PCI Testing: Everything You Need To Know

Penetration testing is crucial for businesses to help ensure that their security posture will stand against threat actors. For businesses that handle credit and debit card information, keeping data secure is all the more important, as the financial services industry was the second-highest-targeted sector by hackers in 2022.

PCI (Payment Card Industry) penetration testing is specifically designed to improve the cybersecurity health of businesses in the financial services industry.

Here’s the lowdown on PCI testing and how to make your business compliant with the latest security standards.


What Is PCI Penetration Testing?

The PCI establishes security standards for financial businesses that aim to secure the data of ATM, prepaid, e-purse, credit, and debit cards and related businesses. PCI penetration testing focuses on the security of the cardholder data and the card itself.

PCI Pentest vs. Standard Pentest

Compared to standard penetration tests, PCI pentests have more specific requirements that focus on security standards for cardholder data.

PCI testing may be performed either by an expert internal resource or by a third party and will target the environment that holds cardholder data.

Similar to a standard pentest, your pentesting vendor will develop the right methodology for carrying out the pentest engagement. This includes scope, documentation, and rules of engagement.

However, it should be noted that the actual pentest has to abide by specific industry standards and PCI-defined testing guidelines to help your business meet the 12 PCI DSS requirements.

Similar to a standard penetration test, the findings in the PCI pentest must then be documented, including discovered vulnerabilities labeled with a score and description of their threat level. After doing this, your pentesting vendor should help you with the remediation steps.


What Are the PCI-DSS Requirements?

There are 12 requirements you must have to meet PCI security standards. These requirements are: 

  1. Limit physical access to cardholder information.
  2. Keep track of and monitor all network resources and cardholder data access.
  3. Configure and maintain a firewall.
  4. Transmit cardholder data securely across open, public networks.
  5. Never use the system password defaults or any security settings the vendor provides.
  6. Safeguard stored cardholder data.
  7. Utilize and update antivirus software as necessary.
  8. Give each person with access to the computer a special ID.
  9. Test security procedures and systems on a regular basis.
  10. Create and manage secure apps and systems.
  11. Limit who has access to cardholder information for business purposes.
  12. Keep an information security policy in place for all employees.


All of these requirements are meant to meet the following PCI goals:

  • Build and maintain a secure network and systems.
  • Regularly monitor and test networks.
  • Implement strong access control measures.
  • Regularly monitor and test networks.
  • Maintain a vulnerability management program.
  • Implement strong access control measures.
  • Protect account data.
  • Maintain an information security policy.


How Is PCI-DSS Penetration Testing Performed?

PCI-DSS penetration testing can be performed in many ways, but some types of pentests include:

  • Network Penetration Test. A PCI DSS network penetration test tries to find server, workstation, and network weaknesses.
  • Application Penetration Test. A PCI DSS application penetration test looks for potential vulnerabilities from risky software design, coding, and publication methods. 
  • Segmentation Control Test. This test determines whether a poorly designed firewall permits access to a secure network, which can expose a company to potential threats from network openings.
  • PCI DSS Wireless Network Penetration Test. A PCI DSS wireless network penetration test looks for weak access points and wireless networks to find potential areas hackers could exploit.
  • Social Engineering Tests. These tests focus on manipulating weak points within an organization, such as impersonating staff to get credentials or authentication to access private data.


PCI Pentest Methods

Black Box Assessments

A security test carried out by an individual without prior knowledge of the target is known as a "black box penetration test." The target URL is the only piece of information the pentester is given about your system(s).

The goal of a black box assessment is to discover if an end user with no access to internal systems can manipulate websites and applications to behave differently. Hackers aim to do this so they can trick those who visit your website into giving them the information they need to access their credentials or payment information. Since they believe your website prompts them, they often oblige, leading to numerous hacks, such as ransomware or social engineering attacks.

White Box Assessments

A white box penetration test is helpful for simulating a targeted attack using as many attack paths as feasible on a particular system. This allows the pentester to access details of the entire network(s) and system(s) details, including authorization and login credentials. 

This pentest method can be more efficient since it gives a pentester a more comprehensive starting point. Compared to a black box assessment, though, it replicates an inside attack or an attack from a hacker with extensive knowledge of your business rather than an outside attack.

Grey Box Assessments

Unlike black box and white box pentesting, the pentester is not completely in the dark or given extensive knowledge. Only a small amount of information is given to the pentester during a grey box penetration test, such as login credentials or certain authorizations. Grey box pentests aim to balance depth and efficiency while still simulating a real insider threat or network perimeter attack.

Grey box pentests are popular among organizations since they can help portray what an attack could look like from someone with limited knowledge or authorizations, which many inside threats generally operate with. A reconnaissance phase is not always necessary for a grey box assessment, which can save time, though does come with its own limitations, just like in a black box pentesting assessment.

Post-engagement Report

After an engagement, you should receive a report detailing vulnerabilities and the next steps for remediation.

The report should highlight the most critical threats as the top priority to remediate while labeling the other discovered vulnerabilities from most potentially dangerous to least potentially dangerous based on your current cybersecurity condition.


The Importance of PCI Compliance

A data breach within a business that contains personal client information — such as credit/debit cards and social security numbers — can wreak havoc on your business, making it vital to ensure your company is PCI-DSS compliant.

In fact, the financial industry faces the highest cost of cyberattacks, amounting to $18.3 million per year per banking organization. But significant financial damage is not the only concern if your company’s cybersecurity does not meet the PCI-DSS requirements.

Irreparable reputational damage usually accompanies businesses that suffer data breaches and cyberattacks; clients don’t trust companies that don’t prioritize top cybersecurity measures.


Meet PCI-DSS Compliance With the Best PCI Testing Vendor in the World

When looking for the right PCI testing services, don’t just act on blind faith; look for the vendor with the most experience, the best reputation, and is world-renowned for its pentesting services.

With Mitnick Security, consider all those boxes checked; you’ll also have the top cybersecurity team — The Global Ghost Team™— available for all your pentesting needs.

View our industry-leading pentesting services today to get started.

Topics: penetration testing

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