PCI vulnerability scan requirements are not difficult to understand with expert guidance. The primary focus of this government regulation is information security. It locates vulnerabilities and gaps within a company’s digital architecture.
PCI refers to the Payment Card Industry. The vulnerability scan is automated and must happen every quarter, with the supervision of PCI Approved Scanning Vendors (ASVs). The scan will thoroughly check domains and external IPs in the payment processing system of a company. All the payment information in this system must comply with PCI standards.
Methods in Performing the Scan
PCI DSS guidelines outline two independent PCI scanning methods: external and internal. Both methodologies typically generate an extensive report of gaps and vulnerabilities as a point of reference. But there are intricate and subtle differences in PCI vulnerability scan requirements that organizations must fully know.
External Vulnerability Scans
The external vulnerability scan determines weaknesses and gaps outside of network structures. This regular scan is the first step. The organization must address any security holes as soon as possible.
External scans are perimeter sweeps that locate threats that may occur beyond the network. This procedure will analyze how a malicious outside actor can attack and compromise an enterprise from outside. The actionable information from these scans typically results in vulnerability patches.
The best outcome that an organization can hope for is for an external vulnerability scan to prove that they are compliant with PCI DSS standards. If there are gaps, the scan will help provide a roadmap on achieving 100% compliance.
An Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) must conduct the external scan at least quarterly or after any significant network change.
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Internal Vulnerability Scans
The internal vulnerability scan probes the network itself behind the firewall and other perimeter security devices. It looks for weak points on the internal hosts that can target a pivot attack exploit.
Internal scans cover potential areas that may focus on vulnerabilities that can stem from inside a network’s firewall. These are the risks of potentially sleeping on a business’s network.
The PCI DSS guidelines under Requirement 11.2 specifically mention internal and external network vulnerability scans at least quarterly or after any significant change within the network. The test procedures must confirm that four quarterly internal scans happened in the past year. Rescans occurred until all high-level vulnerabilities had resolutions.
Successful Tips for Scans
Organizations can contribute to the speedy resolution of PCI vulnerability scans. These are some tried and tested tips :
- Submit the scans to an ASV way ahead of the deadline, typically 30 days before the submission cutoff.
- Stagger the required quarterly schedule away from the usual calendar quarter because this is a very busy date for ASVs.
- Expect questions and conversations with your ASV about your digital enterprise and network specifications. Few scans get PCI certification that does not require additional information as a reference. First scans typically yield the most issues.
Why a PCI Vulnerability Scan Is Essential
Vulnerability scans evaluate the digital environment of the enterprise and its overall health. It finds vulnerabilities in the security of payment processing systems. A significant slice of a company’s revenues typically revolves around its cash flow.
PCI vulnerability scans will exhaust a comprehensive checklist relating to the PCI compliance of an organization. This protects the reputation of a business from a security flaw or regulatory deficiency that will rear its ugly head later on.
The personnel in charge of the compliance audit will thoroughly check the website, technology stack, and software of a business. If there are deficient areas that need remediation, the scan will proactively find them before they can cause any severe damage.
Scans are best accomplished after significant system changes within a business network to check if the bells and whistles work. This may be a new firewall, hardware, or vulnerability patch.
Checklist of Vulnerabilities
A PCI vulnerability scan is only effective if its purpose is clear from the start. A thorough checklist of potential risks and gaps should always be in the pipeline for corporate decision-makers. It may include the following:
- Vulnerable data transmissions via web applications
- Disclosure of sensitive cardholder data and other personal information such as name, address, and credit card numbers
- SQL Injection and Cross-site Scripting (XSS)
- Access and authentication issues on web applications
- Web server security flaws
- Deficient product upgrades
- External web access vulnerabilities
The penetration test is an essential aspect of any PCI vulnerability scan. They test network environments and identify potential vulnerabilities. They also attempt to exploit these gaps or coding errors to find security holes.
Under PCI DSS Requirement 11.3, a penetration test is required for both internal and external testing of application and network layers. It is essential for any company that wants an independent probe of their information security defenses. The duration varies depending on the size, complexity, and personnel of an organization. It may last between a few days up to about several weeks for large digital enterprises.
Expect a thorough description of attack methodologies used, testing measures, and remediation recommendations once your organization receives its penetration test report.
A penetration test usually requires high cost and time. Most organizations do not claim any significant changes to their PCI environment leading to the penetration test.
But how will an organization know if a change was significant enough to warrant reporting? The scale and size of a company is a factor. But typically, the following situations are all important changes:
- Operating system upgrade for the CDE system
- Firewall replacement
- Change of a critical security device
- Installation of a new payment acceptance process
- Transfer of digital logistics to a cloud-hosted infrastructure
How an organization determines a significant change that requires a penetration test should be indicated in the internal policy documentation of the company.
Internal penetration is feasible if a company has qualified staff who can perform a penetration test independent of the systems under review.
If that person has active involvement in the configuration and management of the system in question, they shouldn’t execute a penetration test.
If the organization has no in-house personnel that can conduct a penetration test, the procedure should be in the hands of a third-party penetration test specialist.
Difference Between Penetration Test and Vulnerability Scan
Vulnerability scans and penetration tests are different requirements under the PCI DSS guidelines. An organization needs to learn the difference:
- Vulnerability scans happen via automation. A penetration test is by an actual certified person that can dig into the complexities of the network in question.
- Penetration tests can verify the exploitability of a gap and proceed to determine its root cause. The tester can locate why there is a potential unauthorized portal to access sensitive cardholder or financial data. Vulnerability scans can merely pinpoint the potential gaps.
- Penetration tests can provide a detailed assessment of the overall information security of the company. Vulnerability scans can be an efficient snapshot of the network for a specific time, whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
Other Testing Requirements for PCI Validation
Payment card brands have additional requirements for PCI validation. MasterCard has the Site Data Protection Plan, while Visa has the Cardholder Information Security Program. These guidelines stipulate that there must be distinct validation requirements for service providers and merchants. They include the following:
1. Yearly On-Site Security Audit
Large-scale companies must have an on-site compliance assessment every year. A third-party auditor must implement this assessment to fit with industry standards.
2. Yearly Self-Assessment Questionnaire
Smaller companies do not have to keep up with an on-site audit. They can complete an annual self-assessment questionnaire that will reflect the status of the digital environment. There are tools online that will simplify and automate this requirement.
3. Quarterly Network Scans
The PCI DSS requires this measure, and it must be under the supervision of an independent ASV. The scan will cover all ports on external networks to find all vulnerabilities. Level-3 through Level-5 severity gaps must undergo remediation.
Two reports will result from the network scan. The first is a technical report outlining all vulnerabilities and potential solutions for remediation. The second is an executive summary report with a compliance statement for validation.
Approved Scanning Vendors
Approved Scanning Vendors are teams that specialize in tools and services for external vulnerability scans. They perform this measure to help organizations comply with PCI DSS Requirement 11.2.2.
The PCI SSC tests and approves the scan methodologies of the ASV before they can be added to the List of Approved Scanning Vendors of the PCI SSC.
There is a structured process for security solution providers that wish to become ASVs. Their approval is not forever as well. They must reapply every year.
The ASV approval only signifies that the service organization met all the requirements to perform PCI data security scanning. The PCI SSC does not automatically endorse the brands or the business practices of these respective ASVs.
The List of Approved Scanning Vendors is continually up to date, but it undergoes frequent changes. When a client organization wants to engage with an ASV, the PCI SSC recommends checking the updated list regularly to ensure the authenticity of the ASV.
PCI Security Standards Council
The PCI Security Standards Council reflects the commitment of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) to protect the integrity of cardholder data and all other digital transactions. It is the desire of all stakeholders in the PCI to have the following:
- Standard security requirements
- Security assessment procedures
- External vulnerability scan processes
- Validation of ASV scan solutions
Participating Payment brands recognize the common security assessment framework of the PCI SSC and the integrity of its ASV program. They can have the assurance that their ASV scan solutions are legitimate and following a strict protocol.
Consumers and clients can also get assurance that they are using digital merchants that undergo regular vulnerability scans. It is not easy to trust sensitive cardholder data, especially in today’s landscape when cybercriminals run rampant. The seal of approval of the PCI SSC can help protect consumers from tampering and exploitation.
The PCI SSC also provides consistent reports to acquiring banks and Participating Payment Brands to help express compliance for PCI DSS requirements.
Guidance from PCI Compliance Experts
The terminologies and constant technology upgrades of the payment card industry (PCI) can confuse corporate decision-makers whose attention is on their respective business objectives. Let the experts focus on your PCI compliance efforts.
Most organizations have credit card payment systems or merchant services in place. RSI Security can help evaluate the PCI security standards of these businesses to see if they keep up with government regulations. These laws are in place to protect companies and clients from various exploits and cybercrimes. Our team will help ensure your cybersecurity is up to date and reliable.
Adhering to PCI Data Security Standards will protect vital cardholder and corporate data from hacks and information security thefts. RSI Security is your sturdy shield against customer loss, brand erosion, financial losses, and litigations. Cost efficiency and transparency are our primary objectives as we secure your vital data from malicious digital threats.
RSI Security has years of training to spot the following vulnerabilities and exploits:
- Web server defects
- Web browser gaps
- Email client deficiencies
- POS software lapses
- Obsolete operating systems and server interfaces
These are some of the potent vulnerabilities out in the digital world. RSI Security can help locate and address them through PCI risk assessments, vulnerability scans, and penetration tests. Contact one of our consultants to see how RSI Security can effectively bolster your cybersecurity defenses.