The annual retail tech "freeze" is the perfect time to consider POS solutions

Just about one year ago, Target announced its point-of-sale systems had been compromised by fraudsters, resulting in the theft of millions of credit and debit card numbers, as well as other personal details, ranging from names to addresses. Since then, numerous other merchants have breached due in part to weak encryption and poor general protection strategies at the point of sale, including big names such as The Home Depot and Kmart.

With the holiday season fast approaching, it would be easy to assume that merchants will be vigilantly ensuring their POS systems are up-to-date and using the latest technology, but many of them are encountering a very real concern in the annual tech “freeze.” The holiday season is a peak period for most retailers, with the National Retail Federation estimating that merchants do as much as 40 percent of their annual sales during the last two months of the year.

This means that retailers need to minimize any chance of disruption at all cost. Something as simple as a broken cash register or a temporarily downed website may result in a significant chunk of lost sales. While new technology and tools can bolster efficiency, there is also the chance that the implementation of these solutions (or even simply updating to the latest patch) may result in technical difficulty and disruption.

Because of this, it’s likely that few retailers will be looking at integrating new POS solutions and some may not even update software to the latest version until after the season. While this makes sense from a business perspective, it may also be a huge concern given recent security breaches and POS attacks. Fraudsters know the holidays are the busiest time of the year for retailers and that merchants will see a huge influx of purchases, making them ideal targets.

Dark Reading contributor Kelly Jackson Higgins noted that another wave of attacks is imminent. While retailers may not want to purchase new technology, they do need to explore these threats to holiday shoppers and do whatever is in their power to keep their systems (and by extension, their customers) safe. Moreover, as they transition past the 2014 holiday season and into the new year, it is the perfect time to reflect on POS solutions and decide whether a new POS that bolsters greater ease of use and security options is necessary.

Smooth sailing does not mean a POS is optimal
Regardless of whether businesses suffer a catastrophic security breach or if they make it through the holidays without a hitch, it is important they consider their POS solution either way. Some people claim there are only two types of businesses in the world - those that have been breached and those that just do not know it yet. While that saying is hyperbolic in nature, it does convey the ever-present danger that retailers face regarding fraudsters.

Fortunately, the payments industry is responding to the rash of data breaches and card theft over the past year and is actively rallying around new approaches to improve security. New practice standards, on top of always-improving technology such as encryption, allow retailers to safeguard their customers’ data and payment information. As such, retailers should always keep an eye on the latest POS systems and solutions, keeping in mind the fact that fraudsters are unrelenting and tenacious in their efforts to obtain sensitive data.

Similarly, POS manufacturers should be looking at the latest security features to ensure their solutions can withstand fraudsters, which could be a huge selling point among retailers.