Are you considering a penetration test to evaluate your system and network security? If so, consider the pen test cost first. Penetration testing, or “pen testing,” can be expensive, but the benefits of identifying vulnerabilities and improving security are invaluable.
Generally, a pen test costs anywhere between £3300 to £83000. Let’s explore the factors contributing to this security assessment price. By understanding the various elements of penetration testing costs, you can make more informed decisions about allocating your security budget and choosing the right testing provider for your needs.
Understanding Penetration Testing
Penetration testing follows a structured and formal ethical hacking methodology to assess an organisation’s security posture. Penetration testers identify and exploit computer systems, networks, and application vulnerabilities to guarantee better security for your organisation.
While it is a test you want to carry out routinely, it also is a bit more expensive than other security assessments like cyber threat intelligence services. The penetration testing process also includes holistic vulnerability management, thus justifying the costs. As you know, vulnerability testing focuses on discovering and analysing vulnerabilities, while penetration tests exploit those vulnerabilities to mitigate threats.
So, if you want the best penetration testing services, you must understand the factors determining the costs. These aspects will help you allocate budgets, define the scope of your penetration test, and determine how frequently you can perform these tests. Let’s discuss them below!
Factors That Influence Penetration Testing Pricing
So, how much does penetration testing cost? The answer depends on the following:
1. The Scope of the Test
The scope of a typical penetration test is a huge factor that can impact the overall cost. The larger the scope, the more time-consuming and complex the testing process becomes, which will result in a higher cost. Some of the factors that can impact the scope of the test include:
- The number of systems and applications you want to be tested
- The size and complexity of your organisation’s network infrastructure
- The geographic locations of your systems
- The level of access you grant to the testers
You can start with a smaller scope and gradually expand the testing over time as your security needs and budget allow.
2. The Complexity of the Systems Being Tested
The complexity of your systems is another element that can impact the cost of the engagement. More complex systems require more time and effort to test, thus resulting in a higher cost. Some of the factors that can impact the complexity of the systems being tested include:
- The number and types of integrations between your systems
- The level of customisation of your systems
- The existence of non-standard protocols or technologies
- The presence of legacy systems or outdated software
To keep the penetration test cost manageable, you can first prioritise testing your most critical systems and applications.
3. Type of Penetration Test
The type of penetration test chosen can significantly impact the pen test pricing. Here are a few examples of different types of penetration tests and how they can alter prices:
- Network penetration testing: This test focuses on network resources such as servers, routers, switches, and firewalls. Its cost depends on the complexity of the network and the number of devices being tested.
- Web application penetration testing: This tests the security of web applications and identifies vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit. Its cost depends on the web application’s complexity and the number of tested pages.
- Mobile application penetration testing focuses on mobile applications’ security on Android and iOS platforms. Its cost mostly depends on how many features are being tested.
- Social engineering testing focuses on the effectiveness of your company’s security awareness training. It stimulates a phishing attack, physical security breach, or phone-based social engineering attack. Its cost depends on the level of detail involved in the scenario and the number of people being tested.
4. Penetration Testing Method
As you know, there are two main pen testing methods; external and internal penetration tests. These methods differ in the tester’s perspective and can influence a test’s cost.
An external penetration test is similar to a black box penetration test in that the tester has no prior knowledge of the system. The test requires effort to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses from an attacker’s perspective and may cost less than an internal penetration test.
The internal one requires more resources and effort to simulate an attacker who has already gained access to the network and is similar to a white box penetration test. As such, it is slightly more expensive than an external test but offers better remedies to mitigate data breach damage.
5. The Tester’s Experience and Expertise
The testing team’s expertise and qualifications can significantly impact the cost of your penetration testing engagement. Experienced and highly qualified testers command higher rates than less experienced ones. However, you can weigh the cost of the penetration testing company against the potential risks and costs of a security breach or vulnerability that goes undetected.
For instance, a highly qualified testing team will likely identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your system more efficiently than a less qualified one. As a result, the test will save costs for the organisation by preventing a security breach. In addition, a highly qualified testing team will provide more detailed and accurate reports, which will help determine how to address the vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
6. Manual vs. Automated Testing
Your team can perform a penetration test manually or automatedly, and each method can influence the cost of the test. Manual testing requires the tester to review the system manually in a time-intensive process that can drive the cost of engagement higher. Automatic testing, on the other hand, uses software tools and scripts to scan and test the system. This process is more efficient and cost-effective and reduces the time and effort required by the testing team.
Unfortunately, automatic testing tools are less effective than manual testing and can generate false positives and negatives. Therefore, combining manual and automatic testing methods may be better to ensure a comprehensive and accurate assessment of your system’s security posture.
7. Remote or On-Premise Testing
Your pen testing costs will also be influenced by where the testing team works from. Remote vulnerability scanning involves testing the system from a remote location or without physical access to the system. This testing is more cost-effective, as it eliminates travel and accommodation expenses for the testing team.
On-premise testing, conversely, means the team is working on-site with physical access to your system. While this is the more expensive vulnerability scan, it is the more effective at identifying vulnerabilities that a remote test can miss.
8. The Level of Reporting
Penetration testing reports provide detailed information on the vulnerabilities identified during the testing process and recommendations for remediation and mitigation. The level of detail you ask for in your report will influence the cost of penetration testing. However, asking for a detailed report to ensure you remediate all vulnerabilities is always best.
When hiring a pen test team, remember to ask whether they provide free retests after identifying and remediating vulnerabilities. A retest verifies that you have addressed all issues, thus ensuring the system is secure. Understand that some service providers do not offer a retest for free, as it can be as time-consuming as an initial test in some cases.
How to Estimate Your Pen Testing Cost
As you can see from the factors above, estimating the penetration testing cost can be tough. But here are a few things you can do to allow better budgeting:
- Define the scope of the test by prioritising which systems, applications, and networks will be tested. In addition, also determine which testing methodologies you prefer.
- Conduct online research to understand the average cost of similar testing engagements.
- Select an experienced penetration testing team and negotiate the pricing and costs. Remember to ask for a detailed proposal outlining the cost and timeline of the engagement, the testing methods, and the types of testing the team will perform.
Understanding penetration testing costs is essential for making informed decisions about your organisation’s security posture. When you consider the factors we discussed above, you will create a proactive and comprehensive approach that ensures you get a security testing engagement that identifies vulnerabilities and provides remediation recommendations while staying within budget.
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