PointPal ticks PassBook security boxes ahead of iOS6 launch

Loyalty developer spent “bulk of funds” on ensuring security of personal data.
  • David Braue (CSO Online)
  • — 19 September, 2012 09:05

Australian loyalty-program developer PointPal has undergone extensive security remediation as it this week prepares to become a pioneer in the use of Apple’s new PassBook digital loyalty-program application.

PassBook is a banner feature of Apple’s new iOS 6 operating system, which will hit the world’s iPhones on Thursday local time and come built into the millions of iPhone 5 smartphones to ship from Friday.

The widespread availability of PassBook will spawn a feeding frenzy of personal information as loyalty-program providers rush to secure valuable mindshare for the application, which provides a single repository for users’ loyalty programs and uses locational queues to automatically pull up the right coupons depending on where a user is located.

PointPal – which already offers a loyalty app for iOS and Android mobile devices that has garnered it the business of Australian and Singaporean firms like Oporto, The Cupcake Bakery and Hom Yoga – will this week add support for PassBook, which will quickly turn Apple into a major worldwide aggregator of data on customers’ loyalty programs and shopping habits.

Such centralised databases have become honeypots for hackers, who have recently laid siege to massive customer databases maintained by the likes of Sony, LinkedIn, and Apple with impunity. Earlier this year, a blogger exposed a major security flaw in Google’s Wallet payment service, and PassBook is equally sure to become a quick target for hackers.

But Andrew Lowe, founder of PointPal, says the company has developed its architecture with security in mind and has built it with multiple levels of security scanning and remediation.

“We very much have a ‘pull’ relationship where the customer chooses what brands they want to have a relationship with,” Lowe told CSO Australia. “Customers can choose to share their personal information once with us, or they can choose not to. And they can choose what brands they want to communicate with them while they’re out and about.”

Details provided by PointPal customers are stored securely within the company’s SalesForce.com database, and only then referenced in subsequent transactions using the customer’s membership number. This prevents the flow of personally identifiable information to PassBook or any other applications, Lowe says, and leverages SalesForce.com’s well-established security infrastructure to keep hackers at bay.

“One of the key things we had in the application was security,” Lowe says. “It’s the standard SalesForce layer, but we spent the bulk of our development funds on building our own internal security and privacy layers on top of that. We wanted to ensure that we had the best possible security, not only for the customer but also for the merchant.”

The fact that PointPal leverages SalesForce.com’s cloud architecture (and is tied in with Amazon Web Services resources as well) promises crucial scalability that could become necessary within days should iOS 6 prove as popular as early iPhone 5 sales figures suggest.

Even as it manages the expected transactional growth of the platform, PointPal’s security infrastructure will be carefully watching for signs of fraud, analysing data for signs of manipulation or dodgy behaviour.

“Fraud is out there and we’ve done our very best to identify when it happens,” Lowe says. “We can monitor instances and build a library over time of patterns of behaviour. If there’s any potential around fraud, we can monitor it and build profiles that we can act upon quickly. We’ve worked hard to build a level of trust through PointPal so customers feel comfortable sharing their personal details with us.”

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  1. Have an incident response plan.

  2. Pre-define your incident response team 

  3. Define your approach: watch and learn or contain and recover.

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  5. Forensic and incident response data capture.

  6. Get your users on-side.

  7. Know how to report crimes and engage law enforcement. 

  8. Practice makes perfect.

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