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A comprehensive guide to PCI Penetration Testing

icon Posted by: Hasan Sameer
icon February 22, 2023

In Brief

What is PCI Penetration Test?

PCI penetration testing is a cybersecurity measure that helps organizations predict abusive errors in their systems that can lead to data breaches. The process involves ethical hackers simulating attacks on an organization’s network and systems. They do it as the hackers do. It is necessary to mimic the hacker mindset to prepare a defense against them. Just like api penetration testing, it is a manual process that goes deeper than an automatic vulnerability scan. Only the testing professionals that are experts in their business execute this kind of pen testing. The goal of such testing is to look for security issues that automated scanners cannot identify and exploit these vulnerabilities when they find them. You need to regularly test protection systems and processes and check external and internal systems.


of breaches to customer payment information did not even generate an alert.


of organizations only were in full compliance with PCI DSS in 2019.


of companies suffered a breach through insecure remote access.


of customers are hesitant to do business with an organization that has suffered a breach in the recent past.

How is PCI Penetration Testing Done?

The following are the steps involved in the PCI pentesting process:

1. Scoping: Here the testing team defines the scope of the test by addressing your PCI DSS compliance assessment requirements for your internal network. It is a necessary step for determining the limitations and rules of the testing.

2. Discovery: In this phase, testers identify your network assets specific to the scope of the CDE. This step also involves gathering information about the target network. Plus, the identification of all the hosts in the target network and their respective services is also a part of this step.

3. Evaluation: Using the information and all the details gathered in the scoping phase, the testers try to exploit vulnerabilities in the available services. It can be done in multiple forms, including DoS attacks, SQL injections, or a buffer overflow.

4. Reporting: After evaluating the network and applications, the testing team delivers a comprehensive test report. This report features a clear flow through the penetration testing stages to give evidence to the assigned QSA or other stakeholders.

5. Retesting: When all the vulnerabilities are mitigated, a re-scanning is done to make sure everything has been patched successfully. Testers do it by repeating the penetration test to check whether the vulnerabilities are completely fixed or not.

As you can see, the test flow is similar to that of conventional security processes like application penetration testing. However, the purpose of PCI pen testing is somewhat specific. It is all about spotting and exploiting vulnerabilities that are coming in the way of PCI DSS compliance.

Now, let us have a look at different types of PCI Penetration testing…

Types of PCI Penetration Testing

The following are the main types of PCI pen testing:

PCI DSS Network Penetration Test

This type of test is done to identify security issues associated with a server, workstation, network service design, implementation, and maintenance. Security issues that are commonly uncovered during this kind of testing are:

  • Unsafe security protocols
  • Misconfigurations in software, firewalls, and operating systems
  • Outdated software and operating systems

PCI DSS Segmentation control

A segmentation test is executed to check whether a misconfigured firewall allows access to a secure network. Common issues discovered in this test are:

  • Enabling TCP connection where it should not be
  • Improper pinging

PCI DSS Application Penetration Test

There is always a chance of security vulnerabilities within the applications you use. PCI application pentesting is a process that makes sure that threats are not left vulnerable to your web applications and help you avoid the danger. Vulnerabilities that you will commonly find in this testing are:

  • Injection vulnerabilities
  • Broken authorization
  • Broken authentication
  • Incorrect error handling

How to Choose a PCI Pen Testing Service Provider?

Just like application, cloud, web, and api penetration testing, the results of a PCI pen testing depend a lot on the service provider you choose. The following are the key factors you need to consider while choosing the service provider for PCI pen testing:

  1. Remediation Assistance
  2. Service Level Agreement
  3. Reputation
  4. Continuous Scanning

Before You Go!

  • PCI penetration testing is just as important as any other cyber security practice. It helps you to be in compliance with one of the most necessary industrial regulations.
  • You can seek help from expert cyber consulting services for implementing PCI pen testing solution within your organization.


  • api penetration testing
  • cybersecurity consultancy
  • PCI Penetration Testing
  • web application pen testing

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