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How Long Does Pentesting Take? [5 Factors of Pentesting Speed]

In evaluating the myriad of security testing methodologies available, we consider them against three pivotal metrics to ascertain their overall efficacy and alignment with organizational needs:

  1. Quality/Effectiveness: Effectiveness measures the method’s ability to provide reliable and accurate vulnerability detections, comprehensive system coverage, compliance with standards, and a diverse testing team for nuanced perspectives.
  2. Speed/Efficiency: Efficiency concerns the method’s operational benefits, such as the ease and rapidity of obtaining pentesting services, the immediate delivery of results and analytics, continuous and transparent communication, and effortless SDLC integration.
  3. Value: Value explores the method’s ROI, focusing on scalability, both tangible and intangible outcomes from pentesting efforts, and its success in risk mitigation.

With these comparison categories in mind, let’s explore the “Speed” factor more closely and see how each security testing alternative measures up.

Security Testing Alternatives

The landscape of security testing is diverse, where players offer a variety of methodologies and security testing alternatives that cater to different organizational needs. Understanding these alternatives is crucial for selecting the one that best fits your security strategy, but it’s not an easy task. Here are the primary security testing methods currently in use:

  • Traditional Pentesting via Consultancies: Pentesting services are delivered by professional service providers, primarily leveraging their in-house salaried pentesters or long-term contractors.
  • Traditional Pentest as a Service (PTaaS): Essentially, traditional pentesting with an added user interface.
  • Community-driven Pentest as a Service (PTaaS): A modern evolution of pentesting, harnessing the collective expertise of a global community of vetted security researchers.
  • Automated Pentesting: Including autonomous approaches powered by generative AI (GenAI) algorithms and advanced machine learning models, uses predefined scripts or tools to systematically scan and assess systems for vulnerabilities based on recognized signatures or patterns.

The Problem With Pentest Speed

Organizations are often frustrated with the lengthy timelines associated with initiating a pentesting program and receiving tangible results. This frustration stems from the complex setup processes, the need for detailed scoping, and ad-hoc coordination efforts with the external pentesting firm and internal teams.

The time it takes to identify and report vulnerabilities is one of the most common complaints of pentesting. Industry-standard pentests take four to seven weeks to start and seven to 10 days after the pentest concludes to get results together in a spreadsheet and deliver a final PDF report to the customer — but does it need to be this slow and archaic?

Measuring Pentest Method Speed

When evaluating security testing options, the pace at which they deliver results and how seamlessly they integrate into existing SDLC processes is paramount. This comparison breaks down each approach, assessing the performance and the speed of the testing, as well as the feedback mechanisms.

  • Procurement: Refers to the ease and speed with which pentesting services can be procured, set up, and initiated, reducing administrative overhead and delays
  • Real-time Results & Analytics: Focuses on the capability to provide immediate updates, insights, and results as the testing progresses—ensuring stakeholders are always informed and can make timely decisions
  • Communication: Ensures proactive and real-time communication with the technical project manager overseeing the test and the testers throughout the process
  • Platform Integrations: Highlights the ability of the pentesting solution to seamlessly integrate with SDLC
  • Retesting: Refers to the process of reassessing previously identified vulnerabilities for effective remediation

Our methodology evaluates different pentesting approaches against key dimensions of effective security testing, using
a scale of Low to High. While the results do highlight a preferred method, it’s essential to understand that our scoring system reflects the general attributes of each security testing type. The actual effectiveness of an approach may vary based on business priorities, technology stack, and other unique factors. As you interpret the findings, remember that Speed is only one of three factors, and it may or may not resonate most with your specific business objectives.

The pentest speed matrix

In the context of pentesting, efficiency is not just about meeting objectives—it’s about doing so through coordinated, easily repeatable processes. Together, the components listed above assess whether the pentesting process, from procurement to results delivery, is streamlined, ensuring an integrated execution that optimizes both time and resources.

Security Testing Speed Evaluation Matrix

This checklist can be used to evaluate the speed of each of the four security testing options: traditional pentesting, bug bounty, modern pentesting via Pentest as a Service (PTaaS), and automated and autonomous pentesting. 

Pentest efficiency checklist

The Power of PTaaS With HackerOne

When scoring against Speed, PTaaS stands out as a flexible approach that can adapt to an organization’s specific needs, and is priced accordingly. PTaaS is the best option when combining robust testing and deep analysis with the opportunity to quickly set up and complete an assessment.

Quote from Zebra about the speed of HackerOne PTaaS


  • 4 days: New customers can initiate a new pentest in 4 business days.
  • 4.4 days: HackerOne Pentest customers receive their first vulnerability report within 4.4 days on average.
  • 86% of HackerOne Pentest customers receive their first vulnerability report in less than one week.

Quote from Zebra about the speed of HackerOne PTaaS

HackerOne Pentest transcends routine compliance checks, delivering in-depth insights, efficiency, and actionable results tailored to your business and security needs. If you’re ready to learn more about how PTaaS measures up in other criteria, download the eBook: The Pentesting Matrix: Decoding Modern Security Testing Approaches. Or, tell us about your pentesting requirements, and one of our experts will contact you.

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