One of the fundamentals of IT security is taking active measures to confirm the integrity of your network. The penetration test is, by far, the most powerful tool to accomplish this.
Penetration tests are essentially simulations designed to go above and beyond a standard vulnerability assessment. Penetration testers play out the same scenarios a hacker would use to break into a network. These simulations aim to identify security issues early on, before hackers can find and exploit them.
These tests are extremely valuable from a security perspective. First off, they help create real-world situations to show organizations how effectively their current security defenses would act when facing actual cyber-attacks.
Getting a clear understanding of where your system falls short is key to building and maintaining a robust security plan that both you and your customers can rely on.
Second, and equally important is confirming compliance with digital regulation. Penetration tests can help certify an organization is up to par with data laws and other mandated security and control frameworks.
Before contracting a penetration test, it’s important to come with a bit of pre-knowledge on what a penetration test does, how it works, and the different tools out there testers can use to execute them.
(IMPORTANT: This free PDF report shows pricing data from 10 real penetration testing contracts so your firm can gauge costs and avoid overpaying for your own tests.)
- What Happens in a Network Penetration Test?
- How Will the Penetration Test Affect Operations?
- Automated vs Manual Penetration Testing
- Internal vs External Network Penetration Testing
- Red Team vs Blue Team vs Purple Team Tests
- What Tools are Used for Network Penetration Testing?
- Common Problems Identified
- What Will a Pen Test Not Cover?
- What Are The Deliverables?
- What Happens After a Test?
- How Much Does Network Penetration Testing Cost?
- Different Industries, Different Standards
- Will Network Pen Testing Really Help?
What Happens in a Network Penetration Test?
Penetration tests are nothing less than modeling what a cybercriminal would attempt in order to gain access to your network.
First, an experienced developer will define the goals of the testing exercise. This includes which elements of the system will be ‘targeted’, taking into account the network processes a hacker would attempt to exploit. Testers then define rules for the pen test operation alongside determining the methods and tools to be used.
From a simulation perspective, this is basically determining what methods and tools hackers might employ in order to execute their attack on this particular network.
Next comes the reconnaissance stage. Here, the analysts gather intelligence on the network and its vulnerabilities using various methods. The goals are to get as much data as possible for identifying potential vulnerabilities to exploit and create attack plans for execution.
After the potential weaknesses have been mapped out and an attack strategy is formed, the testers will move on to the actual penetration attempts. During this stage, developers will attempt the full gamut of cyber penetration: escalating privileges, exfiltrating restricted data or files, and intercepting traffic.
Finally, if any of these attacks are successful, the testers will need to determine the persistence factor. This means assessing how long it takes for current security protocols, either automated or human-initiated, to kick in and respond. In this way, pen testers will essentially mimic advanced hackers who will try and wrest control of a network for as long as possible and hide proof of their intrusion.
This is one of the major factors in the time duration of penetration tests. In the real world, an attacker once gaining access may lay low for days, weeks, or even months. Of course, operating within budget constraints requires penetration testing to be scoped for a certain predetermined period of time, but at least some duration will be set aside to assess this vulnerability.
How Will the Penetration Test Affect Operations?
Before moving on to some of the more important details of what to look for in a penetration test, it’s worth covering the crucial topic of what these procedures will mean for your business while they’re taking place.
The question that is most often asked of a test administrator is “will this test disrupt my business operations?”
Luckily, the answer to this question in the vast majority of cases is no. A typical well-executed penetration test will have little if any noticeable effect on the day-to-day functioning of your network. In fact, for many of the individual test attacks, continuing regular operations is ideal as it best simulates what the network environment would be like in a real-world scenario.
Now, to be fair, while penetration tests overwhelmingly go down without any impact whatsoever, there is the potential for some disturbances to take place in your network. The most common issues are pretty benign. These include spikes in bandwidth, especially during the automated portions of the test. But unless the network is already experiencing bandwidth difficulties, this shouldn’t have any substantive effect on your employees’ ability to work.
If bandwidth is in fact tight, you can solve this by scheduling the pen test (or parts of it) outside of normal work hours. This may slightly increase the developer’s fee for administering the test but will likely be worth the extra cost if it means avoiding office downtime.
In extremely rare cases, the penetration test can have more serious effects on a system. These are almost always due to a misconfiguration of the system being tested such as an out-of-date server being employed or a particularly bad vulnerability that when ‘hit’ during a pen test can cause a system crash.
Granted, this might sound ominous for a company manager looking to test out his IT security. But the truth is, even considering this possibility – which is again, extremely unlikely – the benefits of the pen test will far outweigh the risk.
Consider for a moment you have such a vulnerability or structural issue with your network that could cause serious issues during a test. It is far better to find out about it within the controlled environment of a pen test and under the watchful eye of expert developers than to find out suddenly and without notice during the middle of the workweek.
Other more serious issues could involve the corruption of data. When administrators test your system code (more about that below) certain instabilities can cause permanent modifications to files or cause data to be dropped from your database.
Again, while this might sound scary, it is a problem you want to know about sooner than later. Uncovering it with a pen test is better than an unexpected surprise down the road. Furthermore, there are steps you can take to mitigate this risk. Before the test begins, double-check your organizational back-ups and restoration procedures. If any data is damaged during the process, at least it won’t be permanently lost.
Bottom line, while penetration tests are exceedingly safe because there are risks involved, it’s important to have a point of contact with your developer you can reach out to immediately if an issue does come up.
Finally, regardless of the particular arrangement you make with your contracted tester, there’s going to be the issue of duration. Keep in mind, a pen test for an average company takes anywhere between 1 to 3 weeks.
You’ll want to update your employees and managers of the upcoming procedure, and any known or potential changes to the system during this time.
Automated vs Manual Penetration Testing
Most pen tests contain elements of both automated and manual testing. The amount of the test that is automated compared to manual will affect the depth, the duration and the cost of a test.
Automated testing uses various software tools to scan a network for common vulnerabilities. An automated test is still conducted by and reported on by a trained pen tester, but does not require a large amount of their time.
Most pen tests begin with an automated component that can quickly alert the test team to areas of weakness that should be examined more carefully with manual testing.
The manual pen test component is where the test team can make more targeted and specific attacks on your network depending on what they’ve learned during the reconnaissance stage. Manual testing is customized to the organization, its network and assets.
Because it requires more time and skill, the amount of manual testing involved will affect the cost of a test. The more manual testing, the more expensive.
The best test structure for your organization will depend on your security goals and budget. If the goal of a pen test is primarily to meet compliance standards, a mostly automated test is usually favored, perhaps utilizing limited manual testing for the purpose of validating results.
If the goal is risk mitigation and the strengthening of security protocols, a pen test with more manual testing hours is preferred. This allows more testing of more scenarios, and more detailed reporting that prioritizes risks and allows for quicker remediation.
Internal vs External Network Penetration Testing
An organization can contract for an internal pen test, an external pen test or a test combining both. The test type heavily impacts cost, so is worth properly understanding.
An external pen test attempts to breach your organization’s network from the outside. It starts, as a hacker would, with no knowledge of or access to the network, and looks for any vulnerability that might offer an entry point.
By contrast, an internal pen test starts with the tester being given access to the network – perhaps through the credentials of one user – and searching for vulnerabilities from within. The purpose of this kind of pen test is to assess what information could be accessed, and how much damage a malicious actor could do if they were able to penetrate the network from the outside.
Perhaps counterintuitively, the internal attack surface of an organization is typically much larger than the external surface. For this reason, internal pen testing is typically much more involved, more time consuming and more costly.
Red Team vs Blue Team vs Purple Team Tests
While we’re learning more about network penetration testing and the differences inherent to the process, we should include details on red teaming, blue teaming, and purple teaming. Pen testing will look different depending on which color team strategies are being used to secure and maintain the network’s security.
Red teams are positioned internally or externally to the network and are tasked with emulating the attacks that hackers would employ. Red teaming is a form of penetration testing since the team tries to gain access to your network but it takes an extended approach, taking longer (sometimes months) and costing more than your average pen test.
What does a red-team pen test look like? While an ordinary pen test will identify vulnerabilities and exploit them, red teaming is more targeted and explorative. By choosing specific targets, the red team will do anything in their power to compromise the target by zeroing in on technological and even personnel weaknesses. This better simulates an all-out attack on your network, where somebody has done their homework, figured out how to break in, and is trying their best to do harm.
Needless to say, the experience required for a red team test is much greater than a standard compliance driven pen test. It is typically carried out by a team, all or most of whom should have advanced pen test certifications from recognized industry bodies. In terms of complexity, a red team test is at the opposite end of the spectrum to a purely automated pen test but note that even a red team may deploy automated tools as part of their process when the situation demands it.
A red team test will spend more time during each phase of the test process. You can expect a red team will take longer researching your network, and longer scouting its weak points before creating a campaign plan. Then they execute that campaign, which will attempt to breach your network regularly over days, weeks, or months, to find and understand a wide range of vulnerabilities.
In a solely red-teaming session, they will try to remain undiscovered by your existing security protocols for as long as possible. As this happens, the in-house security team should be unaware of the impending cyberattack, so their reactions are honest and genuine, painting a more authentic picture of how your network would fare in a hacking event.
Another feature that is only available by request for a standard test, but that is almost always a part of a red team test is social engineering. While a pen test tends to flex the digital security of an organization, red teamers often get permission to plant devices, clone keycards, and resort to other tactics that target personnel in the real world to gain access to their assets.
Because of the comprehensive nature of a red team test, it will also deliver the most comprehensive set of reports and recommendations for remediation. A red team should then be on hand to provide assistance with remediation if requested.
As you’d expect, blue teams are adversarial to the red team. They are a simulated internal security team that needs to defend against hackers during red team engagements. As the red team takes agitative measures to break into the network, the blue team tries to keep them out. The idea is that the organization can learn simultaneously from both the techniques that worked in breaching the network, and the techniques that worked in defending the network from those specific breaches.
To do their job, it’s often said that blue team members need to think like a hacker even more than the red team. This is because they need to anticipate the tactics that the red team will employ, sometimes before they even try them, and remain vigilant to any developments in attack strategy. Some of the best blue team recruits are those that have real-world attack experience as they make the best and most proactive cybersecurity defenders.
While adversarial with red team during engagements, it’s vital that the red team and the blue team can communicate effectively. They are both working toward strengthening the network, after all. If the red team identifies a vulnerability, it needs to be communicated to the blue team and other relevant network engineers afterward, to ensure quick remediation.
As the security team during a pen test, blue teams manage the security operations center functions and any unusual events that occur in the network. This involves incident tracking, packet capturing/analysis, and automation of security so they can do more at once. This will also involve making a list of the predicted targets, conducting risk assessments of them through vulnerability scanning, and running their own penetration testing in problem areas to find and solve issues before the reds do.
Purple teams then comprise both attackers and defenders. These teams bolster the effectiveness of the two other teams that are competing, but also make sure that they are communicating effectively.
In a test where the red and blue teams are interfacing properly, a purple team isn’t usually needed. The red and blue teams are trying to improve each other’s tactics while testing the integrity of their battleground, so sometimes a purple team won’t add anything if there’s already a competitive, collaborative environment.
The best purple teams aren’t a team at all, they don’t have their own stance in the conflict and instead exist between the red and blue teams. Think of the purple team as a dynamic, not an outright team. Their job during a network pen test is continuous feedback and transfer of vital information.
They’re often required where red and/or blue teams are staffed by newer pen testers who need to practice campaigning. Through both manual and automated means, purple teams are great for improving the effectiveness of security teams that need training in threat hunting, vulnerability detection, and generalized network monitoring procedures. For this reason, purple teams can sometimes reduce pen testing costs.
While red team and blue team tests may happen more frequently, purple team pen tests are used to establish the red team’s deliverables, the blue team’s security goals, and the timeline of the engagement. These are clearly defined and formalized, then studied afterward to learn lessons from the operation. Think of it as a training day for both the red team and blue team, where both sides are audited and receive feedback on any shortcomings in their offensive and defensive performance.
As such, purple teams aren’t permanent fixtures inside an organization like both red and blue teams. They form and disband as needed and are typically staffed by senior security personnel. Purple teaming is a great way to enhance an organization’s knowledge of its security, then streamline the improvements/enhancements that need to be made.
What Tools are Used for Network Penetration Testing?
During the access gaining stage, developers will use an array of methods to test network strength.
Administers will deploy web application attacks, such as cross-site scripting, commonly known as XSS attacks. This involved injecting malicious code into an application that will then target the users of that app. As far as business reputation is concerned, this type of testing is crucial as an XSS attack can destroy the image of a company’s product.
Another common form of web app testing is SQL injection, or SQLI for short. This differs from an XSS attack in that the target of the attack is not the application’s users per se but the app itself. A successful SQLI will give the attacker (or in our case the penetration tester) backend access to manipulate the app. This can also give the attacker the ability to exfiltrate or delete sensitive proprietary data.
Competent pen testers will also conduct backdoor tests on your system at various levels. Backdoors are system flaws that allow an unauthorized user to circumvent regular authentication procedures and gain unauthorized access to data and or network tools.
In addition to these more brute-force attack methods, testers can also simulate insider threats. For this, the testers will ask for your cooperation and at least one of your employees and use that employee’s network credentials to ‘impersonate’ him or her operating on the network.
Using this digital identity will then test to see how easy it is to upgrade access privileges or exfiltrate data. This can give important insight into your company’s Data Loss Protection protocols and in general how well you’re managing authentication security.
Beyond the traditional hacking methods, often the administrator of a test will reverse engineer certain system programs to assess their potential exploits. This part may require teaming up with your IT people so test admins can familiarize themselves with different program elements of the network.
Today, more and more providers are incorporating social engineering scenarios into their pen test repertoire. For this, the test admins will start by researching publicly available information about the organization and its systems and if any of that can be used to gain unauthorized access.
Here are some relevant examples of tools used during network pen testing and what they achieve:
- For offensive use, Kali Linux (formerly BackTrack) is a popular attack tool that allows penetration testers to mount their attack. It can run on its own hardware and virtual machines that are running Windows or OS X. While it is optimized for offense, it has no defense capabilities to speak of.
- For port scanning and network mapping, the software called Nmap is vital in testing. This allows testers to scout out the network, see which ports are open, and who is in charge of them.
- Metasploit is valuable open-source automation software that defenders can use to strain their network and see where security vulnerabilities exist. It is great for pen testing and detecting intrusions into a system.
- For password cracking, there are countless options available for pen testers. One of those options is John the Ripper, an open-source cracker that excels at offline password hacking. It can also mutate possible passwords to account for the quirks that humans add to their codes, like replacing letters with numbers (A – 4, S – 5, etc.).
- To foil John the Ripper, password recovery software Hashcat is a good resource. Where hashed passwords may be exfiltrated during a penetration test, Hashcat can guess or brute-force them through mask or dictionary attacks.
- For scouting traffic in a network, tools like Wireshark are great for everyday connection problems and real-time decryption analysis and support.
- For the SQL injections we mentioned above, sqlmap is a popular open-source tool that automates the discovery and exploitation of injection flaws. Think of a target that you want to pen test with an SQLI – sqlmap can probably take it on.
- Most networks have Internet-facing components, making web vulnerability scanners a must for pen testers. This software can get expensive but there are libre alternatives, like Zed Attack Proxy, which acts as a middleman between browsers and websites and can then inspect or modify traffic. It’s a great tool for beginners.
- For Wi-Fi auditing, aircrack-ng is an all-in-one package that pen testers can use. It can do four things – test Wi-Fi, crack passwords, monitor network packets, and attack through packet injections.
- For Linux systems, Linux-Exploit-Suggester does exactly what the name implies. It tests the system without having to navigate the intricacies of Linux and Linux-compatible vulnerability scanners. It’s ideal for quick diagnostics of Linus networks.
Common Problems Identified
The most common issues uncovered by pen tests tend to deal with authentication. These include password vulnerabilities and authorization bypasses at the application level.
Related to this vulnerability are weaknesses in encryption which is an area most companies will pay little attention to if at all, as many encryption protocols are built into the global information systems we all use. In some cases, however, businesses can inadvertently use protocols that are less than safe which means messages can be intercepted and read by hackers. This is far from a theoretical scenario. In October 2017 for example, Belgian cyber researchers discovered that WPA2, a widely used protocol for Wi-Fi connections, was actually breakable.
As alluded to above, other problems a pen test can uncover involve faulty system components or misconfigurations.
If an organization had been very lax with applying updates and/or patches, they could be working with a highly vulnerable system. Similarly, with all the programs a company utilizes within their network, it’s not unlikely they’ll be implementing out-of-date software with known vulnerabilities.
For example, if a company server is using an outdated web hosting program, there will likely be published weaknesses associated with it, which an attacker can then take advantage of.
What Will a Pen Test Not Cover?
Theoretically, a pen test can cover the full spectrum of network security issues. It’s really up to you and your test provider to determine what components and aspects of your system you want to be tested.
Generally speaking, administrators can conduct a test without collecting any information about your company or network before they begin, commonly known as a ‘blackbox’ test, which mimics the real-world scenario involving hackers who likely don’t have any insider foreknowledge on your system.
On the other side of the spectrum, a test can be done after giving over detailed aspects of your system and its users, or ‘whitebox’ testing. This type of test, while less similar to a real-world scenario, will give admins the chance to expand their tests, checking technical aspects of a system, and even security practices and protocols at the employee level.
With this in mind, it’s easy to understand how there’s a spectrum on what a pen test can address and there’s certainly no one answer on what a test will or won’t cover. Before you get started, make sure you’re clear on what the developers will be focusing on when they begin simulations.
What Are The Deliverables?
Pen test deliverables include a series of reports on the security issues discovered throughout the duration.
Once a penetration test has been completed, the report will list all network vulnerabilities and their severity. In most cases, the report will also provide recommendations on how to fix those issues.
If compliance with specific regulations is an important factor for you in getting the test to begin with, it would be wise to make sure the report you receive will address that directly and speak to the regulations’ specific requirements.
Finally, there is also a report for presentation to management which explains in non-technical terms how the risks can affect business continuity and potential financial losses of hackers exploiting those weaknesses.
What Happens After a Test?
After the test is completed and you have a good picture of what system challenges the organization is facing, you can get started addressing some of those issues.
The test report should contain some concrete recommendations and your test providers should be able to give you some hands-on guidance or service the problems themselves.
Many cybersecurity firms who provide tests will also be able to replace your firewall, update cloud services, or provide solutions to weaknesses in your Data Loss Protection (DLP).
Keep in mind though, not every issue uncovered in a penetration test will be solvable by your test providers. Replacing large components of a system (such as an outdated server for example) will likely be the problems outside the tester’s forte. At the very least, any competent developer that administers pen tests will be able to defer you to experts in your particular set of challenges.
In any case, clarifying which issues the testers will be able to solve and which ones they won’t is an important point to discuss before the test takes place.
In terms of a timeline for rectifying issues uncovered in a test, it really depends on the severity of the weaknesses discovered.
The more common issues such as password vulnerabilities or other authentication protocols, could be fixed pretty quickly, even in the course of a day if your IT people have their act together. Similarly, patching up old program versions could be done with relative ease and in extreme cases might take a day to download and install the new updates.
If the test identifies apps or services you use that are insecure, addressing that will take as long as finding and deploying an acceptable alternative. The most important thing is not to lose sight of addressing the post-test report. As a general rule, every finding in the report should have a plan made up for how to handle it, with a priority, and if possible be assigned to someone with a due date.
How Much Does Network Penetration Testing Cost?
Considering everything you’ve just learned about the complexity of pen tests and the variety of methods testers can employ, you now know not all tests are created equal, and therefore not all tests cost the same.
With that said, it is worthwhile to have a ballpark idea of how much you’re going to need to invest in a pen test.
For the typical small to medium business, a penetration test can run between $4,000 to $10,000. The most important factors determining the exact number are (A) the size of the organization, and (B) its complexity.
Companies that have a wider array of components–mobile apps, internal and external servers, and other complex computer systems–are going to require a higher budget.
We’ve written in more depth about the costs of network penetration testing and how they are determined in this article.
Different Industries, Different Standards
As you may have gathered from this guide, there isn’t one boilerplate network penetration test that will work for any business in any industry.
Perhaps the biggest difference in cybersecurity needs and the requisite pen test processes come from commercial versus industrial enterprises.
While commercial settings have a lot of juicy data that can be a big draw for opportunistic hackers, industrial settings are home to critical infrastructure and the data that provides insight into their manufacture and control. That can be a gold mine for cyberattacks, especially those attacks conducted by foreign nations that are trying to disrupt the targeted region.
As such, different industries need to prioritize different things during pen tests to get the best results. The standard pen test for a big commercial entity won’t work well for an industrial site.
See the table below for some broad differences in commercial and industrial cybersecurity:
|At-Risk Assets||Competitive, proprietary, and sensitive information. Financial records and access to company finances.||Real-world assets, factory equipment, PLC/RTU control panels. Vital infrastructure like fuel and power.|
|Attacking Force||Hackers are often motivated by self-gain through selling data or redirecting finances. In rare cases, they may have a grudge against a company entity.||Hackers either want to profit from ransom or are organized foreign state/cyberterrorist outfits that want to cause damage.|
|Network Experience||Commercial entities tend to have more experience with networks and network security. This is because they have been storing data for decades. That said, emerging Internet-of-Things tech in inexperienced office spaces may expose vulnerabilities.||Industrial workplaces are becoming more digitized, so networks connected to real-world machinery are newer and their owners have less experience running and protecting them. Updates are much more important here but may be delayed for productivity reasons.|
|Structural Variations||Commercial settings house hardware on office floors and inside divided, air-conditioned server rooms. Sensitive areas are protected by access cards and passwords.||Industrial sites are more open than office cubicles, with open-plan factories and warehouses. Sensitive hardware may be exposed to vibrations, temperature variation, and disruptive signal waves like electromagnetic, radio, or microwaves.|
With this table in mind, let’s explore some differences you can expect between commercial pen testing and industrial pen testing.
Differences In Test Strategy
The foremost differences in pen testing between these two are strategic. At the start of this guide, we outlined that pen testing can be externally-focused or internally-focused, then manual or automated, and then also prioritizing red team engagement, blue team engagement, or both through a purple team engagement.
We’d argue that competent providers should use both manual and automated pen testing. It’s a given that, if teaming exercises are involved, there are contractors who are manually poking and prodding the network to try and get in or keep others out. The best commercial and industrial entities should test for both manual and automated interferences if they want the highest quality of protection.
Further, different test types are more appropriate for industrial than commercial. A commercial organization may be able to get away with an external only pen test to suit compliance purposes. An industrial firm with critical infrastructure is less likely to benefit from an external only test.
Ultimately, both types of firm can benefit from a test that includes both internal and external testing. The only consideration is whether the business value will justify the additional cost incurred with internal testing, and this is more likely to be true for industrial firms than purely commercial ones.
When it comes to teaming exercises, the same is true. Industrial firms are more likely to need pen tests that are red-team intensive, throwing very sophisticated tactics at the firm’s security protocols to make sure that they can defend assets against any eventuality. By contrast, only commercial firms over a certain size (mid-market to enterprise) and in certain industries (eg. legal, financial, healthcare, education) may benefit from intensive red team pen tests.
Differences In Compliance
Of course, there are a host of regulations that govern cybersecurity practice within organizations. Depending on where you are in the world, your industry and business practices, there are different standards for regulatory compliance.
Some of these are industry specific, so a commercial environment will be subject to a different standard than a purely industrial one. Common standards include PCI DSS, SOC 2, and ISO 27001. There’s also the GDPR for businesses that operate in European markets.
When looking at pen testing, it’s vital that you get the kind of tests that work best for your system architecture and the standards that it is beholden to. We can’t go through them all here, so let’s take a look at one relevant example for a commercial enterprise and one for a vital industrial site.
For basic information security, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is used for organizations that handle bank card schemes to reduce credit card fraud. Under requirement 11.3, penetration testing is needed along with a raft of virtualization and tokenization guidelines.
As you’d expect, there are a lot of regulations in place in industrial environments where worker safety and economic resources are on the line.
That’s where SCADA comes in. The Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition control system architecture is used by many industrial sites responsible for vital resources and services. You can schedule testing of this architecture, or ICS architecture, to better protect industrial sites instead of the standard, ineffective information security protocol you see at commercial enterprises.
For less important industrial sites, the UL 2900 has multiple standards with UL 2900-2-2 focusing on industrial systems specifically. Requiring detailed threat modeling, the standard aims to protect sensitive, command, and control data, and mandates penetration testing as a must to maintain software integrity.
When pen testing for a commercial network that involves finances, you’ll need to schedule testing that falls under the PCI DSS more than the UL 2900-2-2. Being certified under these standards is often required to do business in certain sectors. Always make sure that you’re getting the right tests for the systems and industries you are operating in.
Differences In Cost
Lastly, there are cost differences in pen tests on commercial vs industrial enterprises. between the testing that is carried out in different industries.
Pen testing for industrial machinery or devices incurs a higher cost because of the increased complexity. A smaller number of firms have the required skill and experience to conduct this level of pen test, and so you can expect to pay a higher price.
That said, pen tests in these industries can still have costs managed by adjusting scope, test complexity, duration, and test type with the test provider.
Will Network Pen Testing Really Help?
A penetration test for your organization is a serious undertaking, both in terms of the costs of administering it, as well as addressing the recommendations in the post-test report.
It’s important to remember, the benefits of a pen test go way beyond optimizing network security.
From a simple dollars and cents perspective, a pen test can save a business huge quantities of capital. This fact is clear from the billions lost over the last few years alone in cyberattacks, most of which companies could have easily protected themselves against if they had been aware of some quick-to-fix vulnerability.
It’s easy for small businesses to fall into the trap of “do I really need a pen test?” But in reality, smaller organizations are the ones who need it most. As a now-famous 2017 Verizon security report laid out, over sixty percent of data breach victims are small businesses.
Pen tests are also invaluable for improving network functionality. For example, in many cases developers will be able to recommend more seamless and efficient security protocols that will make your employees’ lives easier, save you money, and increase productivity.
Even beyond the whole topic of security, pen tests are also a huge asset to company reputation. Being able to tout compliance with not just legally binding regulations, but also world-recognized standard institutes, the likes of NIST or the PCI Security Council (PCI DSS), is a big confidence boost for potential customers.
Taking all this into consideration, contracting a pen test may be the project with the most encompassing benefits for your organization, at least as far as your IT is concerned. Coming into this task with a bit of foreknowledge will help ensure timely and effective execution, with minimal cost to your organization.
(REMEMBER: This free PDF report shows pricing data from 10 real penetration testing contracts so your firm can gauge costs and avoid overpaying for your own tests.)