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The Ultimate Guide to the Average Cost of a Pentest in Canada

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What is the average cost of a pentest in Canada, and what are the factors that influence it?

In today's blog, our team of ethical hackers delves into the components that impact penetration testing cost, as well as the quality, depth, testing coverage, and scope of assessments as they pertain to price.

Lastly, we’ll provide an overview of the most common types of penetration testing and outline the average costs associated with each of them so that you and your team can make the right decisions when hiring a penetration testing firm.

Let's begin:

Firstly, What is Pentesting?

Before we explain the average cost breakdown of a penetration test, let's first discuss what it is.

Pentesting (short for "penetration testing") is an umbrella term that includes probing external and internal networks, web applications, and even social engineering techniques such as phishing, tailgating and other physical attacks.

It is essential to understand that penetration testing is not simply running automated vulnerability scanners and providing the client with a report of unvalidated results littered in false positives and false negatives. Where a vulnerability scan is produced by an automated tool that may scan ports, networks, and applications for vulnerabilities, a skilled penetration tester will use a vulnerability scan as just that, a tool; a tool that they may leverage in their objective, but their work goes far beyond the depth and comprehension of an automated scanner.

Once a vulnerability scan has been run, to highlight potential vulnerabilities, a penetration tester will then follow a logical methodology to exploit all the attack vectors a real hacker might use to break into your systems. A vulnerability scan alone cannot provide a sufficient security measure.

Reasons Why Pentesting is Necessary for Cyber Insurance

With over 33 billion records estimated to be stolen by the end of 2023 alone, service providers need quality cyber insurance to protect their businesses against the liability of cybersecurity risks and data breaches.

Cybersecurity insurance works to help restore breached employee or customer identities, recover compromised data, and repair damaged business-related devices. Across North America, this type of business liability insurance generally covers IT forensic investigation, credit monitoring for security-breached individuals, regulatory fines, class action lawsuits that may result from the breach, and more.

With an avalanche of businesses continuing to move to entirely remote working after the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are more at risk of system breaches than ever before… and that risk level will only continue to increase over time. On top of opening yourselves up to potentially significant financial losses, those without cybersecurity insurance also risk losses in public trust and damaged brand authority.

To be eligible for cyber insurance, organizations must fulfill certain cybersecurity requirements. These requirements include, but may not be limited to:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Multi-factor authentication across all insured resources is required to mitigate the risk of stolen credentials

  • Ongoing Testing of Your Systems: To ensure that security is in place, insurers will need to see that you have periodically and continuously had all systems tested

  • Cybersecurity Awareness Training: Cybersecurity awareness training is crucial, as it acts as the first line of defence against common cybercrime tactics like phishing and social engineering

  • Data Backups: Backups of your data will need to be proven to show that you can recover from a ransomware attack without needing to pay said ransom

  • VPNs (Virtual Private Networks): VPNs need to be installed on all remote desktop services, which guarantees that your IT infrastructure is encrypted

  • Third-Party Vendor Audits: Audits of third-party vendors are required to determine the level of access they may have to your systems, data, and general business-related assets

  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Antivirus Software: EDR antivirus software is a requirement and needs to be installed on all connected business devices

Why Organizations Benefit From 95% Manual Penetration Testing

Alongside employing a team of OSCP-minimum certified ethical hackers, the Packetlabs difference boils down to our 95% manual penetration testing.

Instead of outsourcing our work or relying on automated VA scans, we guarantee zero false positives via our in-depth approach and passion for innovation: our security testing methodology is derived from the SANS Pentest Methodology, the MITRE ATT&CK framework for enterprises, and NIST SP800-115 to ensure compliance with the majority of common regulatory requirements. 

Penetration testing is a crucial component of any mature organization’s cybersecurity strategy, and it’s getting more traction and popularity as companies are more aware of direct and third-party cyber risks, requiring pentesting as part of vendor cybersecurity assessments before signing contracts with suppliers; it's partly why the conversation around the average cost of a pentest in Canada in 2023 is something our team fields so frequently. Our comprehensive methodology has been broken up based on which areas can be tested with automation and those which require extensive manual testing.

The Types of Penetration Testing

As detailed in the MITRE cybersecurity framework, penetration testing comes in many variations.

Here at Packetlabs, we execute these via a variety of potential methods:

  • DevSecOps: DevSecOps is integrated early in your development cycle and acts as an extension of your development team to flag vulnerabilities within your existing detected management systems

  • Red Teaming: Red Teaming is a full-scope simulated attack designed to get a holistic review of the level of risk and vulnerabilities across people, processes, and tech in an organization

  • Purple Teaming: Purple Teaming is our collaborative testing exercise where the Packetlabs red team works with your internal security operations team (or blue team) to bridge the gap between offensive techniques and response efforts

  • Cyber Maturity Assessments: A Cyber Maturity Assessment supports the tactical direction of your cybersecurity strategy. As the first step in strengthening your security posture, this assessment generates the roadmap to strengthen your overall security program

  • Compromise Assessments: A Compromise Assessment uncovers past or present threats like zero-day malware, trojans, ransomware, and other anomalies that may go unnoticed in standard automated vulnerability scans

  • OT Assessments: OT Cybersecurity Assessments simulate the likelihood of an attacker reaching the control centre from an external and internal perspective with production-safe testing

  • Ransomware Penetration Testing: A ransomware penetration test evaluates the preparedness and risk of a ransomware attack and identifies gaps in people, processes, and technology, to determine the likelihood and readiness for a ransomware attack

  • Cloud Penetration Testing: Multiple perspectives help with strengthening your security posture. These include Cloud Penetration Testing, which simulates an attacker in the environment, and a Cloud Penetration Review, which provides insights into cloud-specific vulnerabilities originating from an insecure configuration. Each of these services can be conducted separately or, for maximum effectiveness, combined as an enhanced cloud security bundle

  • Objective-based Penetration Testing: Following a preliminary penetration test, objective-based testing conducts a more advanced simulated cybersecurity attack. The test is conducted by persistent ethical hackers who deploy multiphase attacks to gain access to your organization's data so that you can discover gaps and vulnerabilities unique to your organization and test your ability to detect and respond to threat actor

  • Application Security Testing: More targeted in scope than a regular pentest, application security testing uncovers vulnerabilities residing in your web and mobile apps. Application Security Testing actively explores your application from an attacker’s perspective

  • Infrastructure Penetration Testing: An infrastructure penetration testing assessment uncovers vulnerabilities in your IT and network systems and provides a tailored approach to each environment

These are in addition to the Packetlabs Portal, which enables you to quickly view findings, prioritize efforts, request retests after remediation, and monitor progress.

Each type of penetration test or assessment can be tailored to your organization's specific cybersecurity wants, needs, goals, and pre-existing vulnerabilities. Each also has a different average pentest cost. However, generally speaking...

The Average Cost of a Pentest in Canada in 2023

The average cost of a penetration test in Canada in 2023 generally ranges from $5,000 to over $150,000; various factors such as the scope of the given project, the size of the company and IT, and pentester experience all play a role.

Let's explore the aspects that influence pricing and the overall cost of a pentest in order to help you understand how to adjust your budget accordingly (and what to expect when requesting pentesting quotes from firms.)

Factor #1: Penetration Testing Firm Experience and Reputation

The reputation of the penetration testing company and the skills of the team conducting the penetration test are critical factors in determining cost.

Senior penetration testers with relevant industry certifications, such as CRESTOffSec‘s Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), OSCE, OSWE, and SANs, oftentimes result in higher fees; however, they also generally result in more robust findings, better team communication, and long-term cyber hygiene benefits.

Here at Packetlabs Ltd., we take cybersecurity beyond the checkbox. Packetlabs is a SOC 2 Type II accredited cybersecurity firm specializing in penetration testing services. To strengthen your security posture, we offer solutions such as penetration testing, adversary simulation, application security and other security assessments.

Alongside recently celebrating our twelfth year in business this year, our 95% manual penetration testing yielded a partnership with the SickKids Foundation, which was another one of our 2023 highlights: the SickKids Foundation is a fundraising organization based in Toronto that supports the Hospital with sick children. With over 1.5 million active donors, the foundation collects and manages sensitive information, which could result in reputational damage and loss of donors if breached.

Factor #2: Complexity of a Pentest

When it comes to determining the average cost of a penetration test, the scope and complexity of any given project must also be factored in.

For example, projects with larger scope or higher complexity generally require more time and resources to assess, resulting in increased costs. This could include:

  • The presence of custom codes

  • Legacy systems

  • Unique integrations within the organization's networks

  • Multiple types of penetration testing being performed in a bundle

  • Ongoing consultation or remediation efforts

Factor #3: Compliance and Industry-Specific Cyber Requirements

Certain industries, such as healthcare and finance, may have specific regulatory requirements or standards that must be met during a pentest.

Adhering to these requirements can complicate the testing process and result in higher costs... but is also very necessary: as just one example, with healthcare data breaches having had the highest security breach costs for over twelve consecutive years (and showing no signs of slowing down), shifting to focus on cybersecurity-related compliance is a must to protect both staff and patient confidentiality.

Compliance with regulations and frameworks such as HIPAAPCI DSSTIBER EU, CBEST, SOC 2, or ISO 27001 may require additional steps or specialized knowledge, increasing the cost of penetration testing. However, long term, organizations will save up up to millions of dollars by proactively investing against reputational and financial losses.

Factor #4: Consulting, Retesting and Remediation Support Options

Some penetration testing firms offer additional support services, such as remediation testing, to assist clients in implementing recommended security posture improvements or provide ongoing cybersecurity-related consultation.

These services can be essential for organizations looking to enhance their security posture, but can also contribute to higher upfront costs. On top of offering an array of free consultant-related resources to organizations of all sizes, one way we offer this at Packetlabs is via our MSP Partner Program: through a Partnership, Managed IT Services Providers can leverage our specialized cybersecurity skills and knowledge to provide even more comprehensive solutions to clients.

Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding the various factors behind the average cost of a pentest in Canada in 2023 is critical for organizations looking to invest in their cybersecurity.

The cost of a penetration test can range anywhere from $5K-$150K depending on several factors.

The most significant factors that can affect the cost of a pentest include the following:

  • Scope: The more comprehensive the pentest, the higher the cost. This includes everything from identifying and testing vulnerabilities to performing a social engineering assessment

  • Type of testing: As just one example, a black box test is more expensive than a white box test because it is more time-consuming

  • Methodology: Penetration testing should be conducted using globally accepted and industry-standard frameworks

  • Automated vs manual: Manual penetration testing is more costly but more effective in identifying vulnerabilities. At Packetlabs, automated testing accounts for only 5% of the testing. The other 95% consists of manually simulated real-life attacks 

  • Complexity of target environment: The more complex the environment, the more time and effort it will take to identify and assess potential vulnerabilities

  • Tester qualifications: Experienced and certified ethical hackers will provide you with a more thorough pentest which can save you time and money in the long run

  • Time frame: As expected, the longer the testing timeframe is, the higher the cost will be

By considering the unique needs of their systems and infrastructure, organizations can select the most suitable type of security testing. Investing in a thorough, robust, manual penetration test can be the difference between being saved from what our clients call "company-killing asteroids" and suffering reputational or financial losses from a blend of a lack of regulatory compliance and successful data breaches.

If you're reading this, you are already in the market for a pentest. Contact our team today for your free, zero-obligation quote or download our Buyer's Guide below to take the next step.

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