5 factors that influence the cost of penetration testing

If you are responsible for information security for your business, you know that penetration testing is essential to keeping your data secure. But how much do penetration tests cost? And what influences its cost? In this blog post, we’ll address these and other concerns. We’ll also offer some tips on how to get the most out of your money.

Understanding Penetration Testing:

What is it and why do you need it?

Penetration testing is the act of attacking a system in order to discover its security flaws. Pen testers are security experts who use their technical expertise to identify weaknesses in software applications and operating systems. If they can access a system without permission, an attacker probably can too!

Penetration testing is an essential part of every organization’s security strategy because it allows you to identify and remediate threats before they become costly breaches. The average cost per record lost in the event of a data breach is $161, according to IBM and the Ponemon Institute in 2021. If your business processes credit cards or other personally identifiable information (PII), you should undergo data breach testing. annual penetration by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) or other compliance standards such as HIPAA.

What is the penetration test?

The typical penetration testing process includes the following six steps:

  1. Planning and scope: In this step, the pen tester determines the scope of the test and identifies the systems that will be tested.
  2. Reconnaissance: The pen tester collects information about target systems, such as running software and open ports.
  3. Attack: The pen tester attempts to exploit vulnerabilities that were identified during the reconnaissance step.
  4. Reports: The Pen Tester produces a report documenting the test results and provides recommendations for remediating any discovered vulnerabilities.
  5. Follow-up: In this stage, the organization implements the report’s recommendations and closes any security holes discovered during the penetration test.

Benefits of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a great way to improve your organization’s security. Here are some benefits:

  • Reduced organizational risk: Penetration testing can help you identify and fix security vulnerabilities before they become costly data breaches.
  • Compliance with industry regulations: Certain compliance standards, such as PCI DSS and HIPAA, require periodic penetration testing if you process credit card or personal identification information.
  • Insurance premiums: Insurance companies often offer discounts to organizations that regularly undergo penetration testing and implement the recommendations in their reports.
  • Improved security posture: Penetration testing can help you improve your organization’s overall security by identifying and correcting weaknesses in your security infrastructure.

The price of a penetration test:

So how much does the penetration test cost? Depending on the scope and complexity of the assessment, costs can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. However, you can expect to pay between $500 and $15,000 for a single test.

5 Factors That Influence Penetration Testing Pricing

1. The complexity of the target environment:

For penetration testing of larger networks and organizations, this can take up to several months. This increases with the complexity of the environment, such as the presence of multiple operating systems, a wide range of devices, web applications and databases. The more complex your environment, the more time and effort it will take to assess all potential vulnerabilities and the more expensive it can be. Also, larger companies are more likely to have data breaches, so they are more likely to need penetration testing services on an ongoing basis.

2. Scope of the assessment:

The scope of a penetration test can vary widely, from a cursory examination of your systems to an in-depth examination that includes an attempt to hack into every system and database. The more complete the test, the higher the price will be.

3. Skills and experience of testers:

You’ll get what you pay for when it comes to penetration testers. If you want experienced and certified professionals who are well versed in the latest hacking techniques, be prepared to pay more. Likewise, hiring individuals versus hiring a team of professionals from top pentesting companies will cost you less.

4. Deadline and number of testers involved:

Like most things in life, the sooner you want something done, the more you will pay. The more individuals participating in a penetration test, the more expensive it is. This is due to the need to compensate each individual for their time.

5. Type of penetration test and resources used:

  • Black-box testing: This is the most expensive and involves giving testers no information about the target environment other than what they can glean from publicly available sources. First, testers have to spend a lot more effort and time collecting information. Although it’s the most expensive, it’s also the most efficient because it approaches testing like a real-world hacker.
  • White-box testing: Costs the least because testers have access to all relevant information about the systems under test, including passwords, usernames, and network configurations. Although it’s the cheapest, it’s also the least effective because a real-world attacker wouldn’t have access to this information, but it’s good for testing how ex-employees can try to hack into systems.
  • Gray-box testing: This falls between white-box and black-box testing, where testers are given partial information about the systems under test but still need some of their own data collection efforts. Gray box testing can be more expensive than white box testing if testers have to spend a lot of time collecting information, but it will never be as expensive as black box testing. It is a good compromise between price and efficiency.
  • Automated Penetration Testing: This is a newer and growing field that uses automated tools to try to find vulnerabilities in systems. Although not as comprehensive as manual testing, it can be a good option for organizations on a tight budget.
  • Manual penetration test: This is more thorough and results in fewer false positives compared to automated tools. Since it doesn’t rely on automated tools to get the job done, it won’t miss some critical threats or flag false positives. Instead, a tester does all the work manually, monitoring every step, but it also takes the most time.

Many factors go into the cost of penetration testing, so it’s important to understand what you’re getting for your money.

Get the best value for money

To make an accurate estimate, your penetration testing vendor will need to know some specifics about your environment and business processes. So before contacting a supplier, take the time to answer the following questions:

  • What systems do you want to test (eg networks, web applications, databases)?
  • What is the estimated complexity of your target environment?
  • What will be the scope of the evaluation?
  • Are there any specific compliance requirements to meet?
  • Who are your main users/customers?
  • Do you have an in-house IT security team or do you need a penetration tester to provide remediation advice?
  • What is the maximum budget you have for testing?
  • How quickly do you need the test to be completed?

Understanding these ideas will help you better understand pricing and what is included in a penetration testing review.

Reduce the cost

As with anything, there are always ways to reduce the cost of penetration testing without compromising quality. Here are a few tips :

Use automated testing tools

Although not as comprehensive as manual testing, automated tools can be a good option for organizations on a tight budget.

Limit the scope of the evaluation

If you don’t need to test all systems, consider narrowing the scope of the assessment to save money.

Use internal staff

They can help prepare for and assist with the penetration test. This will reduce the testing time and therefore the cost.

Do it yourself

You can always consider doing in-house penetration testing. If you have a skilled IT team or an experienced IT security consultant, this may be an option for you. Just make sure they are trained and certified to do so. For example, if you are testing for PCI DSS compliance, your internal team will need to be certified in the PCI Certified Penetration Testing Program.

How do you determine if the cost is worth it?

The most important question when considering a penetration test is: “How much would it cost us if we were hacked?” If that’s not enough to convince your boss or client that security is important, try asking them what their current level of risk tolerance is. For example, a small business may be willing to accept a higher level of risk than a large business.

The final decision whether or not to invest in penetration testing will depend on the risk analysis and the cost-benefit analysis. But remember that the cost of penetration testing will always be less than the cost of repairing the damage caused by a hacker.

The bottom line

The cost of not running a penetration test far outweighs the price you pay to get one, so it’s important to make sure your network and systems are as secure as possible. By being aware of the factors that influence prices, you will be able to better judge whether or not a quote from a supplier is reasonable and accurate.

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