P2PE vs. E2EE: What’s the Best Payment Security Option?

If end-to-end encryption (E2EE) and point-to-point encryption (P2PE) sound like they could be the same thing, you’re not wrong. Technically speaking, P2PE is a specific type of E2EE, and the objective in both cases is to secure cardholder data from the time it’s captured until it reaches its intended destination.

However, only one of these methods offers significant time savings and cost benefits to merchants. Read on to understand the differences and why choosing P2PE could be in your company’s best interest.


What Is P2PE?

As the ongoing threat of data breaches continues to menace businesses (and government agencies) of all sizes, securing cardholder data remains a top priority for merchants. In recent years, P2PE has become the gold standard for credit card payment security compliance.

Here’s why. PCI-validated P2PE is a set of standards defined by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI-SSC) that outlines a comprehensive set of best practices spanning the device supply chain, encryption key loading, configuration, encryption and application security.

The P2PE process creates a secure connection between devices, or components within devices, which prevents possible sensitive data from being exposed at any point while moving across a network. It effectively removes cardholder data from a merchant’s environment, providing better protection for the cardholder.


How Does P2PE Work?

P2PE encrypts cardholder data immediately upon receiving a card payment. It sends this encrypted code directly from the payment terminal to the payment processing system, where the information gets decrypted using a secure key.

Since the decryption takes place entirely in the payment processor, the merchant never sees any of the cardholder’s information. If a hacker manages to intercept the data while it’s in transit, they will not be able to read it because only the processor possesses the key—there’s no chance someone can steal the key from the merchant or any other party.

PCI P2PE Compliance Requirements

P2PE reduces the likelihood of PCI compliance breaches by directly connecting the payment terminal to the processing system—and correspondingly drops the number of self-assessment questionnaire questions from over 300 to around 30. This function means you can raise the bar on security without also increasing the compliance audit burden.

Some other key compliance requirements include:

  • The data must be encrypted at the payment terminal.
  • The payment terminal may only use P2PE-approved applications.
  • The merchant must conduct annual inventory checks on payment terminals.
  • The merchant must install cameras with a clear view of the terminal.

Ultimately, these requirements are fairly easy for most businesses to manage. That leaves you more time and resources to spend on the purpose and passion at the forefront of your business rather than the processes behind your business.


The Benefits of P2PE With CSG Forte Protect

CSG Forte Protect is a PCI-validated P2PE solution securing the V400C terminal for in-person payments. CSG Forte Protect helps merchants:

  • Remove liability issues for your business: Forte Protect merges processes, applications, and payment devices to securely encrypt and protect data during transit from the POI terminal/device or POS system
  • Protect cardholder data: Our solution has three parts—validated hardware, validated software, and validated solution providers to cover payment terminals, terminal application, deployment, key management, and decryption environments.
  • Save time and money: With a minimal per transaction cost, Forte Protect saves you PCI-related costs by reducing PCI scope as the number of questions from the self-assessment questionnaire drops from SAQ D (329 questions) to SAQ P2P3 (33 questions).
  • Fully integrate existing payment channels: Supported card input methods include tap, dip, swipe, keyed, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay. Your customer payment experience will be seamless without you lifting a finger!

We put data security at the core of all our payment solutions, so you can rely on Forte Protect to keep your data safe through every payment—every time. In addition to meeting PCI standards, we’re certified for compliance with ISO 27001:2013, SSAE SOC 1 and HIPAA. Whatever your industry and payment needs, we can help you protect your customers from data breaches.


What Is E2EE?

Many merchants’ transactions rely on end-to-end encryption (E2EE), a process that involves an indirect link between the payment terminal and processing network. During this operation, the processor or a third party is expected to encrypt the cardholder’s data (CHD) during transit.

Unfortunately, the indirect link means card present transactions—where the customer swipes, dips or taps their card—are a constant area of concern. Preventing fraud at the terminal isn’t just a matter of checking who is presenting the card. You also have to ensure the payment terminals themselves are secure. By intercepting point of sale devices, or using insiders, malware loaded to a device can scrape and transfer cardholder data available in its RAM and virtual memory.

That’s why rather than finding new ways to protect cardholder data, businesses are looking for ways to eliminate cardholder data from their environments.

E2EE and PCI Compliance

Some E2EE vendors claim that using E2EE makes adhering to PCI guidelines easier because it encrypts data throughout the entire process, but this claim isn’t entirely the case.

While this method is compliant with Payment Card Industry (PCI) guidance, E2EE requires intensive documentation and additional ongoing costs associated with PCI compliance. Merchants often hold the encryption keys, so merchants relying on E2EE will typically need to complete an annual PCI-DSS self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) with over 300 questions.

Even though small business owners are used to wearing many hats, assuming responsibility for PCI compliance may be more than they can handle. If they choose to have someone else manage it for them, like processors or outside consultants, then they’ll also incur the added expense of outside help.


What’s the Difference Between P2PE and E2EE?

While they are similar in nature, some of the most significant differences between P2PE and E2EE include:

  • Security rules: P2PE and E2EE require different security checks on and around the payment terminal. For example, P2PE requires merchants to perform annual terminal inventory checks to ensure everything works properly.
  • Control: Because the scope for PCI compliance is much smaller with P2PE, merchants have greater control over their ability to adhere to the standard. E2EE, on the other hand, contains more endpoints, making compliance more complicated.
  • Liability: P2PE providers take complete liability for data breaches because they hold the keys. With E2EE, though, the merchant has control over decryption keys and can be held liable for stolen cardholder data.

Ultimately, these differences mean the best choice for most businesses planning to accept credit card payments is P2PE. It makes compliance more manageable and keeps cardholder data safer than E2EE—and it’s entirely possible with a reliable provider like CSG Forte. If you want to improve your payment processing technology, consider using our solutions to secure your card transactions.


Choose P2PE Payment Solutions From CSG Forte

The numerous controls and security implemented across this entire value chain make P2PE an extremely secure encryption method—but also a high bar for vendors to clear. Only a select few vendors offer PCI-validated P2PE today, and we’re proud to be one of those few.

At CSG Forte, we know securing a stable and safe merchant solution can relieve the security and compliance pressures from you and your business. For that reason, CSG Forte Protect was created with you in mind to give you peace of mind.

We know you didn’t open your business so you could worry about transactions and payments operations. But we did. Our team at CSG Forte has a passion for safe and secure payment processing solutions. Learn more about CSG Forte’s secure in-person payments processing solutions, or contact us to get started.