Credit card firms are pressing small businesses to have their websites tested by ethical hackers in a drive to reduce credit card theft and boost public confidence in buying online.
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Mastercard and Visa are working with high street banks to boost the security of small online retailers' websites, often perceived as a weak link by hackers looking for credit card details.
Mastercard plans to roll out its programme, called Site Data Protection, in Europe over the next 12 months to encourage banks to work with small businesses to improve website security.
The firm also plans to introduce new security mechanisms that will require credit card holders to verify their identities to their bank with a password before making an online purchase. "We take any kind of fraud very seriously and these cases reduce trust in the internet," said Brian Morris, head of e-business at Mastercard.
Mastercard has teamed up with security firm Ubizen, which is carrying out penetration tests and performing forensic investigations into hacked websites.
Firms pay Ubizen to scan their websites every six months and the results are reported back to the firm and to Mastercard.
UK banks are expected to roll out a credit card authentication service, Mastercard Secure Code, for online retailers this year.