Business News of 2014-04-16

Banks urged to upgrade local ATMs and cards

Banks issuing local Automated Teller Machines (ATM) cards will need to upgrade the security features on their cards in line with best practices, this is according to the Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), Archie Hesse.

He noted that currently, all local ATM cards with the exception of Access Link card issued by Access Bank, are magnetic stripe base. Some of the Visa branded cards in Ghana, are also magnetic stripe base, he added. These cards are therefore susceptible to fraud, as they can be easily cloned.

The banks are therefore been urged to upgrade their ATMs and the cards to be EMV complaints. EMV is essentially a global standard for cards with enhanced security features which is also used for authenticating credit and debit card transactions. It went through a more robust production system and operates on Chip and Pin technology as opposed to magnetic stripe which is without a chip. The name EMV was coined out of the first letters of Europay, MasterCard and VISA.

Globally, ATMs and their cards as well as Point of Sales terminals, are moving away from magnetic stripe technology to be EMV compliant. This has resulted in significant reduction in card related frauds in countries where the migration has taken place.

Unlike Ghana, neighbouring Nigeria, migrated to this platform at the expiration of that country’s Central Bank deadline of September 30, 2010 that all banks should migrate to this platform, a move that has also reduced card fraud in the populous West African country.

Ghana will therefore need to quickly migrate in order to avoid exposing itself to all kinds of fraud.

The need for ATMs to be EMV compliant has become imperative, since Ghana is rolling out a lot of products that will require the use of ATMs cards for several payment transactions.

Currently, GhIPSS is deploying gh-link hybrid Point of Sales terminals that enables the public to shop and pay with their local ATM and e-zwich cards. It is also anticipated that soon, these local ATM cards will be used to make payments online. Such transactions would require that the ATMs cards have enhanced security features.

Additionally, efforts are underway for the integration of payment systems across the West Africa sub-region. This integration, will enable cards issued in member countries to work in ATMs and POSes across the sub-region. When this comes to effect, countries with magnetic stripe cards will become easy target of card related frauds, because it is a weaker system.

The GhIPSS CEO said he had initiated discussions with the banks and he was hopeful that sooner than later, the banks will upgrade their local ATM cards. He however urged them to work quickly with their service providers to ensure that there are no further delays. He admitted the cost implications but said it was necessary to ensure that they guaranteed good and secured service to their customers and also work in line with international best practice since Ghana was not an island.

He explained that while it is easy to clone the magnetic stripe cards, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to clone the EMV compliant cards. It is therefore important that all ATM cards in Ghana are EMV compliant while the ATM outlets are also enabled to read these cards, the GhIPSS Boss emphasized.

Mr. Hesse however indicated that the e-zwich card does not face that challenge because it is a biometric smart card which uniquely identifies the cardholder, making it even more secured than the EMV cards.

Some experts are proposing that any new ATM card should be issued with the Chip and Pin technology, as a beginning of the eventual migration of all local cards from the magnetic stripe base system.

Meanwhile the April 8 deadline for ATMs to upgrade their operating system from Windows XP to Windows 7 has elapsed. Some banks are concurrently upgrading their operating system to Windows 7 and converting their ATMs to enable them to read EMV ATM cards.