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How Much Does Penetration Test Cost, or Price Of Your Security

Security is an essential part of any business. There are multiple ways to compromise a system. That is why, one needs to ensure the application of high-quality modern technologies. Those can be SSL certificates, firewalls, physical machinery protection, and many others. However, to create a beneficial combination of required technologies for your business, your project will require constant performance and security monitoring. Penetration testing has shown itself as the best way of discovering any potential dangers. In this article, we will talk about the definition of pen tests, how much does a penetration test cost, advantages, and disadvantages. We will also include practical recommendations as well as case studies. The latter ones will show particular uses of methods and can serve as examples of the benefits and losses experienced by companies.



 What Is a Penetration Test and What Benefits It Carries

Penetration testing is a process of discovering possible vulnerabilities within a system, application, website, etc. It  aims at protecting the system from unauthorized access, reveal possible weaknesses of the network infrastructure, or improve the configuration of an application. Those might be the backdoors in the code as well as some issues in the UI. The latter ones might lead a user to access sensitive information or accidentally damage the system. About 69% of organizations in the U.S. do not believe their anti-virus and firewalls can protect them from the attacks anymore. That is why, the security test cost is a price to pay to defend yourself.

Needless to say, a weak security system can result in financial and reputational losses for a company. Ponemon has carried out a research among over 400 companies globally: the results have shown that an average cost of stolen records has gone down. However, the attacks became more massive. The average organizational costs for breaches have reached almost $7.5 million in the U.S. and almost $5 million in the Middle East. That is why, any potential issues should be eliminated as soon as possible. Perhaps, nobody will be more suitable to spot them than a specialist who typically performs a penetration test. Nowadays, the specialized software is available for the job. Still, there is no doubt that no software can perform the check better than a high-skilled professional.

The importance of hiring a pen tester is based on the fact that a living person can perform an investigation based on the previous experience. In 2017 the attacks were performed every 40 seconds, and, by the end of 2019, the frequency is predicted to rise to every 14 seconds. The losses of companies due to cyber attacks have reached about $5 billion by 2017 (increasing from $325 million in 2015). In 2019, the expected losses are $21.5 billion. Poor security is the reason behind all of these attacks. Medical and financial industries are the ones suffering the most from the attacks. They measure $380 and $245 per capita respectively.



Why Are The Pen Tests Extremely Important?

Any security breach that occurs can drastically affect your company, its income, reputation, and customers’ trust. In reality, what you are paying for is your insurance in your business security. A poorly-performed pen can cost you everything you worked hard to create. In September 2017, the news of Equifax breach has spread over the net, revealing that the sensitive information of almost 150 million people has been exposed. The losses are said to have reached $275 million in 2017 and are predicted to reach $439 million by the end of 2018. Only $125 million of that amount will be covered by the insurance.

43 percent of the attacks are performed on small business. Out of those , 62% are phishing and social engineering attacks. Web-based attacks make up for 64% of all attacks. 59% of companies experience malware attacks. The calculation of losses due to attacks depend on several factors, which include the damaged data, reputation, machinery, loss of customers, and partners. The total damage inflicted on companies worldwide has reached $100 billion. The number of the attacks increases every year, and the targets include big corporations as well as small businesses and individuals.

How much does a pentest costs?

An average cost of a penetration test can vary from $4,000 to $100,000. When done correctly, it’s worth every penny. Mainly, because you are getting a specialist or a team of specialists who will work on finding any possible way your system can be affected. Later, you receive a recommendation regarding the discovered  vulnerabilities and, when necessary, continuous system support. Another factor that affects penetration testing costs is the regularity with which you perform it. As many other assessments, pen tests are necessary on a regular basis, to ensure you comply with all the standards and no new issues appear. Depending on the complexity of your system and the frequency of updates, the recommended testing regularity is once or twice per year.


On the one hand,  software automated performance checks are performed. Yet, the quality of such tests is generally not sufficient. On average, the software will cost you around $1,000-$2,000. Still, it is impossible to advise on the priority of holes discovered in the system which have to be taken care of first. This is something that only a professional can advise on. This point is essential as your company might end up spending thousands on fixing something that is not critical .

What Is Included In The
Penetration Testing Cost?

Due to the uprising risks, many companies are looking for efficient ways to protect themselves. The specialists say that $1 trillion will be spent on cybersecurity between 2017 and 2021. Only 38% of the companies claim they are prepared for the upcoming attacks. Hence, penetration tests are a way to protect yourself. Below we list the information on the types of testing.

  • Application testing. Web applications are quite complex. Hence, they have many possibilities for vulnerability investigation including internal and external testing. The difference from a regular vulnerability test is the exploitation of possible weak spots in the system. In most cases, the pen testing price can vary between $2,000 and $8,000 and more. The final decision will depend on the number of roles in the application and the aim of the testing.

  • Network testing can also include multiple options. Generally, it incorporates firewall bypass tests, DNS attacks testing. Overall, it is a crash test of your system. Depending on the complexity of your network, the tests can vary in length and price. Network penetration testing cost depends on those factors as well. Some of the companies provide a fixed price, and that will usually include a fix list of services available.

    The network testing can include IPS and routing issues scans, port scanning, services like FTP, MySQL, SSH, etc. Each contractor can suggest you their vision of the vulnerability scanning process. The penetration test cost and techniques may differ by the number and types of services to be tested and the tools used in the process

    The pricing for a network pen test starts at $4,000. Anything below the price is very unlikely to be a quality testing. The testing is divided into internal and external components as they might be using different tools. If your system is complex, the price will incorporate various features and will depend on many factors.

  • A wireless pen test aims at finding loopholes within the access points of the network, keys, weak protocols, and other possible breach points. You need to keep in mind that not every vulnerability scanning process is a pen test. Compared to the vulnerability scans, penetration tests are much more extensive. The vulnerability tests only look at the potential vulnerabilities in your system, while pen tests exploit the weaknesses in the architecture of the system.
  • PCI (Payment Card Industry) penetration testing is intended to protect sensitive card data. The industry now requires a PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance. Non-compliant companies can end up paying a fine of $5,000 - $100,000. Another aspect to consider is the unwillingness of businesses to work with non-compliant companies. The PCI penetration testing cost will depend significantly on the size and type of the system. The main aim is to create a secure network, which will protect the cardholder environment.

What Can Influence a
Pen Testing Cost?

We have already mentioned, that a penetration test can include many options. Every company that provides the service adjusts the penetration testing pricing depending on a few factors:

  • The complexity of your system. A penetration test is an essential part of the process for small startups as well as big corporations. The size of the application or network will influence the amount of required work. This  impacts the price of the service. Top pentest companies provide testing consultations, which help to distinguish the volume of work required as well as pricing. The number of systems, access level, the number of roles, and the type of testing determine the methods and the price of the test.
  • The tools used for the testing are an essential part of the process. The cost of penetration testing can go up if any additional or specific tools are required. And, while some of the tools might be free, the person using them might need special certification. Some of the tools might be quite pricey (for example, Burp Suite paid version costs $349 per user).

The tools can be divided into several categories:

  • Static tools exploit the known vulnerabilities’ patterns in the source code.
  • Dynamic tools are used to perform the crash tests on the system. This is done by using the patterns of known attacks.
  • The Interactive analysis runs an agent on a server or a built-in code library. It creates an instrumented version of the software for easier detection of weaknesses.

The tools might create a lot of data to be processed by a specialist; thus, should be customized to fit the requirements of a certain company.

  • Certifications don’t influence the penetration test costs that much on average. Still, they play a significant role in finding a professional. The price for certification may vary from about $349 (CompTIA) up to around $6,210 (SANS). Each contractor takes care of training their specialists on their own. The course of training may take from a few weeks up to several months. In any case, a certified specialist should be working with the right tools to ensure the highest efficiency of the process.
  • Another thing affecting pen testing rates are the hurdles in preparing a good tester. A specialist needs to be aware of any potential attacks or loops in systems as well as specifics of various methods. On the other hand, they also should be able to advise on how to eliminate those threats in the most efficient way.

Who Typically Performs a Penetration Test

A pen test should be performed by a certified specialist with experience in the field. This is extremely important as it can influence not only the results of a test but also the potential breaches of the system in future. A highly-skilled developer performing a test will help with distinguishing the weaknesses as well as with fixing and preventing them in future. Besides, there is also a danger of damaging the system during the test. This is way less likely with a specialist.



There is no one answer that determines how much does penetration testing cost as the number of variables in each situation is different.  Most companies that have a fixed price for a pen test will not help you to improve your security  due to limitations of the testing tools used.

The decision of how much to charge for pen testing depends strictly on the contractor. Yet, this is the case when a few thousands can save your company millions and the hassle of reinstating your reputation. Discussing the terms and the scope of work in advance will also give you more clarity. At Hacken, we take security extremely seriously, and all the checks are performed according to the highest standards. If you have any questions about the topic or need a consultation, feel free to contact our Team!

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