Friday, October 18, 2013

How to do get a good security audit for your startup

Recently at SimpleRelevance we decided it was time for a security audit on our website and especially our dashboard. We have quite a bit of client information that we would never want to share with the world.

Security audits are kind of like STD testing - even when you feel 100% fine, it's better safe than sorry.
Unfortunately, also like STD testing, if you cheap out, you won't get tested for everything.

So our problem was - how do we not get ripped off, while still ensuring a comprehensive audit - we're talking more than just simple pentests here. It's so hard to verify that you've gotten a good security audit, since the company can just come back and say "we didn't find any issues - your system is bulletproof!", and you can't prove that negative. In the end we did a lot of research and interviews and chose based on the data at hand. But since then I've thought of a fun way that might work even better.

1) through research, find N>1 companies that you'd consider paying for research.
2) bargain each one down (you were going to do this anyway, right? We ended up paying about 65% of the original ask for the company we chose).
3) tell each one: "I'll make you a deal. I'll pay you full price on the test, if you agree to the stipulation that I'm making this same deal with another security company, and whoever finds fewer or less important security holes doesn't earn any money, and whoever finds the most gets the full price [plus 10% if you need to sweeten it]".
4) Some of the companies are going to say no. Decide which company is most excited by the idea of the deal - they are clearly the winner, so congrats - you found the best one! Tell them none of the others would take the deal, so unfortunately you can't do it, but you'll still pay them the discounted rate you'd already agreed upon for a full audit, and you applaud their style.

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