Everything You Need To Know About PCI Vulnerability Scanning

The payments industry is now more prone to data threats from malicious hackers and other bad actors than ever. This is why implementing the PCI DSS compliance framework guidelines is essential for all business owners and merchants operating in this sector. However, managing and mitigating the inherent data risks involved in day-to-day financial transactions can be a mammoth task.

This is where vulnerability scanning comes in!

Companies in the financial industry must do internal and external network vulnerability assessments at least once every quarter and after making any substantial modifications to their networks, according to the rules highlighted in the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) security standard.

In this context, an upgrade or alteration that could jeopardize cardholder data or impact the environment’s security is an example of a substantial modification. For instance, adding new servers, transferring cardholder data to a new server, deleting the system that stores cardholder data, and implementing a new system to store cardholder data could all constitute major changes. Vulnerability scanning after such events must be conducted quickly and proactively. It is advised to do so within a 2-3 day period. For instance, if a business updates its system significantly the Thursday or Friday following its quarterly external scan.

This blog will discuss the basics of vulnerability scanning and its importance, the difference between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing, the requirements and benefits of PCI vulnerability scanning, and how to get started with one for your organization.

What is PCI Vulnerability Scanning?

The PCI vulnerability scan is an advanced automated test that locates and records potential network vulnerabilities in an organization.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) mandates that all businesses, regardless of size, undertake internal and external network vulnerability scans at least once every three months and after making any significant network changes.

Why is it important?

The PCI vulnerability scan is one of the finest ways to find potential weaknesses that malicious hackers, malware and ransomware software, and other bad actors could use.

External PCI network vulnerability assessments search for holes that hackers could use to attack a company’s network perimeter or website. Internal vulnerability scans check for network weaknesses on the company’s internal network. Internal and external scans should examine services, ports, and internal and external IP addresses for vulnerabilities.

The scanning requirement, or PCI DSS requirement 11.2, is one of the most well-known requirements of the PCI DSS compliance standard. However, this PCI DSS requirement goes beyond simply scanning servers and network components for flaws; it also calls for process changes and remediation to shield against future flaws. As soon as the flaws are discovered, the company fixes them and reruns the scan until all vulnerabilities have been fixed, according to their criticality.   

The tools and scripts used by vulnerability scanners to check for vulnerabilities include those produced by authorized scanning vendors (ASVs), GUI applications, command-line programs, and open-source software.

Difference Between PCI Vulnerability Scan and Penetration Testing

Penetration testing differs from vulnerability scanning, whether internal or external. Here are two notable distinctions:

  1. A penetration test involves a live human delving into your network’s intricate workings, whereas a vulnerability scan is automated.
  2. Only potential flaws are found by a vulnerability scan. A penetration tester will check whether the vulnerability can be exploited and look for the vulnerability’s primary cause, which could be access to secure systems or the storage of sensitive data.

Penetration testing and vulnerability scans complement each other to promote the highest level of network security. While penetration testing is a more thorough evaluation of your total information security posture, vulnerability scans are a great weekly, monthly, or quarterly insight into your network security.

Requirements of PCI Vulnerability Scanning

An automated web security scanner checks the systems and IT infrastructure of the merchant, service provider, payment gateway, and third-party payment processor for vulnerabilities. 

The scanner will check for flaws an attacker could exploit to infiltrate the systems and access personal data by examining networks, online applications, operating systems, services, devices, and other components.

PCI Compliance mandates the use of both internal and external vulnerability scanning methodologies. These scans generate a full report on the vulnerabilities discovered, along with recommendations for further reading and ways to patch them. 

For external scans in particular, scanners from PCI SSC Approved Scanning Vendors (ASV) are necessary. Let’s dive into the external and internal aspects of it now.

External Scans

To establish whether your network is secure and safe for users, an ASV must perform external scanning. Every public IP address range and a network firewall is externally examined. The network is also remotely scanned for security holes by an expert ASV like Indusface employing a zero-intrusion, intelligent web vulnerability scanner.

It is necessary to submit the scan-passing documents. You can be excluded from the external scan if one or more vulnerabilities are discovered. Until you receive a passing scan, the ASV will re-scan, and you will be tasked to resolve the issue. If the scan is unsuccessful, you could file a disagreement for particular reasons.

Internal Scans

Internal scanning can be carried out internally or under contract with the ASV. Internal scanning looks for security holes on hosts inside the environment that houses cardholder data. These are done behind company firewalls, inside the network, in the IT environment, and with other perimeter security tools. Organizations can employ an intelligent web application security scanner for internal scanning.

Benefits of PCI Vulnerability Scans

For companies dabbling in credit and debit card data, running routine PCI vulnerability scans are a “must-do”. Here is how they may benefit such organizations:

  1. Identify security risks and potential threats.

Cyberattacks may come out of the blue, making vulnerability scans necessary for any organization dealing with financial transactions and cardholder data. Taking fast and proper action helps organizations address vulnerabilities and reduce the chance of a data breach. 

  1. Adhere to the stringent standards of the PCI DSS framework.

These businesses compulsorily have to follow the guidelines outlined in the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which calls for PCI vulnerability screening and protects companies from costly fines and penalties for breaking the rules. 

  1. Show accountability to customers.

PCI vulnerability scanning gives companies a great chance to demonstrate to partners and customers that they are taking security measures to protect payment card information, which may boost customer confidence and trust in the business. 

  1. Enhance security posture long-term for the organization.

By verifying that security configurations and procedures are current, regular vulnerability scans help to improve security posture. Organizations can improve their data security defenses and decrease the attack surface by resolving vulnerabilities.

  1. Improve incident response.

Providing organizations with knowledge of potential attack paths and vulnerabilities can help improve their incident response capabilities. More than protecting against data threats is required; businesses must be proactive in learning how to resolve security incidents if they do occur. Regular vulnerability scanning can help with that. With the help of such information, organizations may focus on fixing urgent vulnerabilities and react quickly to security issues.

  1. Avoid PCI DSS non-compliance fines

If found to be in breach of PCI DSS guidelines, organizations can incur huge penalties and fines, leading to significant monetary losses, enough to bankrupt a company. Performing routine vulnerability assessments can help businesses avoid this completely and guarantee a secure environment for credit and debit card transactions.

How to Get Started with PCI Vulnerability Scanning?

Here are the steps you can follow to implement PCI DSS vulnerability scanning in your organization:

  1. Identify the Scope of Activities for Your Scan

Identify the systems, networks, and applications that fall under the purview of PCI DSS compliance to determine the vulnerability scan’s scope.

  1. Choose an approved scanning vendor (ASV) or a qualified security assessor (QSA): 

For carrying out the PCI vulnerability scan, pick a QSA or ASV. ASVs are businesses permitted by the PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) to carry out PCI vulnerability scans.

  1. Prepare the Systems and Networks for Scanning

This can entail ensuring the systems are operational and reachable, getting the required authorizations for the scanning software, and alerting the appropriate parties to the impending scan. 

  1. Performing the Vulnerability Scan

The QSA or ASV will perform the vulnerability scan using specialized scanning tools. These tools check the systems and networks for weaknesses, configuration errors, and known vulnerabilities.

  1. Assessing the Weaknesses Found in the Scan

The scan findings are examined to find vulnerabilities and gauge their seriousness. The QSA or ASV will analyze the results, classify them according to severity levels, and offer remediation suggestions.

  1. Reporting

A thorough vulnerability scan report details the results, severity ranges, and suggested corrective actions. The report should also provide proof of the scan, like timestamps and information about the scanning software utilized.

  1. Remediation

Based on the report’s recommendations, the organization takes steps to remediate the found vulnerabilities. This could entail repairing systems, changing settings, updating software, or adding further security measures.

  1. Re-scanning

After fixing the vulnerabilities, a re-scan is carried out to ensure successful remediation measures. This stage provides the systems are secure, and the vulnerabilities have been fixed.

  1. Reporting and Attestation of Compliance

The QSA or ASV produces a final report of compliance, known as an Attestation of Compliance (AOC), once the vulnerabilities have been fixed and the re-scan has verified that all changes have been implemented successfully. This document attests to the organization’s compliance with the PCI DSS requirements.

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.

Build customer trust. Choose Akitra TODAY!‍
To book your FREE DEMO, contact us right here.

Request a Demo & See if We’re the Right Fit for Each Other

cta 2

Request a Demo & See if We’re the Right Fit for Each Other

cta 2

Request a Demo & See if We’re the Right Fit for Each Other

cta 2

We care about your privacy​
We use cookies to operate this website, improve usability, personalize your experience, and improve our marketing. Your privacy is important to us and we will never sell your data. Privacy Policy.

%d bloggers like this: