A penetration testing quote is a detailed proposal of the services to be provided, the scope of work, and the associated costs. It serves as a roadmap that guides both the service provider and the client through the testing process. However, it is not uncommon for quotes to vary greatly between providers, leading to confusion and making apples-to-apples comparisons difficult.
Understanding the nuances of these quotes can help you make an informed decision when selecting a provider and ensure that the testing will meet your specific needs and requirements. The purpose of this blog post is to demystify the penetration testing quote process, explaining why quotes may differ among providers and how to compare them effectively.
The intended audience for this article are Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), IT security managers, engineering managers, procurement officers and other individuals tasked with procuring penetration testing services so they can better understand the nuances involved in a penetration test quote.
Penetration test quote
On average, a penetration test quote can be anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 for a basic web application security assessment or a mobile application pentest. For scopes such as more intricate applications, product security testing or pentest of large networks, the price can go above $100,000.
Penetration test quotes vary significantly based on several factors, and as a result, the price range for penetration testing services is broad. In the upcoming sections, we’ll discuss why it’s crucial to obtain multiple quotes, understand the structure of a quote and why they can vary, sometimes radically, among different pentest providers.
Understanding the basics of a penetration testing quote
Understanding a penetration testing quote involves evaluating key factors, including the scope of testing, the testing methodology, the experience of the team, the provider’s reputation and more. Each element contributes to the final quote, influencing both the price and the value you receive.
What are the key components of a pentest quote?
An average penetration testing quote typically consists of three fundamental components:
- Scope of work: This section details the scope that will be tested, such as web applications, APIs, IP addresses for target networks, etc. It also outlines the type of testing to be performed (e.g., black box, white box, gray box), the testing methodologies to be used, compliance requirements to be met, and any specific vulnerabilities or risks that will be focused on.
- Timeframes: The quote should provide an accurate estimate of how long the test will take. This will depend on the size of the scope, the complexity of your environment and the depth of the testing. Note that a good penetration test is thorough and can’t be rushed. It’s important to consider that a quicker, cheaper pentest may not provide the depth of insight you need, leaving your organization’s security risks not properly assessed.
- Pricing: This part outlines the cost of the service. Some providers may offer a fixed price, while others may bill based on the time and resources used (time and materials). Keep in mind that a higher penetration testing cost doesn’t necessarily mean better quality, and vice versa.
Common misconceptions about penetration testing quotes
A common misconception is that all penetration testing quotes are created equal, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Each penetration test provider has its methodologies, tools, expertise in a particular set of technologies, company accreditation, and staff certifications – which will all be reflected in their quotes.
Additionally, a penetration testing quote is not just a price tag – it is a comprehensive proposal that should provide a detailed overview of what the provider will offer, how they will approach the test, and what deliverables you can expect, as we briefly touched on in the last section.
Understanding these elements can help you estimate the real value behind the numbers.
Factors that influence the price of a penetration testing quote
Understanding the factors that influence the cost of a penetration testing quote is crucial to making an informed decision when choosing a provider. We have written a comprehensive blog post on pentest costs and factors that influence pricing, but below, we explore the essential details that can influence the cost of a penetration test.
Size and complexity of the scope and IT environment
The size and complexity of your IT environment are significant determinants of a penetration testing quote. Large networks, complex environments or intricate scopes often require more time and resources than smaller, less complex ones. For instance, a multinational corporation with several interconnected networks will likely receive a higher quote than a small business with a single website to test.
Specific testing methods to be used
The methods of testing chosen can also influence the quote. Penetration testing can be black-box (testing from an outsider’s perspective with no prior knowledge), white-box (testing with full knowledge of the system), or gray-box (a blend of the two). Each approach requires different levels of effort and expertise, which will be reflected in the quote. Also, specialized testing types, like physical security or social engineering tests, can add to the cost.
Experience and technical caliber of the penetration testing team
The level of experience and know-how of the testing team is another key factor. A team with a strong track record and deep expertise, perhaps in testing specific industry systems, may command higher prices. It’s essential to weigh this against the potential quality of the results.
Relevant industry accreditations and certifications
Industry accreditations and certifications can serve as a testament to a team’s proficiency and commitment to maintaining high standards in their work. Teams composed of pentesters holding qualifications such as the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), CREST CRT and CCT, or SANS GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) are likely to be well-trained for the job, which can be reflected in the price.
The use of automated tools vs. manual testing
While automated tools can quickly perform vulnerability scans for known vulnerabilities, manual penetration testing enables the identification of complex security issues that automated tools might miss. A good penetration test often combines both. If a provider relies more heavily on manual testing, which requires a higher level of expertise and is more time-consuming, this will likely be reflected in the quote.
Post-testing services – custom reporting, retesting and consultation
Post-testing services can add significant value to a penetration test. Comprehensive audit-ready reports that not only list the vulnerabilities found but also provide a detailed analysis, accurate risk rating, and recommended mitigation strategies are incredibly useful. Further consultation or assistance in addressing the vulnerabilities found might also be offered. The depth and quality of these services often influence the overall price of the penetration testing quote.
In the next section, we’ll discuss the reasons why pentest quotes are different among different providers.
Why it’s important to get multiple penetration test quotes
Just as any organization would require multiple quotes for evaluation when hiring services or products, the same principle applies when seeking penetration testing services. This process helps businesses ensure they’re receiving the best value for their money and identify the most suitable supplier for their unique needs.
In our experience, organizations procuring pentesting services typically aim to acquire at least three quotes. This number offers a good balance, providing a range of options to compare without becoming overwhelming. Gathering multiple quotes allows for effective comparison of several crucial aspects – the scope of services, the testing methodologies used, the depth of reports and deliverables, retesting options, as well as the pricing structure.
For larger projects or multi-year contracts, running a Request for Proposal (RFP) can be a more effective approach. An RFP invites providers to submit a proposal on a specific service, providing the organization running the tender with comprehensive, in-depth details on what each provider can offer. This approach brings the opportunity to clarify project-specific needs and requirements, align expectations, and compare offerings on a deeper level.
Why penetration testing quotes can differ among providers
Penetration testing quotes can differ greatly among providers, which can sometimes be confusing for potential clients. Here are some reasons for this variance:
Differences in methodologies
Each provider employs unique methodologies and processes for conducting penetration tests, which can influence the quote you receive. Some providers may use a more comprehensive, tailored and in-depth approach, resulting in a higher quote. On the other hand, a provider using a more streamlined and one-size-fits-all approach might offer a lower quote. Understanding each provider’s methodology can help you evaluate whether the quote offers value for money.
Variances in expertise and experience
The experience and expertise of the penetration testing team significantly influence the quote. A team of seasoned and certified security experts who have been working in the field for many years and have a proven track record might command a higher quote than a team of less experienced pentesters.
Different focuses in the test type
Different penetration tests focus on different areas. For instance, some might focus on web applications, others on network security, while others still might focus on social engineering attacks or even a holistic view of your organization’s security, such as a full-scale red team exercise. Depending on your specific requirements, the focus of the test can play a role in influencing the quote.
Specific test requirements
Pricing for penetration tests can also vary based on specific test requirements. For example, tests conducted outside regular business hours or requiring on-site services often command higher costs due to the additional resources and logistical considerations involved.
Therefore, the complexity and specific conditions of the test are important factors to consider when comparing quotes.
You were quoted a vulnerability scan, not a manual pentest
It’s important to note that a manual penetration test can significantly differ from an automated vulnerability scan, even though they’re both key components of a comprehensive security strategy.
A vulnerability scan is an automated process that identifies potential points of exploitation in a system, while a penetration test is a more in-depth, lengthy manual process that not only identifies vulnerabilities but also attempts to exploit them to understand the potential impact of a breach.
Therefore, if the quote you’ve received seems lower than expected or too good to be true, you may want to verify if you’ve been quoted for a vulnerability assessment rather than a more comprehensive penetration test.
Discrepancies in post-testing services and deliverables
What happens after the test can also affect the quote. Some providers offer comprehensive audit-ready reports, free retesting, presentation of results and follow-up consultations as part of their service, while others might simply provide a list of vulnerabilities identified. The depth and quality of these post-testing services and deliverables can significantly impact the quote.
Infographic – What to look for in a pentest quote?
How to compare penetration testing quotes effectively
After receiving quotes from different providers, it’s important to understand how to compare them effectively. Here are some key considerations:
Ensuring similar scope and services are being compared
When comparing quotes, make sure that the scope and services are similar. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison if one quote includes post-testing services like detailed reporting and follow-up consultation while another only includes the penetration test itself. Make sure to consider all aspects of the service when comparing quotes.
Evaluating the proposed methodology and approach
Consider the methodologies and approaches proposed by each provider. Do they follow industry best practices? Are they thorough in their testing processes? The approach taken can significantly affect the quality of the results and should be a key consideration when comparing quotes.
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Assessing the reputation and track record of the pentest provider
It’s important to assess the reputation and track record of the pentest provider you’re getting a quote from. Ask for reviews and testimonials, customer references and any other piece of information that can provide insights into the reliability and quality of their services. Additionally, a provider with a proven track record in your specific industry may be a more valuable partner than one with a more generic service portfolio, such as MSP providers and audit firms that don’t have cybersecurity as their focus area.
We have written a comprehensive blog post with the top 10 tips on how to select a penetration testing company that suits your needs.
Comparing the comprehensiveness of the final report
The comprehensiveness of the final report should also be considered. A detailed report that includes an analysis of the findings, their potential impact and suggested mitigation strategies provides more value than a simple list of vulnerabilities found – especially if the report will be used for an audit or for a vendor security assessment. This difference in deliverables can be a determining factor when comparing quotes.
Infographic – Penetration test quote comparison chart
In a market saturated with penetration testing providers, understanding and comparing quotes for pentest services is crucial to selecting the right pentest partner for your specific needs. As we all know, quotes can differ greatly among providers due to several factors, including the complexity of your IT environment, the specific testing methods to be used, the experience and expertise of the testing team, the use of automated tools versus manual testing, and the range of post-testing services provided.
Each quote is more than just a price tag – it’s a roadmap outlining the pentest provider’s approach to testing, the scope of work, the timeframes, and the final deliverables and reporting. Taking the time to dissect each quote, understanding the nuances and comparing them effectively can significantly impact the quality of the results and the value you receive.
Now that you are equipped with the knowledge to understand and compare penetration testing quotes, reach out to our experts for a customized quote tailored to your cybersecurity needs.
Why are some penetration testing quotes more expensive than others?
Quotes can vary due to differences in the complexity of the IT environment, the testing methodologies used, the team’s expertise, and the range of post-testing services. Higher-priced quotes often involve more detailed and extensive testing processes.
What should I look for in a penetration testing quote?
You should look at the scope of testing, the methodologies used, the tester’s expertise, the post-testing services, and the provider’s reputation in the industry. Additionally, ensure the quote provides good value for the price rather than just opting for the lowest cost.