penetration testing

5 Penetration Testing Methodologies and Standards for Better ROI

penetration testing

The results of the penetration tests differ according to the standards and methodologies they leverage. While organizations are looking to secure their IT infrastructure and fix vulnerabilities, they are also looking for the latest, relevant, and most popular penetration tools and methodologies to fight the new types of cyberattacks.

Popular penetration testing methodologies and standards

Popular penetration testing methodologies and standards


The OSSTMM (Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual) is a recognized framework that details industry standards. The framework provides a scientific methodology for network penetration testing and vulnerability assessment. It is a comprehensive guide to the network development team and penetration testers to identify security vulnerabilities present in the network.

The OSSTMM methodology enables penetration testers to perform customized testing that fits the technological and specific needs of the organization. A customized assessment gives an overview of the network’s security, along with reliable solutions to make appropriate decisions to secure an organization’s network.


The OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) is another recognized standard that powers organizations to control application vulnerabilities. This framework helps identify vulnerabilities in web and mobile applications. At the same time, the OWASP also complicates logical flaws arising in unsafe development practices.

The updated guide of OWASP provides over 66 controls to identify and assess vulnerabilities with numerous functionalities found in the latest applications today. However, it equips organizations with the resources to secure their applications and potential business losses. By leveraging the OWASP standard in security assessment, the penetration tester ensures almost nil vulnerabilities. Besides, it also enhances realistic recommendations to specific features and technologies in the applications.


The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) varies information security manuals that differ from other information security manuals. In a way, NIST offers more specific guidelines intrinsic to penetration testing to improve the overall cybersecurity of an organization. Most American-based organizations and partners must comply with the regulatory compliance of the NIST framework. Moreover, the framework guarantees information security in industries like banking, communications, and energy. There is a probability of customizing the standards to meet their specific needs. Significantly, NIST contributes to security innovation in the American industries.

In order to comply with the NIST standards, organizations must conduct penetration testing on their applications and networks. However, organizations should follow pre-established guidelines. These guidelines ensure that the organizations fulfill their cybersecurity obligations and mitigate risks of possible cyberattacks.


  1. PTES

The PTES (Penetration Testing Methodologies and Standards) recommends a structured approach to a penetration test. On one side, the PTES guides you through the phases of penetration testing, beginning with communication, information gathering, and threat modeling phases. On the other hand, penetration testers acquaint themselves with the organization’s processes, which helps them identify the most vulnerable areas that are prone to attacks.  

PTES provides guidelines to the testers for post-exploitation testing. If required, they can validate the successful fixing of previously identified vulnerabilities. The standard has seven phases that guarantee successful penetration testing with recommendations to rely on. 

  1. ISSAF

The ISSAF (Information System Security Assessment Framework) is a specialized and structured approach to penetration testing. More importantly, the framework provides advanced methodologies that are personalized to the context. These standards allow a tester to plan and execute every step of the penetration testing process. Thus, it caters to all the requirements of the penetration testing process. As a penetration tester, if you are using different tools, then ISSAF is a crucial framework. For instance, it ties each step to a specific tool and thus reduces complexity. 

ISSAF offers additional information concerning various attack vectors, as well as vulnerability outcome after exploitation. All this information allows testers to plan an advanced attack that guarantees a return on investment while securing systems from cyberattacks. 

Learn about these methodologies and standards in detail 

While threats continue to evolve, organizations should improvise their testing approach. This is primarily done by being aware of the latest technologies and potential attack possibilities. A certified penetration tester will be able to ensure that and bring better ROI to the organization. EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA) is a penetration testing program that gives on hands-on learning with detailed conceptual knowledge of compliances and frameworks. 


How often should one conduct a penetration test?
Many businesses are not sure of the right time to perform pen-testing. Three best times to perform a pen test are:

  1. Before the deployment of the system or network or application.
  2. When the system is no longer in a state of constant change.
  3. Before the system is involved in the production process or is made live.

Read more: Why, when and how often you should pentest

What is the purpose of intelligence led penetration testing?

The purpose of intelligence-led penetration testing is to assess and provide insight to an entities’ resilience capabilities against a real-world simulated cyber incident intelligence.

Read more: Intelligence-led Penetration Testing and Its Phases

How modern penetration testing is different?

Organizations are looking for proactive solutions like modern penetration testing methods to identify vulnerabilities and recommend mitigating risks. Learn the differences between modern and traditional penetration testing: Modern Penetration Testers – How are They Different!

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