One important aspect of securing your payment systems as a business that accepts credit card payments is ensuring compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). On the other hand, PCI testing is a crucial component of PCI compliance, allowing you to assess your business’s security posture and identify vulnerabilities. So, how do you perform a compliant and successful PCI test?

This post will discuss the various types of PCI testing, the testing procedure, the best practices for PCI testing, and more.

The Main Types of PCI Testing

There are three main types of PCI penetration tests, each with unique advantages and disadvantages. Besides, all of them can be adapted and modified to meet your company’s specific needs.

1. Vulnerability Scanning

A vulnerability scan is an automated procedure that uses specialised software to scan your company’s network and systems for known vulnerabilities. This testing is handy for identifying gaps in your security defences, such as outdated software or misconfigured systems.

2. Penetration Testing

A PCI DSS penetration test simulates a real-world attack on your company’s systems to identify potential cyber security risks. These tests are typically carried out by ethical hackers who try to access sensitive information without authorisation by taking advantage of vulnerabilities. Penetration testing is a handy way of analysing the efficiency of your security policies and identifying any weaknesses that vulnerability scanning might not have detected.

3. Application Security Testing

This testing involves assessing the security of mobile and web applications that process payment card information. Testing can include dynamic application testing, static code analysis, and manual testing. Application security testing is handy because mobile apps and web applications are often the main entry points for attackers trying to obtain unauthorised access to your company’s payment operating systems.

What Are the PCI Compliance Requirements?

These requirements are the basis of the PCI DSS, and companies must show compliance. Besides, by meeting these requirements, companies can reduce the risk of a data breach or other security issues while protecting their customers’ sensitive payment card data.

1. Establish and Maintain a Secure Network

Companies must keep their networks secure by implementing firewalls, restricting access to sensitive information, and changing default passwords.

2. Protect Cardholder Data

Companies must protect cardholder data by encrypting sensitive information, imposing access controls, and monitoring and testing systems that regularly store or transmit cardholder data.

3. Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program

Companies must maintain a vulnerability management program that encourages regular internal and external penetration testing and vulnerability scans to identify potential security risks.

4. Implement Strong Access Control Measures

Companies must implement strong access controls to restrict sensitive data and system access. This includes regularly reviewing access logs and implementing two-factor authentication.

5. Regularly Monitor and Test Networks

Companies must regularly monitor and test their networks to identify potential security risks and verify that security policies work.

6. Establish an Information Security Policy

Companies must maintain an information security policy that contains policies and processes for protecting sensitive data, responding to security incidents, and providing employees with regular security awareness training.

PCI Penetration Test

1. Planning and Scoping

This step involves defining the scope of the assessment itself and identifying the company’s systems and networks that are in the scope of the assessment.

2. Vulnerability Assessment

The next step involves using specialised software tools to scan your company’s network and systems for known vulnerabilities. The vulnerability assessment should cover all critical systems that are in scope for the assessment, including those with external and internal systems.

3. Remediation and Retesting

After identifying vulnerabilities, the next step is remediation and retesting. This involves fixing any identified vulnerabilities and ensuring that they have been resolved. Verifying that vulnerabilities have been resolved is critical since attackers can quickly exploit misconfigured or unpatched systems.

4. Reporting and Documentation

This final step involves recording and submitting the assessment results to the relevant parties. The report should summarise the assessment findings and remediation and follow-up testing recommendations.

Best Practices for Successful PCI Testing

1. Engage a Qualified Security Assessor

We recommend companies hire qualified security assessors (QSAs) for PCI testing. QSAs are PCI Security Standards Council-certified third-party security experts who audit firms’ compliance with the PCI DSS.

2. Conduct Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing

Companies should perform vulnerability scanning and PCI DSS penetration testing to ensure comprehensive coverage of payment systems’ security posture.

3. Address Findings Promptly

Companies should address all identified vulnerabilities promptly. We recommend fixing the vulnerabilities as soon as possible to reduce the risk of an attack.

4. Document the Testing Process

Companies should document the testing process, including the assessment’s scope, testing methodology, and results. Documentation usually helps companies demonstrate PCI DSS compliance and serves as a record of the testing process.

5. Implement Industry Best Practices

Companies should follow industry best practices, such as encrypting sensitive data, using strong passwords, and implementing firewalls and intrusion detection systems to reduce the risk of a successful attack.


To sum up, PCI testing is an essential process that helps companies maintain payment card industry compliance and protect against data breaches. By maintaining PCI DSS compliance and conducting regular PCI penetration tests, organisations can identify security vulnerabilities, reduce the chances of data breaches, and enhance the trust of their customers.

Furthermore, businesses can reduce their vulnerability to security threats and strengthen the safety of their payment systems by consistently adhering to PCI compliance through testing and best practices. In light of these benefits, businesses must prioritise PCI testing and best practices to protect themselves against data breaches and comply with the regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions on the PCI Test

1. Why would you require a PCI-DSS?

The purpose of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is to improve consumer safety by setting guidelines for any business that accepts, processes, or stores credit card data, irrespective of the volume of transactions or the size of the transactions.

2. Which type of penetration test is ideal for your organisation?

To begin, choose a type of penetration testing focusing on the controls you are most familiar with.

  • People = Social Engineering Test
  • A web app or API penetration test
  • Infrastructure = network penetration test (and wireless pen test if you’re using it)

Conduct network and application pen tests if you aim to achieve PCI compliance.

3. Why should I have a PCI pen test?

Most systems are built and maintained by employees with no or little formal training in security. A security professional skilled at identifying system vulnerabilities usually conducts a penetration test. The report can allow you to patch security weaknesses before a real attacker finds and exploits them. You should regularly test protection systems to be on the safe side.

4. Who needs PCI?

The PCI DSS applies to entities that process, transmit, and store cardholder data. It covers all technical and operational system components or critical systems connected to cardholder data. Businesses that accept credit card transactions must follow the PCI Data Security Standard.

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