Penetration Testing: Cost Factors, Price Range, Ways to Optimize Its Budget
With 200+ cybersecurity projects and Certified Ethical Hackers onboard, ScienceSoft offers professional penetration testing services.
Cost of Penetration Testing: Outline
Penetration testing cost ranges from $5K to $40K+. The pricing mainly depends on the testing scope (defined by the number of testing targets and their complexity, testing scenarios and model) and a customer’s specific requirements to pentesting.
Penetration testing cost factors applicable to all pentesting projects are the following:
Scope of required testing activities.
Specific requirements to the qualifications of cybersecurity engineers and/or penetration testing time (e.g., you request pentesting only during weekends or night hours to keep uninterrupted availability and performance of testing targets).
Note: The scope of pentesting activities is the main cost factor, defining the number of security engineers involved in the project, their qualifications, and the required testing time.
Penetration testing targets and their number
Penetration testing can target an entire IT infrastructure, a networking infrastructure, an enterprise software ecosystem, specific applications, and key servers.
Based on the established processes we apply in our pentesting projects, ScienceSoft recommends the following steps to aim penetration testing activities at the right targets:
- Analyzing the IT infrastructure to find its probable security bottlenecks.
Note: It is viable to choose publicly accessible IT infrastructure components as testing targets: customer-facing web applications, IoT systems and their components (e.g., API gateways), etc., as the internet connectivity increases the number of cybersecurity threats they are exposed to.
- Prioritizing the publicly available IT infrastructure components based on their criticality to your business continuity and the sensitiveness of data stored in them.
- Shortlisting the high-priority IT infrastructure components that tend to be the most vulnerable to a potential attack.
Cost consideration: The need to bypass corporate cybersecurity systems (e.g., firewalls, DLP or IPS solutions) will become an additional cost factor.
Penetration testing scenarios
Pentesting scenarios cover the most vulnerable features of a testing target and its security loopholes commonly exploited by hackers.
Penetration testing typically includes the implementation of testing scenarios outlined in the following resources:
- OWASP Web Security Testing Guide.
- NIST 800-115 methodology.
- SANS TOP 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors.
- WASC Projects.
It is also possible to design custom scenarios for penetration testing, e.g., the scenarios aimed to check the compliance with a certain regulatory standard or resistance to social engineering attacks.
Note: Compliance testing checks if the security level of a testing target meets certain regulatory standards and requirements (HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, SOC 2, ISO 27001, etc.). The scope of penetration testing is wider and may include compliance testing.
Cost consideration: Custom pentesting scenarios are an additional pentesting cost factor.
Penetration Testing Model
The penetration testing model determines what kind of an attacker’s behavior a security engineer will simulate.
Black box penetration testing
It is a simulation of an unauthorized attacker’s behavior. Security engineers have only publicly available information (e.g., a host name of a public server, an IP address) and no specific information about a testing target and an IT infrastructure.
Check the pros and cons
- Shows how a real-life external adversary can compromise your cybersecurity.
- With limited access and knowledge of your infrastructure, security engineers cannot detect all possible vulnerabilities or deeply explore the detected security gaps and their possible impact.
- Can be time-consuming as security engineers need to investigate the testing target’s environment blindfolded.
It is a simulation of an authorized attacker’s actions. Security engineers get all relevant administrative privileges and information about the architecture and tech stack of the testing target, the implemented security measures, and IT infrastructure components integrated with it.
Check the pros and cons
- Enables finding as many security vulnerabilities within the testing target as possible.
- Results in comprehensive and detailed recommendations on how to mitigate the detected vulnerabilities.
- Leaves out the testing scenarios from the perspective of an external attacker.
- Requires sharing sensitive corporate insights with a penetration testing vendor.
A security engineer simulates the behavior either of an authorized attacker with limited privileges or an unauthorized one with an access to some internal information (e.g., user login details, network configuration specifics).
Check the pros and cons
- Provides a view of both external and internal vulnerabilities.
- Allows security engineers to explore potentially critical vulnerabilities in more detail.
- Does not require sharing as much corporate information as white box testing.
- Less time-consuming than black box testing.
- Should be performed by experienced security engineers, who can quickly evaluate the severity and complexity of a found vulnerability and decide whether it requires further investigation.
Cost consideration: Black box testing is considered to be the least costly model due to the fewer number of applicable testing scenarios and limited knowledge of the testing target. White box testing often happens to be the most expensive model because of the substantial scope of testing scenarios to be validated and deep investigation of detected vulnerabilities. Gray box testing model can help balance the penetration testing scope and cost, as security engineers can adjust the testing coverage on the go.
Note: Though it is likely to increase the pentesting cost, the best practice is to commission white box and gray box pentesting to security engineers holding official penetration testing certifications (e.g., Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), etc.
Depending on the scope factors, the costs of penetration testing projects differ greatly. You can consider sample one-time penetration testing projects of varied scopes to better understand how a similar penetration testing project can be rated on average:
The common cybersecurity best practice is to perform penetration regularly (quarterly, or at least annually) or after any significant change to your IT infrastructure or critical applications (e.g., networks’ modification or upgrade, the launch of new applications or app modules, cloud migration, re-architecting, introducing third-party integrations, etc.). Thus, the penetration testing budget is worth serious consideration and optimization.
Here are some tips to keep the pentesting budget under control:
Maintain your cybersecurity measures and policies
Your security administrators should:
- Keep the inventory of IT infrastructure components (e.g., servers, network devices, etc.) and applications up-to-date.
- Neatly track any changes introduced to IT infrastructure components.
- Prioritize infrastructure components based on their criticality and potential vulnerability.
- Run automated vulnerability scans regularly and timely mitigate the detected issues.
- Arm the employees against social engineering attacks by explaining and promoting safe communication, network and device use habits.
This way, after the initial penetration testing of the entire IT infrastructure, it will be easier for your pentesting vendor to select specific testing targets for the next penetration testing and reduce the number of penetration and social engineering testing projects.
Agree with your vendor to divide the testing scope into stages
This can make the pentesting budget more manageable and each consequent step will require less time and investment, as the vendor’s security engineers will be familiar with your IT infrastructure specifics.
Find a trusted partner for long-term cybersecurity cooperation
Long-term cooperation can help save the penetration testing budget in the following ways:
- Multi-year contracts usually presuppose discounts for regular penetration testing services.
- Your pentesting partner can provide a tailored penetration testing budget optimization strategy based on the previous penetration testing results and the knowledge of your IT landscape peculiarities.
One-time penetration testing
ScienceSoft’s cybersecurity engineers:
- Analyze your and IT infrastructure and software specifics, suggest a fitting pentesting scope.
- Select and configure the relevant testing tools.
- Perform the agreed pentesting activities. We stay in contact with your security, IT infrastructure, and application administrators, to pause or stop the penetration testing activities, if it comes to unexpected operation or performance issues.
- Provide a comprehensive penetration testing report.
Recurrent penetration testing
ScienceSoft’s cybersecurity engineers start with one-time pentesting activities and proceed with regular testing scheduled based on:
- Planned changes to your IT infrastructure (e.g., launching or removing infrastructure components) or critical applications (cloud migration, introducing third-party integrations, etc.).
- Planned compliance audits.
ScienceSoft is a global provider of IT consulting, software development, and cybersecurity services headquartered in McKinney, Texas, US. Our cybersecurity team, comprising Certified Ethical Hackers (CEHs), delivers expert cybersecurity and penetration testing services to help our customers ensure and maintain their IT infrastructures’ security and compliance with applicable regulatory standards. ScienceSoft’s information security management system is confirmed by the ISO 27001 certificate to guarantee the security of your corporate data entrusted to us.