Does a Startup Need a Penetration Test?

The question of “do startups need a penetration test” comes up quite often when speaking with entrepreneurs and folks in the startup scene. Unfortunately, startups can be a natural target for would-be hackers as they know that the security posture of startups can often be immature or non-existent. Sometimes the pressure to build and get to market outweighs the time/cost associated with security, so these new organizations are willing to take some risk. With this in mind, we usually recommend a penetration test to understand an organization’s risk in realistic terms so you know where (or whether to) expend resources on security. But there are instances when it would not make sense, and we’ll explore both scenarios.

Why a Startup Needs a Penetration Test

Security Posture: As a security firm, we cannot stress enough the importance of establishing and maintaining a strong security posture. As we have discussed many times before, following a data breach a company’s odds of failing drastically increase. And it’s much easier to “bake in” security as an organization grows, rather than try and “bolt it on” later in its lifecycle. Protecting your clients’ data should be of upmost importance.

Legitimacy: If your startup works with other businesses or is solely a B2B business, then you will likely be asked if you’ve had a penetration test performed and to provide some sort of evidence or results. You do not want to lose out on a contract because of your security posture or simply because you haven’t taken the time to measure and analyze your organization’s security.

Investment or Acquisition: In the event you are looking to raise funds or sell, it’s more and more common for the investor or acquirer to want to understand your security snapshot. Venture Capitalists are looking to make an investment and quickly see a huge return on that investment. Additionally, within in any legal agreements, investors or acquirers may require a penetration test or be able to claw back funds in the event of a hack following an investment.

Compliance: Depending on what vertical your business is in, you may be bound to certain security compliance authorities such as PCI, HIPAA, or GDPR. These can often be overlooked as the eye is on the price of getting your business up and running, not compliance. You do not want to be found non-compliant and face potential fines.

Why a Startup May Not Need a Penetration Test

Too Early: Depending on where you are in the startup cycle, you may not be quite ready for a penetration test. If you are still refining your overall network architecture, web applications, APIs, mobile apps, etc. and they are constantly changing, it may not make sense to test quite yet. Generally speaking, we recommend waiting until you are close to pushing to production so we can test the latest and greatest that will be consumed by the public.

Industry: People think that startups are only technology companies but that’s not always the case. Something more traditional, such as a restaurant or brick and mortar retailer with only a marketing website and no e-commerce may not require a penetration test. Check to ensure you are not bound by any compliance authorities or feel free to reach out to us today to see if a security assessment could benefit your organization.