PCI DSS Penetration Testing | PCI Test

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PCI DSS Compliance

Wikipedia defines PCI DSS as ‘The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard ‘ is an information security standard for organisations that handle branded credit cards from the major card schemes. The PCI Council (PCI SSC) drives this initiative of data security standards across payments.

Regular PCI penetration testing is required as key control to protect CDE systems and data. PCI DSS compliance state the PCI DSS requirements:

  • PCI council defined PCI DSS Requirement 6.6 states continuously protecting internet-facing applications from new and emerging threats and security vulnerabilities. 

  • PCI Requirement 11 outlines ‘regularly test protection systems and processes’.


For Reports of Compliance (ROCs) and some Self-assessment questionnaires (SAQs), frequent PCI penetration testing must be performed at least annually or after any significant infrastructure changes (application upgrade, new installations such as a firewall or web server added, change in system state, significant infrastructure refresh.), whichever is sooner.

For service providers, it is recommended to perform penetration tests every six months.

PCI DSS Penetration Testing
PCI Testing

What is PCI penetration testing?

PCI segmentation penetration testing

PCI penetration test is performed across the cardholder data environment to identify security vulnerabilities in line with PCI DSS requirements. It is targeted on the internal systems that store, process or transmit card data, public-facing devices and systems and databases. 

External PCI penetration tests are performed on the internet-facing systems. This is not like external vulnerability scans that involve running vulnerability scanners (wholly automated) and analysing issues for false positive removals. Comparatively, penetration tests are resource intensive and in-depth and provide effective input to your risk management process.

In PCI penetration tests, this is a controlled form of OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional) or an ethical hacking or exercise with the following objectives:

  • Assess the access security and segmentation controls in line with PCI compliance requirements

  • Determine whether a threat actor could gain unauthorised access to CDE systems that store, process or transmit payment data

Accreditations & Certifications

Types of PCI DSS penetration test services

Based on the PCI DSS scope of assets within CDE, penetration testing performed on any of the following types of services can be aligned to PCI requirements. We also offer hospitals to ensure a secure health check service offering to their clients by adopting PCI in the healthcare segment.

External penetration testing and tailored infrastructure or application security testing services are offered to service providers, merchants, online retailers, and any systems that may impact the security of the CDE to achieve PCI compliance.

PCI Internal Penetration Testing

PCI pentest covers a broad scope – from simple one server review to multi-network estate wide active directory reviews including segmentation controls checks.

It involves internal infrastructure assets in scope containing cardholder data environment.

PCI Application Security Testing

Our team of Cybersecurity experts will test and perform PCI security assessments against apps and web services/APIs in the scope.

Apart from network penetration testing, web application testing includes OWASP checks, critical software flaws and other business logic related issues.


Cloud Penetration Testing

Most organisations are migrating to cloud due to ease of use and 24 x 7 availability. 

As an end user of cloud-hosted solutions, you are responsible for ensuring that the security of any operating systems and applications hosted in the cloud are continuously maintained and tested.

Vulnerability Assessments

Vulnerability assessments provide insight into vulnerabilities affecting your internal and external networks. 

It helps to identify and quantify the potential risks threatening the PCI cardholder data environment while minimising internal costs.

Mobile Pen Testing

Ensuring the safety and security of user data is paramount to running any mobile applications. 

Our tailored penetration tests are designed to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities before it’s too late to limit the damage.

PCI Network Segmentation Testing

PCI DSS Network segmentation testing checks against fundamental concepts behind segmentation penetration testing include switch based VLAN security controls, internal firewalling and related layer 2 & network layer 3 access controls.

Why choose us to provide Penetration Testing Services for PCI Compliance?

PCI DSS penetration testing requirements

1: Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data

2: Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters

3: Protect stored card data

4: Encrypt transmission of card data across open, public networks

5: Protect all systems against malware and regularly update anti-virus software or programs

6: Develop and maintain secure systems and applications

7: Restrict access to card data by business need to know

8: Identify and authenticate access to system components

9: Restrict physical access to cardholder data

10: Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data

11: Regularly test security systems and processes

12: Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel

PCI Compliance levels
pci pentest

Benefits of PCI testing & vulnerability analysis

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) is a set of requirements designed to protect cardholder data. The major payment card brands created PCI testing standard – Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover – to help organisations that process credit cards protect their customers’ data. 

PCI pen test requirements involve merchants and service providers that store, process, or transmit credit card information to implement specific security measures to protect that data.

PCI segmentation penetration testing can help reduce the risk of an insider threat by isolating critical data and systems that store or transmit cardholder data. If a company implements and adheres to the PCI DSS Data Security Standard (DSS) guidelines correctly, it will be difficult for an unauthorised user to access sensitive data.

The standard calls for dividing the network into segments and assigning different access levels to different users. By doing this in an internal network, companies can limit the damage that can be caused by an insider threat. PCI segmentation penetration testing is a process of verifying that these security measures are in place and are effective in making a clear distinction between trusted networks from untrusted networks.

PCI testing in an internal network involves an advanced penetration tester attempting to breach the company’s security boundaries to gain access to sensitive data.

The PCI Security Standards include requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network security, software design, and other critical protective measures. And by going beyond the minimum requirements, you can help to further protect your organisation from web application vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, broken, sensitive authentication data, cross-site scripting, etc. All these application layer testing cases are defined and utilised based on functionalities in use, including business logic issues that will be identified by our experienced penetration tester.

All our assessment methodologies for web applications follow industry standards such as OWASP Top 10 checks, SANS CWE Top 25 and CERT Secure Coding.

By undergoing regular PCI penetration test, you demonstrate your commitment to data security by following industry best practices and your dedication to protecting your clients and supply chain. And as a bonus, being compliant can also help reduce your risk of financial penalties in the event of a data breach.

Every penetration tester who performs PCI pentest is experienced and qualified with industry recognised certifications such as OSCP, OSCE, Certified ethical hacker (CEH), GIAC certified penetration tester, GIAC exploit researcher, CREST, CISSP and others.

Organisations must undergo regular compliance tests by an independent Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) to ensure compliance with the PCI Security Standards.

PCI DSS requires regular PCI pen test of security controls to ensure that they are effective in protecting payment card data. A proactive approach to cybersecurity is essential for safeguarding against attacks by cybercriminals. Implementing controls such as firewalls, antivirus protection, and intrusion detection systems can help protect your organisation against digital threats.

Several security checks can fall into proactive approach such as operating system upgrade, regularly checking for potential vulnerabilities through vulnerability scans, checking controls using manual methods, attempts to exploit vulnerabilities or assessing network based firewall controls.

Systems and networks can be insecure if they are not properly patched and updated with the latest security patches. Additionally, it can be easily hacked if an external system is not configured to require strong passwords or two-factor authentication. A vulnerability scan may not pick up some of these misconfigurations that are obvious findings when checked by penetration testers.

Internal systems and other network assets can also be insecure if they are not properly patched and updated. Internal systems can be vulnerable if they are not configured to require strong passwords, two-factor authentication, or network layer issues related to network traffic outbound (or inbound) from specific zones/segments. If an internal system is Internet-connected, it may be susceptible to intrusions if it is not properly protected by a firewall.

A PCI test will identify any insecure configurations and let you analyse test results with recommendations to help you secure your internal and external systems and networks.

Amongst the best PCI penetration testing vendors

Frequently Asked Questions on PCI Pen Testing

PCI stands for Payment Card Industry. PCI DSS is a proprietary information security standard for organisations that handle branded credit cards from major card schemes. The standard was created to increase controls around the payment card process and includes requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design and other critical protective measures.

In a PCI compliance test, it depends on the number of devices being scanned and the configuration of your computer. A basic scan or PCI DSS pentest should take less than an hour, but a more comprehensive scan could take a day or more. PCI penetration testing cost is based on the size of the network, assets and complications such as VLANs.

PCI compliance penetration testing is one of the many security measures that can be used to assess the security of an environment. PCI DSS requires performing penetration testing and vulnerability scanning on internal and external assets (internet-facing).

Testing against external and internal systems or a wireless penetration test (any of the technical risk assessment), the assessment takes into account the scope for PCI DSS to identify vulnerabilities and provide mitigation advice. Based on the number of transactions and volume, PCI compliance has four levels for merchants and service providers. There are 9 different SAQs for merchants. To test in line with PCI DSS compliance, businesses must complete a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), which covers the 12 requirements of PCI DSS pen-testing (also known as PCI Pentests). The SAQ is accompanied by an Attestation of Compliance, which an authorised business representative must sign. Businesses can also use Qualified Security Assessors (QSAs) for vulnerability scanning.

PCI systems, that store, process or transmit cardholder data, should be scanned for viruses by performing PCI DSS pentest at least once a quarter. In addition, the system should be checked for other malware and security issues every month.

You may face fines, legal action, and reduced revenue if you do not perform a PCI compliance test. The PCI penetration testing guidance is a set of regulations developed by the PCI Council aimed at protecting payment card data. Any business that processes, stores, or transmits payment card data must comply with the PCI DSS. Failing to do so can result in heavy fines and other penalties.

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