What is the cost of a penetration test?

5 mins read

The pricing of penetration testing can vary widely depending on the specific requested services. A basic penetration test typically starts at a few thousand dollars and can go up.

Our clients ask us a common question: "What is the cost of a penetration test for my infrastructure?" We can't give them a precise answer right away, and we respond to them with, "It varies and we would need some more information to answer that correctly." The budgeting part in the pre-engagement phase of a penetration test project is always challenging. In this article we will explain about the factors determining the cost of a penetration test project.

The pricing of penetration testing can vary widely depending on the specific requested services. Some companies offer basic penetration testing packages that include automated scanning tools, while others provide more comprehensive testing services, including manual testing, social engineering, and post-testing reporting.

A basic penetration test typically starts at a few thousand dollars and can go up to tens of thousands, depending on the test's scope and the organization's size. For larger organizations, the cost of penetration testing can also depend on the number of systems and applications that need to be tested, as well as the complexity of the network infrastructure.

In addition to one-time penetration testing, some companies offer ongoing retainer-based services, including regular testing and vulnerability management. This service can help organizations keep their systems and applications up-to-date and secure and can be more cost-effective in the long run.

The cost of a penetration test can vary widely depending on several factors, including:

1. The scope of the test

It will determine the number of systems and applications that need to be tested, which can significantly impact the overall cost. A basic penetration test may only include testing a single system or application, while a more comprehensive examination may consist of multiple systems, applications, and networks. To understand the scope, you need to understand the following elements:

a. Public-facing network infrastructure

Public-facing or external penetration testing focuses on breaking your system from the internet. So the cost depends on the number of hosts that should be evaluated. The higher the number of hosts/IPs in your network, the higher the price.

b. Private network infrastructure

As in the case of external penetration testing, private network infrastructure or internal penetration testing depends on the network's number of hosts or IPs. However, it is also subject to the level of exploitation scenarios that should be covered.

c. Web application

It would be best to understand the following:

  1. How big the application is.
  2. The complexity of the application. For example, if you have an eCommerce SaaS application or a static website can very much differentiate your cost.
  3. Third-party applications integrated into your app. For example, there are modules for multi-factor authentication, or your application may retrieve data from a third-party application.
  4. The number of pages or interfaces that your application has.

d. Mobile application 

The factors that determine the scope of a mobile application are similar to those of a web application. However, in addition, certificate pinning is something that should be considered while considering mobile application security testing.

e. Other

Security testing may include other testing activities such as social engineering assessments, wireless penetration testing, API penetration testing etc.

2. Organization size

The organization's size does not directly impact the penetration testing cost. However, larger organizations with more complex networks and systems will typically require more resources and time to test, which can increase the overall cost of the test.

3. The level of testing

Different types of testing, such as black box testing, white box testing, and gray box testing, can have different costs. Black box testing is typically less expensive than white box testing because it doesn't require as much knowledge of the internal network. Particularly in the case of application security testing, white box testing would even include the security code review process, analyzing the gaps in the application from all dimensions. 

4. The testing method

The automated tools help in the security testing process; however, one can never rely 100% on the results. These results need to be verified by the experts. Automated testing using tools is less expensive than manual testing, which requires more resources and time. 

5. The time frame

The time frame for the test can also affect the cost. A test that needs to be completed in a short amount of time may cost more than one that can be done over a longer period.

6. The type of report

The required report can also affect the cost. A basic report that only includes a list of vulnerabilities may be less expensive than a comprehensive report that provides detailed information on how to fix the vulnerabilities.

Make sure to know your scope and explain your requirements before making assumptions about the cost or going for price. A high-quality offensive security services provider will also help you with pre-project planning by breaking down and risk-based prioritization of your scope of work. If you want to learn more, please feel free to get in touch.