Performing regular penetration testing on your network is more important now than ever before. Data protection regulations threaten hefty fines for breaches, and the public is becoming less trusting of data security. That means even small businesses cannot afford to risk a breach.
Budgeting for penetration testing may not be fun, but it is necessary. Luckily, your pentest is priced based on your needs—a small business will pay much less than a large one with a bigger infrastructure.
So, how much should you set aside for annual penetration testing?
Small businesses should budget at least $30,000 annually. Medium-sized businesses may need to put aside at least $40,000 annually.
However, your testing budget will depend on your needs. And every pentest is different, so your costs may fluctuate.
Here are the factors you need to take into account when budgeting for penetration testing.
How to Estimate Your Penetration Testing Budget
Scope of the Test
A penetration test is not a one-size-fits-all operation. Tests can be done on apps, networks, user security, and even your staff. Pentests can also simulate different types of attacks or focus on different aspects of a specific target application. All of these factors affect the cost of your test.
If you want a comprehensive test of your entire network, the cost is going to be higher. If you want to test a specific program, such as a chatbot, before implementing it into your system, your costs will be lower.
To define your costs, develop the scope of your test with comprehensive planning. Your third-party pentester will help you with this by asking a series of questions to define your needs.
A good pentesting plan should:
- Define your goals
- Set expectations
- Define the environment
- Identify potential issues
- Define the limits of the test
Size of the Target
A penetration test for a small company with limited web applications will almost always be cheaper than a test for a large company with extensive and far-reaching applications. Don’t believe a pentesting company if they try to sell you a standardized package—that’s not how testing works.
This isn’t to say that smaller networks are more secure or that small business is less prone to attack. It just means that pentesters require less time do smaller jobs, so their rates are typically lower.
The complexity of the Target
The complexity of your web apps has a big impact on your testing cost. More complex apps normally have more potential vulnerabilities, so testing needs to be more comprehensive. You may need to do multiple pentests on a single app in order to identify critical vulnerabilities. It can take months to test especially complex apps, resulting in higher costs.
This is why it’s so important to develop the scope of your test during the planning phase. A medium-sized business that limits the scope of a test to the essentials could save tens of thousands of dollars.
Every penetration test is different. That means you must define your security priorities before testing begins. For small businesses, this can actually save money. If you don’t have the cash for comprehensive testing, you can work with your pentester to prioritize critical aspects of your security during the planning phase.
For less critical issues, you could use automated penetration testing to provide a basic level of security (more on that next).
Type of Testing
There are multiple types of penetration testing available. The pricing info above refers to third-party human penetration testing. That means real people plan and simulate an attack on your system. This is considered to be the best type of penetration testing because it most accurately simulates a real attack.
However, the costs of human penetration testing are restrictive. It’s recommended to test this way just once per year. For continuous penetration testing, automated pentesting software provides valuable security data at an affordable rate. Automated testing is not as comprehensive and it increases the risk of false positives, but it is an effective way to fill in security cracks between human pentests.
Another type of penetration test is called Red Teaming. Red teams may test apps and networks, but they also go after your staff. They use social engineering tactics, such as phishing, to manipulate and trick people into giving away secure data. Red Teaming costs more than standard penetration testing, and it’s not necessary for most SMBs.
Budget for Penetration Testing
With proper planning and the right knowledge, penetration testing can be less costly to your bottom line. But the key takeaway is that penetration testing is no longer considered optional, even for small businesses. Last year, 42% of small businesses fell victim to cyber-attacks. As a result of attacks, businesses often lose customers and staff, and they suffer fines and legal consequences.
Cyber-attacks on SMBs are inevitable, so don’t wait to start penetration testing. Make a budget for your next pentest and ensure the ongoing security of your business.