Penetration Testing Cost 2023: Estimating Penetration Testing Costs

Considering the overall cost of penetration testing is important for several reasons. Firstly, it allows organisations to budget and allocate resources effectively, ensuring they have sufficient funds to conduct comprehensive testing. In turn, it ensures that you prioritise security investments and strike a balance between the level of testing required and available financial resources. 

When truly understanding the cost enables organisations to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of penetration testing. This is often a leap forward in ensuring that key decision-makers recognise the importance of protecting your cyber security measures. Considering the cost provides transparency and accountability, ensuring that the testing process is financially sustainable and aligns with the organisation's strategic objectives.

Sounds like a win-win all around, doesn't it? 

Choosing the right pricing model to assess the cost of your penetration testing is key to understanding the overall economic impact.

Fixed-Price vs. Time-and-Materials Pricing Models

In penetration testing, two common pricing models are fixed-price and time-and-materials. The difference lies in how the cost of the testing engagement is determined and billed. This is important to consider, especially when receiving proposals from different testers or testing organisations. 

Fixed-Price Model

In this model, the penetration testing provider offers a set price for a predefined scope of work. The cost is agreed upon upfront, typically based on factors such as the size and complexity of the target system or network, the type of testing required, and the expected duration of the engagement. The advantage of this model is that it provides certainty regarding the cost, allowing organisations to plan their budgets accordingly. However, any additional testing requirements or changes in scope may result in additional charges.

Time-and-Materials Model

In this model, the cost of penetration testing is determined based on the actual time and effort invested by the testing team, along with any additional expenses such as travel costs. The testing provider charges an hourly or daily rate for their services, and the final cost is calculated based on the actual hours worked. This model offers flexibility as it accommodates changes in scope or unforeseen complexities that may arise during the testing process. However, estimating the final cost upfront can be challenging, which may require ongoing communication and monitoring of the testing progress.

Both pricing models have their advantages and considerations. Organisations should evaluate their specific needs, budget constraints, and risk tolerance to determine which pricing model aligns best with their requirements and preferences. Effective communication and clear agreements with the testing provider are essential in establishing expectations and avoiding any potential misunderstandings regarding the pricing and scope of the penetration testing engagement.

Average Cost Ranges

The average cost of penetration testing in the UK can vary depending on various factors, such as the size and complexity of the organisation's infrastructure, the scope of the testing, and the level of expertise required. Generally, the cost for a basic penetration test can range from £1,000 to £5,000, while more comprehensive assessments or specialised testing may range from £5,000 to £20,000 or higher. It's important to note that these figures are estimates, and the actual cost can differ based on individual service providers, specific requirements, and the level of customization needed for the testing engagement. Organisations are advised to obtain quotes from reputable penetration testing providers to understand better the costs involved.

As stated in Part One (Link) of this article, you need to consider many factors to ensure that you are not shocked at the overall cost of your penetration test.

Additional Costs to Consider

In addition to the direct cost of penetration testing, there are additional expenses that organisations should consider:

Remediation Assistance and Retesting

After vulnerabilities are identified, the cost of addressing and remediating those vulnerabilities can vary based on the complexity and severity of the issues. Some penetration testing providers offer assistance in remediation efforts, which may incur additional costs. Retesting to verify that the vulnerabilities have been effectively addressed may also require additional fees.

Ongoing Testing and Vulnerability Management Programs

Implementing an ongoing testing and vulnerability management program is crucial for maintaining a strong security posture. This may involve regular or periodic testing to identify new vulnerabilities and ensure that existing security controls remain effective. Organisations should budget for these recurring testing costs as part of their long-term security strategy.

Incident Response Planning and Training

Penetration testing can help identify potential weaknesses in incident response plans and procedures. Investing in incident response planning and training, based on the penetration test findings, can help organisations effectively respond to security incidents and mitigate the associated risks. These costs may include planning sessions, employee training, and simulation exercises.

How to Get the Most Value from Your Penetration Testing Budget

To maximise the value and effectiveness of your penetration testing budget, strategic planning and execution are essential. By following key strategies, organisations can ensure they get the most out of their investment. Here are some tips to get you started.

Tip 1 - Define Clear Objectives

Clearly articulate your goals and objectives for the penetration testing engagement. Communicate your specific concerns, priorities, and desired outcomes to the testing provider. This ensures that the testing is tailored to address your organisation's unique risks and challenges.

Tip 2 - Thoroughly Scope the Testing

Work closely with the testing provider to define the scope of the assessment. This includes determining the systems, applications, and networks to be tested and the testing methodologies to be employed. A well-defined scope helps focus efforts on critical areas and avoids unnecessary expenditures.

Tip 3 - Prioritise Critical Assets and Risks

Identify your organisation's critical assets and prioritise them based on their value, sensitivity, and potential impact if compromised. Ensure that the penetration testing focuses on these high-value targets to maximise the value and impact of the assessment.

Tip 4 - Collaborate with the Testing Provider

Foster a collaborative relationship with the penetration testing provider. Engage in open communication, provide access to relevant information and resources, and actively participate in testing. This collaboration ensures that the testing aligns with your needs and facilitates a more effective and efficient assessment.

Tip 5 - Emphasise Actionable Recommendations

Pay attention to the recommendations provided by the testing provider. Focus on actionable insights and prioritise remediation efforts based on identified vulnerabilities' severity and potential impact. Implementing these recommendations helps improve your security posture and mitigates risks effectively.

Tip 6 - Consider Ongoing Testing and Risk Management

Penetration testing is a snapshot of your security at a specific point in time. Consider implementing an ongoing testing and risk management program to assess your security posture continuously. Regular testing helps identify new vulnerabilities and evolving threats, allowing you to address them promptly and efficiently.

Tip 7 - Evaluate Testing Provider Expertise and Reputation

Select a reputable and experienced penetration testing provider. Assess their qualifications, certifications, and track record in delivering high-quality assessments. A skilled and knowledgeable provider can offer valuable insights, effectively identify vulnerabilities, and provide actionable recommendations.

Within our portfolio at Core to Cloud, we also have solutions that can support you with your penetration testing needs, such as Pentera. The automated penetration testing platform Pentera provides the ability to quickly and frequently pen-test networks and detect the most pressing needs in your growing and ever-changing IT environment.

Ready to make some decisions? If you want to discuss any part of the penetration process or your decisions and choices, then get in touch with one of our Core to Cloud team here

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