An analysis of more than 1,900 penetration tests and 200 actual security breaches over the past year has shown that more than four out of five security problems are down to third-party suppliers.
The survey by payment security firm Trustwave showed that third-party systems were responsible for 81 per cent of the security breaches, and that point-of-sale (POS) devices accounted for 83 per cent of that total.
"POS systems represent the easiest method for criminals to obtain the magnetic stripe data necessary to commit card-present fraud," said Trustwave in its 2010 Global Security Report.
"Due to the common existence of well-known vulnerabilities and the sheer volume of potential targets, software POS systems are considered low-hanging fruit to even the novice attacker."
More than two thirds of attacks used memory parsers, an application designed to monitor RAM activity and steal financial data. Key-loggers accounted for 18 per cent of attacks, and network sniffers nine per cent.
The report also suggested that hardware manufacturers need to be more vigilant when it comes to security.
"We believe that hardware tampering will grow over the next several years. The prize target for any organised crime group would be to infiltrate the device manufacturing company," said the report.
"Given the lax state of security in the world today, a crime organisation would have little trouble executing this attack at one of the second-tier device manufacturing companies, resulting in modified hardware being shipped to customers."