open-source intelligence in penetration testing

Are OSINT methodologies important when pen-testing?

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Open-source intelligence or OSINT has been the go-to pen-testing methodology for most Penetration Testers. Of all the threat intelligence subcategories, open-source intelligence has been the most extensively used, for a good reason.

From recognizing the new vulnerabilities that are being actively exploited, removing sensitive information before a threat actor can exploit them, to fixing weakness in your organization’s network, open-source intelligence helps security experts to organize their time and resources to tackle the most significant threats.

It is crucial to have a clear pen-testing methodology and strategy in place for open-source intelligence gathering. This is why EC-Council created an advanced penetration testing online course. EC-Council prepares candidates that want to attempt the Licensed Penetration Tester (Master) certification and be recognized as elite penetration testing experts. Start your training today by joining our community of advanced penetration testers today!

What does pen-testing mean?

Pen-testing or penetration testing describes a security drill conducted by a penetration tester who seeks to identify and exploit the potential vulnerabilities in a network, computer system, or web application.

You can either perform pen-testing activities manually or with automated software applications. The main purpose of this test is to find software vulnerabilities and mitigate them before an intruder can exploit them.

This drill is much like a company hiring a perpetrator to break into their security systems and gain access to their computer systems. Once this perpetrator succeeds in gaining access, the company can use the information to fix their security vulnerabilities and fortify their security.

What is a pen-testing methodology?

A pen-testing methodology is the procedures, strategies, and technologies that enable penetrating testers to conduct effective penetration testing, which fits the specific organization they are looking to secure and to fix all the identified weaknesses.

Internal testing

Ethical hackers perform internal tests using the internal networks or computer systems of the target organization. The penetration tester who has access to the application behind the organization’s firewall simulates an attack that imitates a malicious insider threat.

This type of test helps the organization to assess the level of damage a disgruntled employee can cause. This type of pen-test may not automatically simulate a rogue employee. It could present a scenario of an employee whose credential was stolen through phishing, smishing, or vishing attack

External testing

This type of test is meant to analyze the visible assets of an organization, including its email, the company’s website, domain name servers (DNS), and even the web application itself. The target of the ethical hacker is to gain access and retrieve sensitive data. Simply, an external penetration testing is any test performed outside the organization’s network.

Targeted testing

Targeted testing involves the effort of both the penetration tester and the cybersecurity professional or IT team. They keep each other apprised of their movements, which offers a security team with a real-world response from the attacker’s perspective.

Blind testing

Assuming one of your clients contact you to conduct a black box penetration test of their internet-facing systems. Imagine you’re only given the organization’s name. How do you go about it with no information about their networks and systems?

This is what blind testing looks like. This test gives the security expert a real-world glimpse into how a real application assault would occur. This is why you need to get equipped with the required skills by taking a penetration testing course online.

Double-blind testing

Here, the licensed penetration tester is unaware of the simulated assault and will have no time to shore up their defenses prior to the attempted intrusion. At most, only two people within the organization are aware that such a test is taking place.

Popular open-source penetration testing methodologies


The open-source web application security project (OWASP) is a widely known standard that helps organizations to identify and control vulnerabilities in mobile and web applications. The penetration tester can ensure almost zero vulnerabilities with this standard. OWASP also increases realistic recommendations to precise structures and technologies in applications.


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) presents a more precise guideline inherent to penetration testing to advance the complete cybersecurity technology and strategy of an organization. NIST frameworks secure information security in certain sectors, such as communications, banking, and energy.

However, organizations must perform penetration testing on their networks and applications to comply with NIST standards. These standards guarantee that your organization meets the required cybersecurity responsibilities and mitigates potential cybersecurity risks.


The open-source security testing methodology (OSSTMM) is a widely accepted methodology for network penetration testing and vulnerability assessment. OSSTMM is a comprehensive guide that details industry standards and guides penetration testers in identifying potential security weaknesses in an organization’s network.


The penetration testing methodologies and standards (PTES) guides penetration testers through the phases of penetration testing, which helps them detect the most susceptible areas prone to attacks. PTES has seven stages that guarantee effective penetration testing with recommendations to depend on.

Why is open-source intelligence important?

Open-source intelligence is important for a number of reasons.

Open-source intelligence offers a base for understanding classified materials

Despite the huge amounts of classified data generated by the intelligence community (IC), the quantity of classified information formed on any topic can be pretty restricted. This may likely be taken out of context if observed solely from a classified source perception.

For instance, in a terrorism scenario, open-source information can fill gaps and create links that let security professionals understand disjointed intelligence, potential targets, alleged terrorist threats, and conceivable channels of attack.

Open-source stores history

A strong open-source program can collect valuable data to examine global cultures and determine how and why they change over time. The large collection of data may otherwise be impossible or demanding with just the snapshots made available by classified collection methods.

OSINT has fewer demanding processes

Open-source intelligence has a less demanding exploitation process and appropriateness than other technical intelligence disciplines. Likewise, OSINT collects a helpful selection of opinions since it incorporates a vast variety of sources.

It protects sources and materials

Open-source reporting has the potential to defend an intelligence judgment that is informed with sensitive and classified information. This is particularly valuable when policymakers need to interact with foreign officials or explain policy decisions without compromising classified sources.

OSINT helps with penetration testing

Security analysts typically inspect an organization’s network and system for vulnerabilities and other security gaps that can be exploited by malicious hackers. Open-source intelligence helps the penetration tester detect vulnerabilities such as data leaks, accidental data exposure, outdated software, open ports or unsecured internet-connected devices, and websites that are using old versions of CMS products.

Is pen-testing stressful?

Even with the technology stack and tools at their disposal, penetration testing can be stressful and somewhat demanding. It is often hard to identify all the weaknesses within a network or application by using only automated tools. Some vulnerabilities can only be detected through physical penetration testing or manual scan.

The success of the penetration testing task will depend on the competence, knowledge, and expertise of the penetration tester. Penetration testing jobs can be brain tasking because you have to think like the attacker to resolve the vulnerabilities within the network. That’s why a licensed penetration tester will do a better job than a novice penetration tester.

What should I look for in a pen-test?

  • Safety is crucial. Find out if the organization has any mechanism available to guarantee the trustworthiness of its staff.
  • Pick the organization that is open about every aspect of its operation.
  • Sign a detailed agreement to ensure clarity on test expectations.
  • Make sure the company has insurance and offers additional protections.
  • Enquire about how data would be handled before entrusting valuable data to a third-party.
  • Ensure the provider has highly trained staff and well-experienced pen-testers.
  • Choose a pen-test company with a proven track record and a good reputation in that specific field.
  • Make sure the company employs up-to-date penetration testing tools, which can be used for different platforms and tailored to different environments.

About EC-Council’s LPT (Master): Licensed Penetration Tester

The LPT (Master) certification program is the climax to EC-Council’s entire penetration testing training online. Beginning from the Certified Ethical Hacker Program (CEH) to the EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA) Program, LPT simulates a physical penetration test, accompanied by an additional report to the client.

The purpose of the LPT Certification offered by the EC-Council is to differentiate the experts from the learners. Unless you want to be nothing short of a professional penetration tester, do not attempt the LPT practical exam. It’s not for you.

The LPT exam is an 18-hour long, rigorous exam. The exam is hands-on only with no prior course or written exam preceding the hands-on exam. The LPT exam requires you to prove your mastery in conducting a full Blackbox penetration test of a network provided to you by the EC-Council. There’s no time to waste, as you’ll be facing a ticking clock! For more information about the world’s most advanced Penetration Testing program, click here!

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