How Much Will a Cybersecurity Penetration Test Cost?

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Here at ThreatModeler, we believe that everyone – from personal consumers to workers within business functions at an organization – are consumers of software. As the software landscape continues to evolve with technology advancements, hackers are finding new ways and variations of existing methods to compromise private data. Network cybersecurity tends to be a consistent effort for DevSecOps teams as bad actors seek new ways to target advancement. This article will speak about the importance of penetration testing and the costs involved in conducting a pentest, including factors that influence price.

What is Penetration Testing?

A penetration test occurs when an individual or team, typically on contract, conducts an authorized infiltration of a system or application in order to uncover vulnerabilities. Penetration testing services can help organizations to identify threats and vulnerabilities, and prioritize and manage risk. While penetration testing has proven to be an important part of a process to secure IT infrastructure by exposing the potential for a data breach, it is one of the costliest of cybersecurity activities.

Pentesting is a necessary validation that you’ve done all you can do to ensure security. However, it is completed during the later stages of the software development life cycle (SDLC), e.g. at some point during deployment – to stage or to production. Risk management decision makers will need to determine how often penetration testing should be done. In some cases, an organization will decide that it should be conducted every quarter. In other cases, security teams will use automated, dynamic pentesting tools to save on costs. It all depends on an organization’s security posture and access to resources, among other factors.

What Happens in Penetration Testing

Pentesters review the attack surface for weaknesses and attack vectors – points where hackers can gain entry to inject payloads or malicious code. Vulnerabilities are reviewed and patched as needed in order to prevent a cyberattack. This will help to protect sensitive or confidential data from being manipulated, damaged or exposed to the public.

One way to help inform security teams about their cybersecurity posture is to threat model. The process of threat modeling involves mapping out the components and communication connectors within an application on process flow diagrams. Threat modeling will help to identify threats before they become hacks. Threat modeling can also help a penetration test along by acting as a reference detailing existing threats. Pentesters can shift their focus on finding harder-to-find vulnerabilities that may not have been discovered through threat modeling.

Benefits of Penetration Testing

In the US, the average Cost of a Data Breach, according to a 2019 report put together by Ponemon and IBM, is $8.19 million. The cost includes detection and escalation, notification, breach response and lost business. The probability that a data breach will occur is nearly one third of all organizations surveyed, at 29.6%. According to the report, 51% of all data breaches were caused with malicious intent. Pentests are crucial in that they provide organizations with a substantial understanding of their attack surface.

An  Information Systems Audit and Control Association’s (ISACA) Cybersecurity Culture Report issued in 2018 revealed that 95% of organizations don’t believe their cybersecurity processes are adequate enough. Penetration testing can help organizations along their way to a more cybersecure posture to avoid financial loss, reputation damage and fines due to regulation compliance.

What’s Included in the Cost of a Penetration Test?

Penetration testing is typically done by skilled professionals with varying levels of technical experience. Pentests can be completed in a very short amount of time, typically 1-2 days for pentesting followed by the generation of a report. The entire process can take up to several weeks, however. The following outlines various pentest services that organizations can enlist to build more secure applications.

Application Testing – Pen testers can conduct web application testing internally and externally, as with the other forms of testing mentioned below. Internal penetration testing occurs with the understanding that a hacker has already bypassed security measures and is already within the application, where s/he can cause a lot of damage. An external penetration test takes place with the understanding that the hacker has not made it into the internal network of a system. The cost of application testing can start at $2,000, contingent on the number of application roles and the purpose of the pentest. If the price is this low, however, it should be noted that the pentesting consists more of automated tools than anything else.

Network Testing – The purpose of network penetration testing is to see how hackers can get beyond such security solutions as firewalls and DNS. Pentesters will make attempts to crash your system or applications. Network penetration testing can also include scanning for FTP, SSH and other ports. The typical price for a network penetration test, at a minimum, is $4,000 and includes internal and external testing. Price will vary depending on the techniques used, plus the number and complexity of services to be tested.

Wireless Pen Testing – This form of testing seeks to find network access points, vulnerable protocols and other attack vectors – all from a wireless standpoint. Wireless pen testing tends to be more extensive than vulnerability test, finding architecture weaknesses that can compromise the system.

PCI (Payment Card Industry) – when it comes to sensitive financial data such as credit card numbers, penetration testing is intended to protect sensitive card data. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) enforces data security regulations with steep fines for non-compliance. PCI pentesting is aimed at securing any network that processes or stores any cardholder information. PCI pentesters will look at any system vulnerabilities that could expose the CVV, expiration, and chip or magnetic strip data. The price can vary based on the scope of the work.

So How Much Does a Penetration Test Cost?

A penetration test should be conducted by a skilled, qualified specialist. System complexity, i.e., the size of an application or network, will contribute to factors influencing the cost of a pentest. In addition, the number of roles and systems plus the type of network are also factors. There are a variety of tools that a pentester can use, some of them being free, others being commercial.

A penetration testing company can charge anywhere from $2,000 to $100,000. There are three primary types of penetration testing, which includes black box, white box and gray box. From black, to white to gray, the color of the box determines factors, which includes the level of programming ability and level of access that s/he is granted. For more information about the different levels of pentesting, read our article, Threat Model for Security Penetration Testing.

ThreatModeler Provides Guidance and Support for Efficient Penetration Testing

When you look at the actual cost of a data breach, which can be expensive due to levied fines, loss of consumer trust and other factors, commissioning a penetration test is worth the added cost. ThreatModeler is a practical application that can help to inform an organization about the threats and vulnerabilities that may exist within an organization’s IT ecosystem. The ThreatModeler platform is automated and can be activated as early as the planning stages. ThreatModeler will help to save time that a pentester would have devoted to finding vulnerabilities it already uncovered.

ThreatModeler is designed to help CISOs and security teams to understand threats, prioritize them and plan an effective risk mitigation strategy. To learn more about how ThreatModeler can help your organization to save on costs while getting the most out of your pentest, schedule a live demo. You can also contact us to speak with a live threat modeling expert.

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