The Cost of Penetration Testing: Key Aspects

By Srikanth
9 Min Read
The Cost of Penetration Testing: Key Aspects 1

Penetration testing is a valuable tool for detecting and addressing security vulnerabilities in your systems. The cost of penetration testing can change depending on the size and complexity of your network, but it’s essential to consider a pentest as an investment in the security posture of your company. 


Why go through this? Pen tests help you uncover three important things:

  1. Security gaps: These are like cracks in your system’s armor that real attackers could exploit. The pen test helps identify these weaknesses so they can be patched up.
  2. How well you can respond: Just like a fire drill, a pen test helps see how well your team can spot and react to a cyberattack.
  3. Progress over time: Regular pen tests are like check-ups at the doctor’s. They help you see how your system’s overall security is improving over time.

Launching and maintaining a business can be a financial burden, even when profits arrive. Expenses like supplies, payroll, rent, and equipment are ongoing costs to consider. Another critical investment for your company is cybersecurity.

Whether your business operates a basic website or just internal communication tools, robust cybersecurity is essential. Partnering with qualified cybersecurity professionals can ultimately save money in the long run. Prevention is key – data breaches, hefty fines, and lost customers can cripple a business.

One aspect you might be curious about is the cost of penetration testing. A common challenge for businesses of all sizes is determining the return on investment (ROI) when making decisions about purchases, staff, software, or hardware. Penetration testing is no exception.

Essential Points to Pay Attention to

Prioritizing security investments

Running a business requires prioritizing tasks and purchases based on their strategic value and urgency. Establishing a strong cybersecurity team is crucial for success, but justifying its cost or the value of specific services can be challenging.

Understanding the importance of cybersecurity

It’s essential to grasp why information security (small businesses) or network security (large businesses) is a worthwhile investment. Regardless of your company size, qualified cybersecurity professionals can address your needs.

Evaluating costs: key questions

When evaluating any business expense, including penetration testing, consider these questions:

  • Potential losses. What are the potential consequences of not implementing this measure? This could include damage to customer trust, financial losses, or missed certifications. Penetration testing might be mandatory for compliance with HIPAA, PCI DSS, or NIST standards.
  • Value vs. cost. Would a lower-cost penetration test meet my quality requirements? While cost savings are important, cutting corners could lead to bigger problems and future expenses that outweigh the initial savings.
  • Price and service. Does a high price guarantee the best service? Evaluate the service itself. Ask questions about the scope of work, warranties, etc.
  • Experience matters. Experience can influence cost. Companies with a proven track record in penetration testing might offer faster and more efficient services.

Finding the right balance

Finding the perfect balance is crucial. Don’t let security concerns take a backseat until it’s too late. Understand the process itself and its potential components.

Types of Penetration Tests

There are many varieties of penetration testing, including covert, black box, white box, gray box, internal, and external tests. Each type offers a unique perspective on your system’s strengths and weaknesses, helping you determine the right approach based on your desired outcome.

Choosing between internal and external teams

Large organizations may have internal security teams that can perform penetration tests. However, even with internal IT professionals, an external team can offer a valuable outsider’s perspective, potentially uncovering vulnerabilities your own staff might miss.

While an internal team may be a cheaper option, they might overlook vulnerabilities due to their familiarity with the system. Additionally, external teams may possess specialized hacking or testing skills or more comprehensive testing systems than your internal team.

The cost of an external team is typically higher than using an internal team. But consider it an investment in a more thorough security assessment. After all, making a critical error, like using salt instead of sugar in your wife’s birthday cake, can have disastrous consequences.

Types of Penetration Tests Explained

White box penetration test

In a white box pen test, the tester (hacker) is provided with system and background information. This may include a clear scope of the test, a list of potential vulnerabilities, and specific areas requiring attention. Essentially, the tester has a roadmap for what to assess.

Black box penetration test

A black box pen test, also known as a blind test, provides the tester with minimal to no information about the system. The tester acts like a real-world attacker, trying their best to infiltrate the system and identify its strengths and weaknesses.

Gray box penetration test

A gray box pen test combines elements of both black and white box testing. The tester receives some information about the system, but not as much as in a white box test.

Covert penetration test (double-blind test)

This approach involves keeping your internal security team unaware of the simulated attack. It reveals how your system and security personnel respond to threats in real-time. You can observe their ability to recognize, report, and counteract these threats.

It is crucial to inform key personnel about the covert test beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings or legal issues that might arise later.

External penetration test

An external pen test simulates an attack launched from outside your network, perhaps through applications, websites, or external servers. This helps assess your vulnerability to remote attacks by malicious actors.

Internal penetration test

An internal pen test simulates an attack launched from within your network. The tester is granted access to the building and specific permissions within the system. This helps assess your company’s ability to prevent breaches caused by disgruntled or careless employees and evaluates how well your system maintains security even when internal elements are compromised.

Penetration Testing Cost

While a definitive answer hinges on specific details, understanding penetration testing itself is key. The cost can range from $4,000 to $100,000, with high-quality tests averaging $10,000-$30,000. Let’s explore the influencing factors:

  • Size & Complexity: Simpler systems cost less to test than intricate ones with multiple apps, devices, and networks.
  • Scope: A focused test targeting specific areas will be cheaper than a comprehensive evaluation.
  • Methodology: Advanced tools and in-depth approaches may cost more but yield better results.
  • Experience: Seasoned professionals command a higher fee.
  • Location: Onsite testing adds travel and lodging expenses.
  • Remediation: Including post-test guidance and retesting can increase the cost, but provides valuable security improvements.

Remember, the cost of a data breach far outweighs a penetration test.


In light of everything discussed, penetration testing offers a return on investment that far outweighs its cost. While the price tag may seem significant upfront, consider the devastating financial repercussions of a data breach. To safeguard your network and system security, don’t hesitate to take the first step towards a more secure future.

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