-of-Sale software. The payment application then communicates with the payment terminal, POS system, and payment processor, which circulates sensitive data in insecure environments leaving the retailer and customer at vulnerable risk.

Large retailers generally don’t want to front the cost to overhaul their entire system as technology evolves, as taking extra security precautions is both time-consuming and expensive. Comparatively, online retailers build their businesses with strong security at the forefront of their company as one hack could destroy the entirety of the business. Online retailers also have tools that are created with security in mind, such as decryption keys, data encryption, SSL certificates and second authentication factors for additional protection.

The reality exists that security is a concern whether shopping online, offline or via a mobile device, with credit or debit cards or cash. However, the attitude towards online payments is shifting in correlation with the protective nature of online shopping in comparison to in-store, vulnerable transactions.