The 5 Top Penetration Testing Methodologies

Penetration tests might have vastly disparate findings based on the standards and methodology used. Penetration testing standards and procedures that have been updated offer a realistic choice for businesses looking to secure their systems and patch cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

The following five penetration testing approaches and criteria will ensure a positive return on your investment:

NIST special publication 800-115.

In comparison to other information security publications, NIST provides more precise guidance for penetration testers. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) publishes a guidebook that is well-suited for enhancing an organization's overall Cybersecurity. The most recent version, 1.1, provides a greater emphasis on cybersecurity for critical infrastructure. Conforming to the NIST framework is frequently a regulatory requirement for a variety of American service providers and business partners.

NIST methodology.

NIST established this framework with the goal of ensuring information security in a variety of industries, including banking, communications, and energy. Large and small businesses alike can adjust the standards to their unique requirements.

To comply with NIST's requirements, businesses must conduct penetration testing on their apps and networks using a pre-defined set of recommendations. This American information technology security standard assures that businesses meet their cybersecurity control and assessment standards, reducing cyberattack threats to the fullest extent practicable.

Stakeholders from all sectors work together to spread the word about the Cybersecurity Framework and encourage businesses to implement it. NIST makes a substantial contribution to cybersecurity innovation in a variety of American sectors through its superior standards and technologies.


The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is the industry's most well acknowledged standard for application security. This methodology, which is backed by an extremely knowledgeable community that stays current on emerging technologies, has aided innumerable enterprises in reducing application vulnerabilities.

OWASP techniques.

This framework defines a methodology for online application penetration testing that is capable of detecting not just typical web and mobile application vulnerabilities, but also complex logic defects caused by dangerous development practices. The new book contains extensive guidance for each penetration testing technique, assessing over 66 controls in total, enabling testers to uncover vulnerabilities in a wide variety of functionality prevalent in modern apps today.

With the assistance of this methodology, enterprises may better protect their applications – web and mobile – from frequent errors that could have a detrimental effect on their business. Additionally, organizations who are developing new web and mobile applications should consider implementing these standards during the development phase to avoid introducing common security issues.

You should anticipate that the OWASP standard will be applied throughout an application security assessment to ensure that no vulnerabilities are left behind and that your organization receives practical suggestions tailored to the unique features and technologies used in your applications.


The OSSTMM framework, one of the industry's most widely adopted standards, establishes a scientific methodology for network penetration testing and vulnerability assessment. This framework provides a step-by-step guidance for testers to detect security flaws in a network (and its components) from a variety of possible attack angles. This methodology is based on the tester's extensive knowledge and expertise, as well as human intelligence, in order to understand found vulnerabilities and their possible impact on the network.

OSSTMM methodology.

In contrast to the majority of security publications, this architecture was also designed to aid network building teams. The vast majority of developers and information technology teams base their firewalls and networks on this document and its standards. While this handbook does not advocate for any particular network protocol or piece of software, it does highlight best practices and procedures to follow to guarantee the security of your networks.The OSSTMM methodology (Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual) enables testers to tailor their evaluation to your company's unique requirements or technical context. With this collection of standards, you'll get an accurate picture of your network's cybersecurity, as well as dependable solutions that are tailored to your technical environment, enabling your stakeholders to make the best security decisions possible.

PTES framework.

The PTES Framework (Penetration Testing Methodologies and Standards) summarizes the most preferred structure for a penetration test. This standard directs testers through the many stages of a penetration test, including initial communication, information collecting, and threat modeling.

PTES methodology

According to this penetration testing methodology, testers gain as much knowledge about the business and its technical environment as possible before focusing on attacking potentially vulnerable regions. This allows testers to identify the most advanced attack scenarios that could be tried. Additionally, the testers are provided with recommendations for doing post-exploitation testing, which enables them to verify that previously identified vulnerabilities have been properly patched. The seven processes outlined in this standard ensure a successful penetration test while also providing practical advice upon which your management team can base its decisions.


The ISSAF (Information System Security Assessment Framework) standard incorporates a more systematic and specialized approach to penetration testing than the previous standard did. If your organization's particular circumstance necessitates an advanced technique that is completely tailored to its environment, this guidebook should prove beneficial to the penetration test professionals assigned to your penetration test.

Methodology of the ISSAF.

These standards enable a tester to prepare and document each stage of the penetration testing procedure meticulously, from planning and evaluation to reporting and removing artifacts. This standard covers all stages of the manufacturing process. Penetration testers that employ a variety of different tools find ISSAF particularly useful since it allows them to associate each phase with a specific instrument.

The more extensive assessment component governs a large portion of the operation. ISSAF provides more information, attack paths, and probable outcomes for each susceptible part of your system. In some cases, testers may also discover details about the tools that real attackers frequently use to target these regions. All of this information enables the planning and execution of more sophisticated attack scenarios, ensuring a high return on investment for businesses looking to defend their systems from assaults.


As threats and hacking technologies expand across industries, businesses must enhance their cybersecurity testing methodology to keep current on emerging technologies and attack scenarios. Installing and adopting current cybersecurity frameworks is a good start. These penetration testing standards and methodology serve as an ideal baseline for assessing your cybersecurity and providing advice tailored to your unique situation, ensuring that you are adequately protected against hackers.

John Price
Chief Executive Officer
October 6, 2023
7 minutes