With the threat of cyberattacks hanging heavily over businesses of all sizes, every company should be concerned about choosing the right course of action to ensure their cyber security. After all, no company has unlimited resources of time and money to spend on a process of trial and error; not to mention that the increasing possibility of a cyber attack leaves no room for such luxuries.
In the spirit of proactively fortifying the security posture, many businesses consider penetration tests and bug bounties. Pentests come in 2 different types: traditional and modern, AKA crowd-sourced pentest-as-a-service! Traditional penetration tests incorporate internal or external security teams to perform the test while in a next-gen model, a handful of ethical hackers will be chosen according to their field of expertise from a pool of talented individuals and will take care of the job. And with a bug bounty program, a large crowd of experts will start a simulated attack on your digital assets.
While all three solutions are viable options, their efficacy and potency depend on the security measures the company has taken and how further they’re willing to go. Some companies may start with a traditional pentest and move on to modern solutions. While others go for the more modern and effective solutions of bug bounty and crowd-sourced pentest from the outset.
To find out which solution can best provide protection, we’ve prepared this full guide! Here, aside from a full discussion of pentest vs bug bounty, you’ll find what a traditional pentest is, how it differs from a crowd-sourced Next-Generation Penetration Test, and which solution will best optimize your security posture.
Traditional Pentest Vs. Crowd Sourced Next-Gen Pentest as a Service
The best place to start our investigation is with an accurate penetration testing definition. In short, a pentest is a test of your security posture; it is a security assessment method that involves simulating an attack to effectively identify security holes and vulnerabilities and arrive at practical solutions, especially regarding compliance and standards. Now, both traditional and Next-Gen pentest share the same function and objective, but they’re essentially different in their approaches as well as efficiency.
In a traditional penetration test, this security evaluation or simulated attack is usually performed by external security consultants from an agency or in-house cyber security teams that are employed for this purpose. These experts will use their skills and automated tools to discover your vulnerabilities and report them back to you.
However, in a crowd-sourced, next-gen pentest, the process is trusted to a number of ethical hackers, picked from a pool of skilled security experts who will attempt to manually break into the specified security system to find vulnerabilities and assess how it conforms to various compliance and standards.
Based on the definition, it might be obvious why a traditional pentest fails on so many levels. But let’s dig deeper into how a traditional penetration test falls short before we get to the comparison of pentest vs bug bounty.
Why Is Traditional Pentest Inefficient?
So far, we know that both types of penetration tests can evaluate security levels and help companies attain compliance. So, why can’t a traditional pentest fulfill your expectations and needs?! Why does it fail?!
1- A Limited Team Means Limited Perspective
Granted that even in traditional pentest, your security assessment will be in the professional hands of experts who are vastly experienced in detecting security vulnerabilities. But perhaps the most salient downside to a traditional pentest is that you’d be relying on a limited team of experts with limited specialties. That is, whether you hire a team of security experts or outsource it to agencies, you’d be leaving all your penetration tests to the same limited group.
This becomes problematic because these individuals also come with their own limited experience, expertise, knowledge, practiced techniques, preferred tools, and strategies, which will undoubtedly blur their perspective. Not to mention that they use all their skills and knowledge in the first round of pentest, so they’ll have a harder time finding other vulnerabilities from that point onward. This means that many of your security vulnerabilities will fly under their radar until a hacker discovers and exploits them.
On the other hand, a crowd-sourced pentest allows you to direct the attention of various security experts to your security posture. That is, many individuals with various areas of expertise and experience will be available to perform the penetration test, which makes the test a much more accurate simulation of an attack. This variety means that with every change of scope, objective, or compliance, the pentest will be assigned to different individuals with different set of skills that will match your needs. This way, there is a much lower chance that your security holes will remain unnoticed.
2- Time Wasted Is Never Regained
Aside from the high financial cost of hiring security experts from agencies or full-time security staff, traditional pentest also costs you a considerable amount of time. If you hire internal staff to perform pentests, you can be rest assured that after a while, finding your vulnerabilities will become a tediously slow process because the team has already used every tool and tactic within their means to detect the bugs in the first stages. And if you outsource the task to agencies, you’d be signing a contract before whose deadline, you will not receive any report, which inevitably means that you can’t handle your zero-day vulnerabilities.
And time is of the essence in the realm of cyber security because cyberattacks don’t wait for you or your team to identify the threats, and they’re certainly not attempted only once in a while! They are ever-evolving, making traditional pentests off the pace and ineffective.
In a next-gen pentest, however, your project can be assigned to different security experts with different fields of expertise at every stage. Therefore, at each stage of the process, your pentesters will have the right skills to identify the vulnerabilities. The most time-efficient aspect of this solution is that you will constantly receive updated reports of the detected vulnerabilities, which you can effectively mitigate before they’re exploited.
3- Everything Is ‘Critical’ with a Capital C
While the security pen test team you have hired will try its best to cover all bases, but when categorizing vulnerabilities, they would also try to build a reputation for their agency! That’s why in a traditional pentest, many inconsequential vulnerabilities are labeled as ‘critical.’ Getting so many critical vulnerabilities can cripple your developers’ team because they won’t know what is actually exploitable and how to prioritize what needs immediate action!
However, the moderators in crowd-sourced, next-gen pentest ensure that your vulnerabilities are correctly labeled according to their severity. So, your team will be provided with an objectively prioritized list of security holes and their corresponding solutions they can immediately act on. And these reports are not set in stone on modern solutions like Nordic Defender, either. This means that you can reach out to the technical team if you’re wondering which vulnerabilities should take precedence and why they were labeled as ‘critical.’
4- Cyber Criminals Go the Extra Mile, Scanning Tools Don’t
In most traditional pentesting solutions, 60% of the test is done through scanning tools with the supervision of ethical hackers and experts, and the remaining 40% is done manually. That is, the biggest chunk of the test is run by the scanning tools. This makes traditional pentests ineffective because cyber criminals are always upgrading their techniques and methods; and relying so heavily on these tools means that your speed and security competence won’t match the fast pace of cyber wars.
These were 4 of the most significant downsides to traditional penetration tests. If we’re considering these facts, a conventional pentest can’t possibly meet your needs, at any stage of your security posture development. The power indeed lies with the crowd!
Next-Gen Pentest as a Service: Why It’s a Winning Strategy
Now that conventional pentests are better left out of the picture, it’s time we considered next-gen pentest and why it can be a perfect fit for your cyber security requirements.
1- Skill Gaps Will No Longer Affect the Result
Perhaps the best advantage to running a next-gen, crowd-powered pentest is that the pentesters are meticulously chosen based on their specialty from a pool of reliable, ethical hackers. That is why you won’t face any difficulties finding individuals who are masters in a special field or identifying specific vulnerabilities that demand skills that are quite rare to find.
2- The Simulation Comes Closer to Reality
Since a variety of ethical hackers, each coming with their own unique knowledge and experience, are on the project, the simulated attacks are closer to how a cyberattack would look like. The mindset of various ethical hackers are employed in the project to ensure that no black-hat would find a vulnerability in your security posture. Therefore, taking necessary action based on the practical solutions provided by these experts will also bring you closer to your ideal level of cyber security.
3- Reports Are Consistently Updated with a Prioritized List of Bugs
In a traditional pentest when you outsource the task to agencies, you will only receive the report after the pentesters are done with the task. This increases the chance of any form of data breach happening in the time gap. With a Crowd-sourced pentest, however, you will receive up-to-date reports with bugs labeled according to their severity.
Employing Nordic Defender’s Next-Gen Pentest solution, for instance, you can observe the whole process in a user-friendly platform. So, not only will you have 24/7 bug detection, but also every stage of the process is visible through the dashboard, opening the door for more communication and faster implementation of the recommended solutions.
4- Technical Consults Can Determine the Required Budget
Apart from the quality of the service you receive, you also get the chance to ask the technical team to determine the cyber security budget you will need to put aside for pentests. Especially with Nordic Defender’s highly professional team of experts, you can determine the compliance you’d like to attain, and you will receive an accurate estimation of how many hours of pentest your security posture will need and how much budget it requires.
Pentest Vs. Bug Bounty
We’re already familiar with the concept of crowd-source pentesting. But what is bug bounty?!
A bug bounty program is a crowd-powered security solution where businesses leave their doors open to ethical hackers, asking them to assess an aspect of their security and find a way to exploit in exchange for a prize. It’s essentially an open challenge, inviting a variety of ethical hackers and security experts to test the security posture and find vulnerabilities. So, what about crowd-sourced pentest vs bug bounty? How do they compare?!
With a reliable and experienced crowd behind this solution, crowd-sourced pentesting has proved extremely efficient for businesses seeking to secure compliance. These businesses offer a limited scope for a limited number of qualified hackers to explore and reveal vulnerabilities. After all, no one has unlimited resources to pay for hours of an unlimited number of testers, so in every pentest service there will be a limited number of testers assigned to each project, but with related skills and experience according to the nature of each target. And as for the monetary compensation, you’re charged based on the hours spent on identifying vulnerabilities and introducing the solutions.
However when it comes to bug bounty, the compliance and standards are out of the question, and the amount of money that the security experts receive as a reward depends on both the validity and severity of the detected vulnerabilities.
This means that in a bug bounty program, the client will pay a reasonable fee, and the main cost will be the reward allocated to each bug. The reward may vary, depending on the severity level of the bug, and can be as low as 50 euros for a low-severity bug, or as high as 10,000 euros and more for a critical vulnerability.
What Sets Crowd Sourced Pentest & Bug Bounty Apart?
Despite the fact that the power and impact of both solutions lie in the crowd and variety of skills, they are essentially different. In case their definition doesn’t highlight their difference, let’s delve deeper into their distinguishing factors.
Penetration tests are often considered the best means of achieving compliance, especially when it comes to enterprise security management. That’s why in pentests, there’s a checklist, and the companies offer a limited scope to be assessed. That is, the pentest and the identified vulnerabilities depend largely on the scope determined by the company.
For a bug bounty program, however, attaining compliance and fulfilling standards is not the objective. And the scope could be either specified in the bug bounty rules or remain all-inclusive, which is ideal for companies who are prepared to put all digital assets on the line and display their strength. So in case you don’t want ethical hackers to inspect all aspects of the scope, you should leave bug bounty for later stages of your cyber security development.
#2 Monetary Compensation
As already stated, the pricing system for a pentest is on an hourly basis. That is, you will be charged hourly, depending on the amount of time it takes the testers to find vulnerabilities. Yet, in a bug bounty program, your primary expense is for the reward which you have already determined. And you will only pay the reward if a vulnerability of the pre-set severity is discovered at all.
#3 Cyber Security Posture & Background
Even if you don’t have a rich background in cyber security or if your security posture is untested, crowd-sourced pentests can help you arrive at a more robust security status. However, bug bounty is best suited for businesses that have already tested their security levels and would like to showcase their power while identifying vulnerabilities that have remained hidden!
That is why although the benefits of bug bounty programs are countless, it’s not the best choice for all companies. There is indeed a time and a place for this!
Pentest Vs. Bug Bounty: When Do You Need to Jump Trains?
According to statistics, the average cost of a data breach is $3.8 million! In the present landscape with the imminent danger of data breaches and other types of cyber attacks, you need to learn when it makes sense for you to move on from crowd-sourced pen test to bug bounty!
Crowd-sourced, Next-Gen pentest can help companies of all sizes, even those that are, more or less, beginners in the field of cyber security. In fact, only after continuous pentests and persistent remediation, can a company’s security posture become mature. And that’s when you can consider a new course of action! So, if you haven’t yet tested your security or don’t think it’s robust enough, a bug bounty program won’t fulfill your needs. Instead, a crowd-powered pentest is the way to go.
On the other hand, the bug bounty solution is the perfect match for businesses of all sizes who have already gone through a phase of continuous, crowd-sourced penetration tests and arrived at a mature security posture, looking forward to stepping up their security game. So, if your security posture is already robust and you’re concerned about finding the remaining vulnerabilities, a bug bounty can indeed work miracles.
In other words, If you run a bug bounty program on a security posture that is not mature enough, you will have to pay through the nose because a great number of hunters will win the prize for all the vulnerabilities they detect! On the other hand, performing penetration tests on a high security-mature target is not cost-effective either since you get charged by the hour and the pentesters will have to spend hours on end, trying to find bugs that have proved hard to find.
To summarize, if you’re in the first stages of developing your security maturity, the safest, most economical measure you can take is performing crowd-sourced penetration test. Yet, if you already have a rich background in cyber security and pentests, it’s time to jump trains; a bug bounty program can be your savior!
Traditional Pentest Vs. Crowd Pentest Vs. Bug Bounty: Final Verdict
We fully covered the difference between these 3 cyber security approaches and explained which one is the ideal choice for businesses. To wrap up, traditional pentests are out of the picture because of their inefficiency. However crowd-sourced solutions, including crowd-sourced pentest as a service platforms and bug bounties, are incredibly effective when done right.
Companies who’d like to evaluate a specific section of their security posture and comply to standards and attain compliance can’t do better than crowd-powered pentests. And for companies who have gone beyond compliance and would like to identify vulnerabilities that haven’t been yet found, bug bounties are the ideal option.
Best Program for Bug Bounty & Next-Gen Pentest
So far, you have mastered the difference between these security solutions. But what is the next step for your company?! How can you act on this knowledge?
Nordic Defender is the one and only Bug Bounty and Next-Gen Pentest solution in the Nordics. Offering both crowd-sourced solutions, Nordic Defender allows you to identify your security flaws and make considerable changes to your security status, regardless of where you stand now.
In the Nordic Defender’s Next-Gen Pentest program, you will specify the scope for the pentest, and highly professional security experts will be carefully selected from a pool of ethical hackers and assigned to your project based on their field of expertise and background. Once the pentesters detect vulnerabilities, they will put up a report on the bugs and their remediation process. In all stages of the process, a mediator will observe to ensure that the vulnerabilities are labeled correctly, and the remediation is also accessible. If you’re not sure how much money the pentest will require, where to start, or what compliance you need to attain first, you can rely on the technical team to adequately address all your concerns in the walk-through sessions and meetings.
As for the Bug Bounty program, Nordic Defender promises a straightforward bug bounty process for fortifying your security posture and identifying hidden vulnerabilities. Starting with this program, a technical team will touch base, helping you register, refine your scope, develop your bug bounty policy, and specify the budget and rewards. They will also discuss the bug bounty legal issues with your representative. Once the formalities are out of the way, the bug bounty hunters will start their in-depth security assessment. From the get-go, mediators are also there to validate the detected bugs, their severity, and remediation process.
The best part about Nordic Defender is that they waste no time in letting you know about all vulnerabilities and their practical solution. Every stage of the process is visible and accessible through a user-friendly, simple dashboard that offers real-time, updated reports to facilitate the process.
In case you’re still wondering which solution is best for your present security status, you can always ask the experts!
FAQs on Pentest Vs. Bug Bounty
After our comprehensive discussion of pentest vs bug bounty, it’s time to cover some of the most important and frequently-asked questions regarding these 2 solutions
1- Are Bug Bounty Programs Effective?
Bug bounty programs are highly efficient. And running a bug bounty program is absolutely the best, most cost-effective solution for companies that have maintained a robust security posture with a long background of crowd-sourced pentesting. This means that if you’re strong enough to handle the simulated attacks on the specified scope, you will find all the remaining bugs and resolve them before they impede your performance or progress.
However, if you’re asking whether bug bounties can address your unique security concerns and vulnerabilities, you need to dig deeper to understand if it’s effective for you. There’s no shortcut to finding the best security solution for your company. You can’t simply decide on one program without considering what your current security posture is and how prepared you are at the moment. Eventhough bug bounties are ideal for businesses that are already highly secure, they can be counterproductive for those that haven’t yet tested the security of their digital assets.
2- What Are The Disadvantages of Bug Bounty?
The primary drawback to running a bug bounty program is that if your security status is not strong enough, you will need to spend a noticeable amount of money on the rewards. Since bug bounty hunters will detect many vulnerabilities in your scope, this solution becomes unnecessarily expensive.
Another important disadvantage is that bug bounties are usually too complicated. Therefore, the bug bounty process will become time-consuming and ineffective, or even counterproductive if the bug bounty program’s legal issues are ignored. Yet, this problem is easily resolved on Nordic Defender’s Bug Bounty, as you will be accompanied by a technical support team in every step of the process. With a managed bug bounty solution, you also get the chance to have the team launch your vulnerability disclosure program and make the whole process more efficient!
3- Does Bug Bounty Have Scope?
In short, yes! Although in a bug bounty program, the issue of gaining specific security compliance is not involved, there’s still a scope. That is, while drawing up your bug bounty program rules, you can determine what a bug bounty hunter can test, which section they can inspect, and what type of vulnerabilities you’re interested in receiving.
While you can limit the scope and specify the rules as much as you’d like, we highly recommend that you keep it as broad as possible. The fewer limitations the ethical hackers have, the more vulnerabilities they can find, which facilitates a proactive prevention of threats.
4- How Often Should a Pentest Be Done?
There’s no clear-cut answer to this question because it varies from company to company! The short answer is that your security posture requires a pentest after every new, added feature, update, or the slightest change in your digital assets. But your present security posture will determine how often you require a penetration test. So, if you’re wondering how much budget you should put aside and how much work your cyber security needs, you can schedule a meeting with the experts in Nordic Defender.