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Penetration Testing Methodologies – A Close Look at the Most Popular Ones

Posted DateFebruary 9, 2022
Posted Time 4   min Read

The growing sophistication, lethality, costs, and volume of cyberattacks illustrate the need for penetration testing/ pen-testing that empowers organizations to become proactive about cybersecurity. The effectiveness of pen tests, however, depends on the penetration testing methodologies leveraged by the organization. Different penetration testing methodologies exist, each with several benefits, limitations, and scope.  

Read on to know the top 5 popular pen-testing methodologies. 

The Most Popular Penetration Testing Methodologies 

1. OWASP Penetration Testing Methodology

The web application penetration testing methodology by OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) is the most recognized standard in the industry.   OWASP is a well-versed community and fully updated on the latest technologies and the threat landscape. It offers an exhaustive set of guidelines to test modern-day APIs, web, and mobile applications. It includes not just applications but technologies, people, and processes.   Here is a detailed checklist to aid in your penetration testing for APIs, aligned with the OWASP API Top 10.

One of the significant advantages of using this web app pen-testing methodology is that it can be seamlessly integrated into and used in the software development lifecycle (SDLC). It offers detailed guidelines for testing at each stage of the SDLC – from requirement definition, design, development to deployment and maintenance. Not just pen-testers, but any web developer or IT company seeking to develop secure-by-design software can use this detailed and updated methodology.  

So, the OWASP methodology empowers pen-testers to identify a wide range of vulnerabilities within the application. Complicated logical flaws, misconfigurations, and coding flaws that result from insecure development practices, to name a few vulnerabilities. Further, this methodology offers realistic recommendations to rate risks, prioritize issues, and fortify security. Given the large user community, there is no shortage of techniques, articles, tools, and guides regarding the methodology. 


Developed by the Institute for Security and Open Methodologies (ISECOM), the Open-Source Security Testing Methodology or OSSTMM, offers a scientific pen-testing methodology. It also comprises a peer-reviewed framework that provides an accurate picture of the strength of operational security. It was created to support network development teams. OSSTMM is considered a universal standard.  

OSSTMM proposes that pen-testers break down operational security into five different channels:  

  • Human security 
  • Physical security 
  • Wireless communications
  • Telecommunications 
  • Data networks

It, thus, enables pen-testers to look at security operations and their many components from diverse angles, therefore, identifying security vulnerabilities efficiently.   

This penetration testing methodology does not advocate or dictate any particular protocols or software to use. It offers a solid foundation to perform any penetration test by defining a comprehensive set of guidelines, best practices, detailed testing plan, metrics for security level assessment, and recommendations for final reporting.  

So, pen-testers can rely on these guidelines and customize security assessments to a specific client’s context, needs, business processes, industry specifics, technology, and challenges. This methodology improves the effectiveness of pen-testing by making it scientific, detailed, measurable, and fact-based. It empowers organizations to harden their security posture through comprehensive recommendations.  

The success of this penetration testing methodology relies on the pen-testers level of intelligence, knowledge, and experience. 

Pen-testing starts at $199


The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) offers a specific and precise set of guidelines in its pen-testing methodology manual to strengthen the organization’s overall cybersecurity posture. The latest version of this security manual emphasizes critical infrastructure cybersecurity and reduces the risks of cyberattacks. 

This technical penetration testing methodology includes 

  • Inspection methods  
  • Assessments for routinely targeted vulnerabilities  
  • Recommendations for analyzing test results
  • Developing measures to minimize security risks

Complying with the NIST pen-testing framework is a compliance standard for several American businesses and partners. This framework seeks to guarantee information security across industries and organizations with different scales of operation. 


Developed by the Open Information Systems Security Group (OISSG), the Information System Security Assessment Framework or ISSAF is a complex, structured, and specialized penetration testing methodology.  

Known to be a comprehensive framework, it covers several aspects of InfoSec. It carefully documents the sequence of steps in simulating the attack and recommendations on pen testing tools to use in each step and the expected results. It even recommends tools used by real attackers to help simulate advanced attack scenarios in some instances.  

ISSAF is best suited for organizations with unique security challenges that require advanced pen-testing methodologies. 

5. PTES Framework

The Penetration Testing Methodologies and Standards (PTES) Framework highlights the approach to structure basic pen-tests, as well as advanced variants for organizations with advanced requirements. This framework details the various pen-testing steps from initial communication to threat modeling to reporting and beyond (including follow-up testing). It enables the organization to identify vulnerabilities in the most advanced contexts. It also validates if identified vulnerabilities have been properly fixed. 

The Way Forward 

Regardless of the penetration testing methodology you choose, it needs to be tailored to your context to ensure the best returns on investment. Only a reliable and experienced security company like Indusface can accomplish this and more.  

Stay tuned for more relevant and interesting security articles. Follow Indusface on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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