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How to Achieve PCI-compliance?

There has been a remarkable advancement in technology over a decade. For example, previously, to buy anything or to pay any bills, you had to go to the shop and do it, but right now, you can just go through the internet, order the items, and make payments online just sitting at home. Payments can be made through credit cards via card processing gateways. As the availability of online services expanded, the number of payment vendors also increased.

The data we enter on these sites is critical, and we need to ensure it is not misused and is secure. PCI ( Payment Card Industry) compliance was introduced to address these concerns and establish standards for payment processing companies.

In this article, we will explain PCI, its requirements, benefits, and the role of testing in achieving it.

What is PCI Compliance?

PCI compliance refers to standards set to secure credit card transactions in the payments industry. This compliance is intended for all the companies that process, store, or transmit credit card information. PCI compliance was launched in 2006 and is currently managed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), an open global forum created by five credit card companies – Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB.

All the card brand companies must follow the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) to ensure Security. PCI DSS consists of 12 essential requirements, 78 base requirements, and 400 test procedures to ensure that organizations are PCI compliant. PCI compliance is one of the core components of any credit card company’s security protocol, and credit card companies generally mandate it.

Requirements of PCI Compliance

To be PCI compliant, a company must ensure it follows all 12 requirements mandated by the PCI SSC. Let’s review each in detail.

Use and Maintain Firewalls

As per PCI DSS standards, firewalls need to be configured and maintained to restrict unauthorized access. A firewall needs to be configured with strong passwords and access controls that help to safeguard against hackers. Firewall acts as the first line of defense against them. With a firewall, we can block traffic from unauthorized sources. Also, you need to ensure you set up a firewall on all devices that handle customer data.

Proper Password Protections

There should be proper checks on the devices, routers, and modems to see whether they are configured with strong passwords or not with the default password during the time of configuration. Default passwords are easy to crack, and hackers can easily access them. As per PCI DSS, there should be a proper check of passwords, and the configurations should be in place to prompt the user to change the password after a specific period.

Protect Cardholder Data

The cardholder data should have a double layer of protection. First, the cardholder data should be encrypted using encryption algorithms, and then the encryption keys should also be encrypted to meet compliance standards. Also, the cardholder data should not be kept if it’s not required. PSI DSS suggests purging all the unwanted employee data every quarter.

Encrypt Transmitted Data

It demands to have proper encryption while sending customer data across public networks. These include the Internet, cellular networks, wireless networks, etc. Also, account numbers should never be sent to unknown locations.

Use and Update Anti-Virus

After the Firewall comes Anti-Virus, its mandate is to install every machine with robust Anti-Virus and regularly update the patches. Installation alone won’t be enough, as new threats evolve daily, so updating the patches is also mandatory.

Up-to-Date Software

Regular updates are essential for firewalls, antivirus software, and all other business software. These updates often include security patches that address newly discovered vulnerabilities, bolstering overall system protection. This is especially crucial for software on devices handling cardholder data.

Least Privilege Access Control

PCI DSS mandates the ‘least privilege’ principle for data access. Only authorized personnel who genuinely “need to know” cardholder data for their job duties should have access. Roles granting access to sensitive data should be clearly documented and regularly reviewed to ensure continued necessity.

Unique User IDs

Unique user IDs and credentials are mandatory for individuals with access to cardholder data. This eliminates the risk of shared logins and passwords, significantly reducing vulnerability. Unique IDs also facilitate faster response times if a security breach occurs.

Physical Security Controls

PCI DSS requires robust physical security for any location storing cardholder data, whether physical documents or digital storage devices. Secure rooms, locked drawers, or cabinets are essential to restrict unauthorized access. Additionally, access to these secure areas and any instances of accessing data must be logged for compliance purposes.

Comprehensive Logging

All activity involving cardholder data and Primary Account Numbers (PAN) must be meticulously logged. A lack of proper record-keeping is a frequent non-compliance issue. PCI DSS mandates documenting how data enters your organization, the number of access instances, and the data flow throughout your system. Software solutions can be implemented to ensure accurate logging.

Regular Vulnerability Scans and Testing

With numerous software products, physical locations, and human interaction involved, vulnerabilities can arise. PCI DSS addresses this by requiring regular vulnerability scans and testing to identify and address potential weaknesses in your security posture.

Documented Policies

For successful PCI DSS attestation, a comprehensive documentation process is required. This includes maintaining an inventory of equipment, software, and personnel with data access permissions. Additionally, access logs, data flow within the organization, storage practices, and post-sale data usage procedures all need to be documented.

Merchant Levels

The payment card industry categorizes merchants into different levels to assess risk and establish the necessary security measures for each business. These levels are determined by the number of transactions a merchant processes annually and dictate the extent of assessment and security validation needed for a merchant to meet PCI DSS compliance requirements.

There are four main levels of merchant PCI compliance.

Level 1 (Over 6 Million Transactions)

This level applies to large businesses, typically multinational corporations, processing exceptionally high transaction volumes annually. Level 1 merchants face the most stringent requirements. They undergo a thorough PCI assessment conducted by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) who issues a Report on Compliance (ROC) verifying adherence to PCI DSS standards. This ROC is submitted to the acquiring bank and ultimately reaches the credit card company for final verification.

Level 2 (1 Million to 6 Million Transactions)

This level encompasses medium-sized businesses processing a significant volume of transactions annually. Level 2 merchants must complete a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) annually. Additionally, some Level 2 merchants may be required to undergo quarterly network audits by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).

Level 3 (20,000 to 1 Million Transactions)

This level covers smaller businesses with a moderate annual transaction volume. Similar to Level 2, Level 3 merchants complete an annual SAQ. They may also be subject to quarterly network audits.

Level 4 (Fewer Than 20,000 Transactions)

This level represents the smallest merchants, such as local stores, restaurants, and e-commerce startups, processing a relatively low volume of transactions annually. Like Level 3, Level 4 merchants complete an SAQ annually and may be required to conduct quarterly network audits.

Benefits of PCI Compliance

PCI Compliance brings a lot of advantages for both the organization and the customer. Let’s look at them in detail.

For Organizations

  • Reduced Risk of Data Breaches: PCI DSS outlines a comprehensive security framework that helps organizations identify and address vulnerabilities in their systems, significantly reducing the risk of data breaches and the associated financial and reputational damage.
  • Enhanced Brand Reputation: Demonstrating commitment to PCI compliance fosters trust with customers and partners. By showcasing strong security practices, organizations position themselves as reliable stewards of sensitive cardholder data.
  • Improved Customer Loyalty: Customers are increasingly concerned about data security. Achieving and maintaining PCI compliance demonstrates an organization’s dedication to protecting customer information, leading to increased customer loyalty and satisfaction.
  • Reduced Operational Costs: Data breaches can be incredibly expensive, involving hefty fines, legal fees, and reputational repair efforts. PCI compliance helps minimize these costs by proactively safeguarding sensitive data.
  • Competitive Advantage: In today’s data-driven world, strong security practices are a competitive differentiator. PCI compliance can give organizations an edge over competitors who may not prioritize data security to the same degree.

For Customers

  • Increased Security: When businesses comply with PCI DSS, customers can be more confident that their cardholder data is protected against unauthorized access and misuse.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing their financial information is being handled securely by PCI-compliant organizations allows customers to shop and conduct transactions online with greater peace of mind.
  • Reduced Risk of Identity Theft: Data breaches can lead to identity theft, a serious crime that can cause significant financial hardship and emotional distress for victims. PCI compliance helps mitigate this risk.
  • Empowered Consumer Choice: Customers who understand the importance of PCI compliance can make informed decisions when choosing businesses to trust with their financial information.

Role of Testing in PCI Compliance

PCI Compliance ensures that all businesses handling credit card information uphold a high standard of security to protect cardholder data. Testing plays a crucial role in maintaining and verifying this compliance. Here’s how:

Regular Security Assessments

Continuous testing helps identify vulnerabilities in the security infrastructure before they can be exploited. This includes penetration testing and vulnerability scans, which are mandated by PCI DSS to be performed at least annually and after any significant changes to the network.

Read: Continuous Integration and Testing: Best Practices.

Validation of Security Measures

Testing validates the effectiveness of security controls and processes in place. For example, firewall configurations, encryption methods, and access controls must be tested to ensure they function as intended and comply with PCI DSS requirements.

Compliance Audits

Regular audits are required for merchants, depending on their level of transactions. These audits involve both self-assessments and external assessments conducted by Qualified Security Assessors (QSAs). Testing during these audits ensures that the merchant continuously meets the required security standards.

Risk Management

By regularly testing security measures, businesses can better manage risks associated with handling cardholder data. This proactive approach helps in the timely updating of security practices and technology in accordance with evolving threats. Read this cautionary guide on Online Fake Credit Card Number Generators.

Building Trust

Effective testing and compliance with PCI DSS help build trust among customers, who are assured that their card information is handled securely.

Testing Types in PCI Compliance

In PCI compliance, various types of testing are crucial to ensure that security measures are effective and vulnerabilities are addressed. These tests validate the protection mechanisms set in place for cardholder data. Here are the primary types of testing required under PCI DSS standards:

Vulnerability Scanning

This automated test scans web applications, networks, and systems to detect vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. Merchants are required to conduct these scans quarterly using tools approved by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). We can use popular tools like Qualys, Nessus, and Rapid7 for vulnerability scanning.

Penetration Testing

Unlike vulnerability scans, penetration testing is a more active form of testing where testers (ethical hackers) attempt to exploit weaknesses in the security infrastructure. This test is performed at least annually and after any significant change to the network or applications. It helps to understand the effectiveness of the existing security measures. Commonly used tools are Metasploit, Burp Suite, and OWASP ZAP.

Segmentation Testing

Segmentation testing is conducted to ensure that systems processing cardholder data are properly isolated from other network segments. This is crucial for reducing the scope of the PCI DSS assessment and securing cardholder data environments. Custom scripts and tools like Nmap can be used to assess segmentation for segmentation testing.

Code Reviews

This manual testing process involves a thorough review of the application source code to identify security flaws. It is an essential part of securing web applications and ensuring they are free of vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches. Static application security testing (SAST) tools like Veracode, Checkmarx, and Fortify are used to analyze the source code for potential security issues.

File Integrity Monitoring (FIM)

FIM tools automatically detect changes to critical files, which are tested to ensure they effectively alert when unauthorized changes are made. This is part of maintaining the integrity of the systems within the PCI DSS scope. Tools such as Tripwire and OSSEC monitor changes that could indicate a breach of the PCI DSS controls.

Web Application Testing

Web application testing is critical, as the application usually saves cardholder data in sessions. We also need to ensure the third-party applications that process the card details don’t store the critical data. Also, with web testing, we can identify data leaks like insecure data transmissions, improper management of session data, and application vulnerabilities. Since the web testing is automated, we can run these tests regularly whenever there is a system configuration change or new version updates to ensure there are no security flaws. Read: Learning Software Application Testing: A Guide.

testRigor and Selenium can be used for Web application testing. However, testRigor has more advantages than Selenium due to its advanced features. Read here the 11 Reasons NOT to Use Selenium for Automation Testing.

Let’s have a look at how testRigor can ease the PCI compliance testing for your application.

testRigor as an Automation Testing Tool for PCI Compliance

testRigor is an advanced codeless automation tool with useful AI-enabled features. With testRigor, it’s simple to create and execute test steps across multiple devices and platforms using plain English commands.

testRigor is an excellent choice for robust end-to-end testing. Read this guide on how to do end-to-end testing with testRigor. One of the main advantages of testRigor is that you can create test scripts in plain English. You don’t need to spend much time debugging and maintaining crazy automation codes and exceptions. There are a few advantages of using testRigor in accordance with PCI compliance:

  • One tool provides all solutions: The systems that handle critical data can use any browser or OS and be mobile devices. With testRigor, you can easily perform cross-browser and cross-platform testing. Execute test cases on the web, mobile (native, hybrid), and desktop. Therefore, using a single automation testing tool you can cover all critical device, platform, and browser combinations.
  • API testing: Perform API testing, which helps perform platform-level testing on various components in the application. Read this step-by-step guide on how to do API testing using testRigor.
  • Cookies, sessions, local storage testing: As mentioned above, testing cookies, sessions, user agents, and local storage is important in PCI compliance. We can perform that easily using testRigor using plain English commands, read how to test browser cookies using testRigor.
  • Create test variables: Using testRigor, we don’t need to provide any critical data as hard coded. We can save all those variables and call them in the script. Read: How to use variables in testRigor?
  • Complex scenarios in English commands: Perform Use simple English commands to test the email, phone calls, and SMS. These commands help validate 2FA scenarios, with OTPs and authentication codes being sent via email, phone calls, or via phone text.
    testRigor efficiently manages the 2FA, QR Code, and Captcha resolution through its simple English commands.
    Execute the test steps involving file download or file upload without the requirement of any third-party software.
  • Database testing: Execute database queries and validate the results fetched.
Now, let’s see an example of testRigor test case:
login as User
add selected product to cart
click "Checkout"
click "Make Payment"
click "Credit Card"
enter stored value "Card Number" into "Card Number"
enter stored value "User Name" into "Card Holder Name"
enter stored value "Expiry Date" into "Expiry Date"
enter stored value "CVV" into "CVV"
click "Make Payment" roughly to the left of "Cancel"
check the page contains "Your Payment is Complete"

This sample test script demonstrates that it contains simple English steps. Additionally, with testRigor, we can create reusable functions and save them for future use. This eliminates the need to write all steps repeatedly; instead, we can simply invoke the function, such as login as User. Read: How to use reusable rules or subroutines in testRigor?

Furthermore, as we discussed above, We can store values with identifiers and easily reference them in the script, as seen in the command enter stored value ‘Card Number’ into ‘Card Number’.


PCI compliance is crucial for any business that handles credit card information, ensuring that data remains secure and that the company adheres to industry-standard security practices. By achieving and maintaining PCI compliance, businesses not only protect themselves from the potential financial and reputational damages of data breaches but also build trust with their customers, assuring them that their sensitive information is handled safely.

For companies looking to automate their compliance testing processes, tools like testRigor offer advanced, AI-enabled, codeless automation capabilities to efficiently test complex scenarios using English commands. This helps create a testing environment where every team member can contribute to test creation, execution, and update since it does not work on any programming language.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

IS PCI Compliance legally required?

PCI compliance is a set of security standards, not a law. So, there is no need to adhere to it legally. However, being PCI compliant gives the trust that the organization handles data securely. Also, PCI SSC mandates merchants to comply with credit card payment processing.

How often is compliance verification required?

Compliance verification frequency depends on the merchant level. Most businesses conduct annual assessments and quarterly network scans. However, Level 1 merchants require an annual verification.

What happens if a business is not PCI compliant?

Non-compliance can result in significant penalties, including fines, increased transaction fees, or even termination of the ability to process credit card payments. In the event of a data breach, non-compliant businesses may face additional fines, legal fees, and damage to their reputation.

How can tools like testRigor assist with PCI compliance?

Using AI-enabled, codeless automation tools like testRigor streamlines the compliance process, ensures accuracy in testing, and saves time, allowing businesses to focus on other areas of security and operations.

What are the other compliances that testRigor supports?

testRigor is SOC2 and HIPAA compliant and supports FDA 21 CFR Part 11 reporting. You can efficiently perform accessibility testing through testRigor. Read here how to build an ADA-compliant app.

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