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How to Optimize Your Penetration Testing Budget

Over the next six months, most organizations will have a heightened focus on defining the parameters of their 2023 cybersecurity budgets. This year has its own set of unique challenges – from rising global inflation rates to the ever-increasing information security skills shortage. 

In my current role as Technical Client Director and from my former experience as a penetration tester, I’ve helped many organizations optimize components of the penetration testing process to get the greatest value out of their allotted budget and assessment scope. 

While your penetration testing budget is only one piece of your organization’s overall information security funding, a few key details can help inform your decision making around this important and often stressful process. 

What Does a Successful Penetration Test Look Like? 

First, it’s important to define what a successful penetration test should look like. Key characteristics of a high value penetration test include: 

  • A solid deliverable: A generic PDF summary of your vulnerabilities doesn’t hold much value. A well-written report that clearly meets the objectives of the test, the actions taken, and highlights the greatest risks to your business will set a great penetration test apart from the rest. 
  • Great communication: An unsuccessful pentest is one where you finalize the scope and do not hear from your testing team until you get your results. They must be collaborative from start to finish. Maintain regular status reports, engage in conversations to clear up areas of confusion, and communicate with your pentesters to better understand the impact of your most critical findings. 
  • Ongoing access to results, metrics, and expertise: A successful pentesting partnership should provide you the tools and resources to help you manage and prioritize your vulnerability results, identify metrics that communicate the big picture, and give you real-time access to the testers that identified the vulnerabilities so that you can ask questions and chart the best course for remediation. It should also provide you with strategic guidance and partnership that gives you insight into information security trends and how they apply to your organization.  

Getting Started 

A pentest can be costly, time-consuming, and frustrating if done incorrectly. But it is an essential piece of an organization’s vulnerability management program when done right. Looking for a refresher on the types of pentesting, the process, and key trends in the space? Explore our introductory guide. 

Organizations can begin optimizing their pentesting program before an assessment even begins. The process starts with defining the scope of the test. Consider these influential factors: 

  • Number of endpoints or size of your application, network range, etc.  
  • Compliance and regulatory requirements  
  • How sensitive the information contained in the application, network, cloud infrastructure, etc. is to your organization 

Organizations navigating which tests to budget for in the upcoming financial year should lean on their strategic pentesting partner to help understand their needs and objectives. 

How to Enhance the Value of Your Pentest 

Budget optimization doesn’t begin and end during the scoping process. There are many penetration testing best practices that can be enhanced to get the most value out of each engagement. 

  1. Demonstrate the functionality of the application, network, or cloud platform with your pentest team in the weeks leading up to your test. This meeting is pivotal in setting the trajectory of the assessment as it will help your testing team understand where to prioritize their manual testing efforts.
  2. Have the right person available to manage the pentest. However, that person’s role may vary from company to company. As for who you think is best suited, make sure it’s somebody who can dedicate their time before, during, and after the assessment. This person should have sufficient technical knowledge of the test environment to answer complex questions, as well as access to troubleshoot and manage any issues that arise during the engagement.
  3. Before any testing begins, set clear expectations across teams, and ensure there is a collective understanding of remediation timeline requirements, meeting times, the desired testing window, and the ability to provide key engagement items before a project begins (for example, API documentation, testing accounts, or documentation around role permissions).
  4. Equip your pentesting team to start the assessment without weeks of recon. Pentesters are bound by time, adversaries are not. Give your pentesting team as much information as you can about the target environment. This will empower them to focus their time on creative manual testing techniques that uncover critical vulnerabilities. Read additional insights on the value of an open box vs. black box pentest in this blog post.
  5. Get organized. There is one common thread that ties a great penetration test together: organization. Those who are organized, can provide the pentesting team with the most up-to-date information, are available to answer questions, and set clear expectations, will ultimately get the most value out of their pentesting budget. 

Selecting the right penetration testing company 

Selecting the right penetration testing company for your needs is a crucial component to the success of your engagements (we’ve got a guide for that, too).  

Ensure that you’re working with an offensive security firm that acts as a true strategic partner. They should operate as an extension of your team to help guide and advise you on how to best allocate your budget and resources to get the most value out of your pentest. 

Ready to get more value out of your pentesting budget? Explore NetSPI’s penetration testing services.