Starting and running a business is expensive and the expenses do not stop even after your company is making a profit. You have to consider materials, costs of labor, facilities, and equipment just to name a few of the many expenses you have to cover. Another crucial purchase you must consider is that of cybersecurity for your company.
Even if your company operates under a simple website or has an internal communication service, employing knowledgeable cybersecurity experts like those with RSI Security can guarantee that you will save money by taking precautions rather than paying costly fines, data breaches, or losing customers.
One of the elements you might be wondering about is the cost of penetration testing. One of the challenges to operating a business of any kind is determining the cost to value ratio when deciding to make purchases, employ individuals, install software, or buy new hardware.
Questions to Consider
Running your business requires you to prioritize tasks or purchases based on their value and timeliness. When you have determined that implementing a strong cybersecurity team is critical to your business’ success, it can then be difficult justifying costs or knowing whether an expensive service is worth the purchase.
Before you think about a few questions you should consider when determining cost-to-value ratios, it is important you understand why information security for small organizations or similarly network security for large businesses is a purchase you can justify. No matter where you fall in the spectrum of business size, RSI Security has a team dedicated to tackling any problem.
Ask yourself these questions when thinking about penetration testing costs or any business expense for that matter:
- How much would I lose if I don’t implement this process? These losses may be things like customer trust, money, or certificates. Some purchases, such as employing regular penetration tests, may be required to meet certification standards set by HIPAA, PCI DSS, or NIST.
- If I choose to pay a low fee for penetration testing, will it meet a standard of excellence I am looking for? Everyone wants to save money, but scrimping on costs could lead to critical errors or future expenses that cost more than even the initial process.
- Does a high price tag mean that I am getting the best service? Not necessarily. You should consider what the service entails. Follow up with questions such as: what is the scope of your service? Do you have warranties?
- How long has the company been performing these services? Time can naturally affect the cost of a service as a company performing a penetration test might showcase their ability to do it more quickly and efficiently.
Finding that Goldilocks’ perfect bowl of porridge is no easy task; an intrusive family of bears may barge into your computer system before you have thoroughly protected yourself and now the question of the cost of penetration testing is the last thing on your mind.
Before getting into penetration testing costs, take a look at what penetration testing is and the different potential elements of the process.
What is a Penetration Test?
A penetration test, which is often found under the more common name of “Pen Test,” is a simulated attack designed to test the security of your computer system. A team of trained experts will perform a series of diverse attacks against your system looking at both the strengths and vulnerabilities. They will employ a variety of penetration testing tools to fully test the security of your computer system. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Chief Information Officer describes three results of penetration testing:
- Identifies vulnerabilities and threats
- Tests the reaction and identification capabilities of your agency
- Provides a measurement of continuous improvement
Types of Penetration Tests
There are many varieties of pen tests. Covert, black box, white box, gray box, internal and external testing. Depending on the result you are seeking, remember this test will help determine strengths and vulnerabilities within your computer system, each type of test provides a unique insight into your system. If you are a large organization, you might have an internal team to perform a penetration test. If you are a smaller organization you might need to rely on a service and have an external team come and perform a pen test. Nonetheless, having an external team, even if you have the IT professionals to do a pen test, might be something to consider because an outsider’s perspective on your computer system could find errors that your own team might miss.
While having an internal team perform the pen test is a cheaper option, they may be blind to vulnerabilities having created the system in the first place. Additionally, an external team may possess unique hacking or testing skills that your internal team does not possess. Or maybe they have developed systems that perform more comprehensive pen tests than that of your internal team.
Thus, an external team will generally cost more than having your own internal team perform the service “at home” so to speak. However, think about it this way, sometimes it’s just a safer bet when you want to get the job done right; after all, attempting to bake that chocolate cake your wife has been asking for her birthday and accidentally using salt instead of sugar is in a few words: a critical error.
White Box Penetration Test
A white box pen test provides system and background information to the hacker. With a clear scope of the test, perhaps a list of possible vulnerabilities, and specific areas that need work, the hacker has a clear idea of what to test.
Black Box Penetration Test
A black box pen test provides little to no information to the hacker. This type of test is commonly known as a “blind test”. The hacker will be told to do his best in infiltrating the system as it currently exists and noting the strengths and weaknesses.
Gray Box Penetration Test
A gray box pen test is a combination test of black and white pen tests providing more information than a black box test but less information than a white box test.
Covert Penetration Test
This test is a method that does not inform your internal team of outside threats made by the hacker performing the pen test. This test is commonly known as a “double-blind test” because not even the internal security professionals are cognizant of the attack. These tests can be extremely helpful in showcasing how your system and internal security team responds to threats in real-time. You can discover how your system or security team recognizes, reports, and counteracts threats against your computer system(s).
It is very important that when performing a double-blind or cover test that you have informed important team members on the nature of the test as to not face retribution or legal issues later down the line.
External Penetration Test
In an external pen test, the hacker must dispatch his attack on the computer system isolated from the building or site of the system itself. He might do this through apps, websites, or external servers. This allows you to better measure how nefarious hackers might affect your company during random security breaches or large, global, remote incidents.
Internal Penetration Test
In an internal pen test, the hacker is granted access to the building and given specific permissions to the computer system. You can measure your company’s capacity to prevent internal breaches caused by an angry or negligent employee. This test can measure the ability of a system to maintain order when one or more elements of the system are compromised.
Which Type of Penetration Test Should I Choose?
No matter the type of pen test you choose to implement, web penetration testing is extremely important and can ensure that your cybersecurity implementations are effective. This is especially true with so many computer systems being connected by one large network. Applications and devices that all share one system can be exploited from the weakest point, therefore, a thorough test is critical.
It might be useful to have a free consultation with a cybersecurity professional from RSI Security to determine what kind of penetration test would best suit your company. Being open and honest about potential limitations of your system is like sharing the full spectrum of your worries, future plans, and strengths with a therapist; all of these minute details provide a holistic perspective on the tools used to help your business thrive.
Penetration Testing Cost
By this point, you might just want to know the dollar amount you will have to shell out to perform a pen test. However, to truly understand the cost of penetration testing, you need to understand what it is and the types of penetration testing available to make an informed decision. As frustrating as the answer “it depends” might sound, there are many factors that determine penetration testing costs.
Penetration testing can cost anywhere from $4,000-$100,000. On average, a high quality, professional pen test can cost from $10,000-$30,000. A lot of these costs are determined by factors such as:
- Size: A smaller, less complex organization is certainly going to cost less than that of a large company.
- Complexity: The more applications, devices, and systems a hacker has to test, the more a pen test will cost. The cost of penetration testing for companies that have mobile apps, internal and external servers, and other complex computer systems is going to increase the budget. The number of networks, applications, IP addresses, parties, facilities, etc., involved all determine how complex the test needs to be.
- Scope: Closely intertwined with complexity is the scope of the test you want to perform. There may be specific elements with which you are more concerned and thus want the cybersecurity professional to spend more time testing. Having a clear scope is nonetheless a wise parameter to set before a test begins to ensure that the costs do not get out of hand.
- Methodology: Depending on the type of tools and practices a hacker uses, this can increase the cost of a pen test. Nevertheless, a more expensive tool or slower methodology can be an effective way to produce higher quality results. It might be helpful to have a more thorough test for the first time you ever perform a pen test.
- Experience: A cybersecurity professional with more experience is going to cost more than one with fewer years under their belt. Again, think of the prior cost factors to settle on choosing a more or less experienced cybersecurity professional. If you have a small business with a simple network system, it may be advisable to have a cheaper, less experienced professional perform the test.
- External/Internal Testing: While the majority of pen testing will be performed offsite in network security tests, the cost of penetration testing can increase if you require an onsite or internal test. This is especially true if you decide to employ a company that is not in the same state as your own company and you must factor in travel and lodging costs.
- Remediation: Finally, and perhaps most importantly, will the cybersecurity professional provide just a report without any further suggestions on executable actions? If the professional merely delivers the result of the test without showing how to improve your system or prevent breaches, the penetration testing cost may not be worth your money or time; this is especially true if you do not have a strong or present internal cybersecurity team. Factoring in whether the company will provide remediation services or a retest after you implement suggestions/feedback is important to consider with the costs.
Why Should I Perform a Penetration Test?
A pen test can measure your system’s strengths and weaknesses in a controlled environment before you have to pay the cost of an extremely damaging data breach. In IBM’s 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Study, they indicate that the average cost of a data breach is 3.92 million dollars with an average loss of 25,575 records. This might be basic math, but 3.92 million dollars spent repairing losses from a data breach is a lot more than the average $10,000-$30,000 bill from a professional, rigorous pen test.
Image source: https://www.ibm.com/security/data-breach
Remember that to maintain compliance for certain services such as within the Payment Card Industry (PCI), a reoccurring pen test is required. Thus, a pen test is a helpful method to gauge your company’s readiness for an external audit conducted for compliance. A pen test can also be a useful way to help gauge your organization’s readiness to keep data secure for cardholders or a compliance audit.
You can use a pen test to show your clients that cybersecurity is important to your company and indicate that their data and privacy is of the utmost importance to you. In this way you can use a security certificate to grow your brand earning your client’s trust and business. They are far more likely to recommend you to new clients and not abandon your services if you keep their information secure.
How Often Should I Perform a Penetration Test?
With an understanding of what penetration testing is, the types of tests that exist, the costs of tests, and why to perform tests, you might ask yourself how often you should perform regular tests.
You should regularly perform pen tests; it is recommended that at least once a year you perform a pen test. Having a consultation with a trusted cybersecurity professional like RSI Security can help you plan when to perform these tests. Other times you might implement penetration testing according to TechTarget is when an organization:
- adds new network infrastructure or applications;
- makes significant upgrades or modifications to its applications or infrastructure;
- establishes offices in new locations;
- applies security patches; or
- modifies end-user policies.
Some other factors to consider include your clients, how many certificates your business maintains, the size of your company, and whether you have your own system or it is housed externally with a third party (generally they will perform their own security tests).
With all of these factors in mind, the final point is that penetration testing is worth every penny. If the cost of penetration testing seems high to you, just remember that the cost of a data breach is much, much higher. Plus, most consumers will cut ties with a company that has experienced a data breach fearing that they can no longer securely conduct business. Schedule a free consultation today and get started on protecting your network and system security.