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Visa, MasterCard will shell out millions to beef up cyber defenses

February 13, 2015, 5:07 PM UTC
Kreditkarten von Visa und Mastercard
ARCHIV - ILLUSTRATION - Zwei Kreditkarten von Visa und Mastercard in einer Geldbörse, aufgenommen in Frankfurt am Main am 18.11.2009. Photo by: Marius Becker/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Photograph by Marius Becker — picture-alliance/dpa/AP

After a rash of high profile cyber attacks against U.S. businesses, Visa and MasterCard have announced plans to boost their security measures.

MasterCard will spend some $20 million on its efforts, while Visa plans to expand its Visa Token Service.

News of the increased measures comes on the day President Barack Obama is set to sign an executive order designed to encourage companies to share more information about cyber security threats with the government, and with each other. The plan, which Obama is expected to sign at a cyber security conference in Silicon Valley, follows a high-profile attack on Sony (SNE) Entertainment late last year.

MasterCard (MA) intends to beef up its biometrics — including fingerprint and voice authentication — by testing them in a more than $20 million trial program this year. The credit card company also plans to release added monitoring security with a product called MasterCard Safety Net in the spring. That tool will use algorithms spot and block fraudulent transactions as they’re taking place.

“With SafetyNet we are really fast tracking the next generation of security solutions, which are designed to stop fraud or attacks before many of our partners have even noticed it is happening,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise security solutions president at MasterCard, in a statement.

“We can do this because MasterCard’s SafetyNet operates as intelligent technology which can identify fraud in real time and decline a transaction before any exposure takes place.”

Visa (V) also has plans to ramp up security by building out its Visa Token Service, which it launched in October.

The service, currently used by hundreds of financial institutions, helps reduce the risk of identity fraud by substituting information on cards — such as account numbers — with a digital account number that excludes sensitive payment account details.

“Removing card account numbers from the processing and storage of payments represents one of the most innovative and promising technologies we’ve seen in decades,” said Visa CEO Charlie Scharf in a statement. “This, combined with chip card technology, advances in account holder authentication through analytics and biometrics, and more sophisticated risk monitoring, will allow Visa account holders to enjoy new, secure payment experiences.”

Friday’s cyber security “summit” will consist of top government officials and high-level executives from companies such as Apple (AAPL), American Express (AXP), AIG (AIG), Pacific Gas and Electric (PCG), and others. (The CEOs of Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), Facebook (FB), and Microsoft (MSFT) will not be in attendance, although they have sent delegates from their security teams instead.)

These payment protection plans follow a series of data breaches that have imperiled the credentials of customers at a number of companies. Most recently, health care insurer Anthem (ANTM) suffered one of the largest attacks against the health care sector. Other recent victims include Target (TGT), Home Depot (HD), and JP Morgan (JPM).