Five Most Frequently-Asked Questions About PCI DSS Vulnerability Scanning

PCI DSS Vulnerability Scanning

PCI DSS is one of the best and most widely used compliance frameworks in financial transactions and credit and debit payments. PCI DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, and it is a set of guidelines formulated by five of the biggest global credit card companies, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and JCB. The primary aim of this security framework is to ensure that cardholder data is safe from data theft and fraud. 

While most businesses dealing with payment information globally are mandated to adhere to its principles, it can be quite challenging for organizations to achieve and maintain PCI DSS compliance. The PCI DSS standard comprises several intricately detailed clauses and sub-requirements. With the proper expertise or dedicated resources, many companies may be breaching one regulation. This is where PCI DSS vulnerability scanning comes in. 

Malicious attackers may acquire access to an environment through multiple avenues, including but not limited to flaws in web servers, web browsers, email lists and software, POS software, operating systems, and server interfaces. However, Many of these vulnerabilities can be easily and timely resolved by applying security updates and patches to systems that handle cardholder or sensitive data, even before bad actors can exploit them. Thanks to PCI vulnerability scanning, organizations can regularly check up on data infrastructure to identify and eliminate any weaknesses and keep customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) safe beyond a doubt.

But wait, how long does a PCI vulnerability scan take? How much does one cost, and how frequently should a company conduct it? In this blog, we will answer the five most frequently asked questions about PCI vulnerability scanning to help personnels and businesses better understand the need for such preventive measures.

But before that, let’s briefly overview PCI vulnerability scanning.

What is PCI Vulnerability Scanning?

PCI vulnerability scanning is an assessment made compulsory under the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) Requirement 11.3. It entails routine scans of an organization’s network architecture, systems, and applications to find any potential security flaws that attackers might exploit.

PCI vulnerability scanning is used to proactively find and fix flaws that could jeopardize cardholder data security. It assists businesses in ensuring the security and PCI DSS compliance of their networks and systems.

Here are some key points about the process:

  1. Requirement: Organizations must conduct internal and external vulnerability checks at least four times per year, as PCI DSS requires. Organizations must also do scans following any significant modifications to the network architecture or applications.
  2. Scanning Process: Using specialized vulnerability scanning tools or services, a business’s external IP addresses and internal network segments are checked during the scanning process. The scans look for loopholes, setup errors, and security flaws that attackers could use.
  3. Reporting: The scanning program creates a thorough report listing the identified vulnerabilities. This report lists additional resources for addressing the identified problems, along with information on the severity of each vulnerability and suggested remediation procedures.
  4. Remediation: Organizations must take the necessary steps to mitigate or remedy vulnerabilities once identified. This could entail implementing new security measures, updating software, changing security settings, or installing patches.
  5. Compliance Validation: As part of the PCI DSS compliance validation process, organizations must submit vulnerability scan findings to their acquiring bank or payment card brands. The reports show that the company is actively tracking vulnerabilities and resolving them to safeguard cardholder data.

Overall, PCI vulnerability scanning assists businesses in locating and quickly fixing security flaws, lowering the risk of data breaches and assuring PCI DSS compliance.

Now, let’s get to the main part of the blog, and answer the five most frequently-asked questions about PCI vulnerability scanning. 

Five Most Frequently-Asked Questions About PCI DSS Vulnerability Scans

  1. How Long Does it Take to Get a PCI Scan?

Depending on a number of variables, like the size of your business or the volume of transactions it does, the scan itself could take a few hours to a few days. However, achieving comprehensive PCI DSS compliance is challenging, and it can take months to complete everything as required. Because of this, businesses worldwide choose to automate their compliance operations, including vulnerability scans.

  1. How Often Does PCI Compliance Require a Vulnerability Scan?

To adhere to PCI compliance standards, organizations must do internal and external PCI scanning quarterly or every 90 days internal and external PCI scanning. Companies must scan for vulnerabilities after sizable changes to their operations or IT infrastructure in addition to the quarterly scans. 

Compliance documentation is provided to the Acquirer in the form of scanning reports by the organization’s deadline. If you manage many business locations under the same tax ID, you must submit quarterly scanning reports by the ASV for each site.

  1. How Much Does a PCI Vulnerability Scan Cost?

The price of a PCI vulnerability scan can vary depending on your network, the volume of transactions processed, the size of the business, etc.

It is important to note that becoming PCI DSS compliant requires more than just running vulnerability scans; instead, businesses spend thousands of dollars preparing ready for the scans and audits. This is due to the possibility of severe financial consequences for non-compliance.

  1. Who Performs PCI Vulnerability Scans?

An ASV must conduct quarterly external scans; internal staff members may carry out scans after a network modification. You must ensure that the ASV performing your quarterly internal scans is not the same as conducting your external scans. 

You may require help from the ASV to install a tool or appliance for internal vulnerability scanning within the company’s network. Still, they will not be directly responsible for internal scans. It makes sense for a business to ensure that internal scanning is done to verify PCI compliance.

A qualified security expert, qualified staff, or an ASV could all perform internal vulnerability scanning. However, the person conducting the internal scan must be separate from the scanned component or object.

For instance, if a company needs to run an internal firewall scan, the person running the scans must not be responsible for firewall administration. Even if the firewall administrator is competent, they are still connected to the system being examined. You can use various methods, such as vulnerability scanning devices and solutions, to assist you in fulfilling the PCI internal vulnerability scan requirement. Consult your ASV for suggestions.

  1. What Happens if You Fail a PCI Vulnerability Scan?

Serious consequences, including fines, penalties, and restrictions on your capacity to process payment card transactions, may result from failing a PCI scan. Depending on the seriousness of the problems discovered in the scan, you may also be required to take prompt corrective action to repair any vulnerabilities or weaknesses in your credit card processing environment. 

Additionally, you could face even greater penalties and losses, such as legal accountability, a loss of client confidence, and reputational injury, if it is found that your company was not in compliance with PCI DSS guidelines during a data breach or security event. Therefore, it’s imperative to take PCI compliance seriously and commit to addressing any vulnerabilities discovered during the scan.

PCI DSS Compliance Readiness with Akitra! 

Establishing trust is a crucial competitive differentiator when courting new SaaS businesses in today’s era of data breaches and compromised privacy. Customers and partners want assurances that their organizations are doing everything possible to prevent disclosing sensitive data and putting them at risk, and compliance certification fills that need.

Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation platform for SaaS companies. Using automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation, our compliance automation platform and service help our customers prepare readiness for the PCI DSS compliance standard, along with other security frameworks like SOC 1, SOC 2, HIPAA, GDPR, ISO 27001, ISO 27701, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, NIST CSF, NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, FedRAMP, CMMC, and more such as CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark, etc. In addition, companies can use Akitra’s Risk Management product for overall risk management for your company, Trust Center, and AI-based Automated Questionnaire Response product to streamline and expedite security questionnaire response processes delivering huge cost savings. Our compliance and security experts will provide customized guidance to navigate the end-to-end compliance process confidently. 

The benefits of our solution include enormous savings in time, human resources, and cost savings, including discounted audit fees with our audit firm partners. Customers achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, stay continuously compliant as they grow, and can become certified under additional frameworks using a single compliance automation platform.

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