5 Important Penetration Testing Methodologies and Standards

| Updated on February 28, 2024
Penetration Testing Methodologies

Once your firm has decided to go ahead with penetration testing, the next step is to define the penetration testing methodology and the required compliance with industry standards. One of the more important reasons for firms to conduct pentesting is to regularly adhere to security compliance standards within the sector of operation as well as maintain the trust of new and old customers. 

Different penetration testing methodologies and standards can influence the testing process to come out with different results and security recommendations, so it’s important to make this decision at the beginning of the procedure. After designing the testing parameters, the firm can move forward with the steps needed to strengthen its security posture. 

Different Penetration Testing Methodologies and Frameworks 

For the purposes mentioned above, it’s important to know about the various security standards and the pentesting requirements associated with each one of them.


The Open Web Application Application Security Project (OWASP) is the defining name for security standards in application security. OWASP pentesting sets the important parameters for the pentesting methodology with the help of an expert community that stays on top of the latest security threats and technologies, helping multiple organizations to resolve hidden application vulnerabilities. 

This framework ensures that the application pentesting methodology used detects both common vulnerabilities within mobile and web applications and specific vulnerabilities such as flaws in the logic used due to unverified development practices. Each pentesting method is given a list of testing guidelines and up to 66 parameters for testing under the OWASP framework. Such a wide scope of testing will ensure that testing teams can identify all kinds of vulnerabilities under a range of functionalities in applications. 


If you’re looking to revamp the entire security posture of the organization through a penetration testing methodology with specific steps to do the same, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework will help you out. Most organizations ignore the criticality of adequate security infrastructure for the systems and networks being tested, making the NIST framework legally mandated by various firms and countries. 

Companies employ the NIST security standard for ensuring information security, no matter the industry and size of the firm. They perform mandated pentesting procedures on applications and networks using the given guidelines and to meet regulatory requirements. The NIST pentesting framework is a popular tech security standard in the US and evaluates companies’ dedication to cybersecurity goals and regular assessments, testing for security risks at every step. 


With a scientific methodology for conducting vulnerability assessments and network penetration testing, testing teams can expect a detailed framework for all these in the Open Source Security Testing Methodology Manual (OSSTMM). The framework targets each network and its components specifically to identify the possibility of each attack vector. Testers are required to have in-depth knowledge, experience, and previous information about the security requirements for the firm in its industry and according to its business operations and assets. 

The OSSTMM supports network development teams in creating firewalls and networks according to the guidelines mentioned. The framework brings to attention the best security practices for ensuring optimal security without advocating for any particular network protocol or software. Testers can even use the framework’s methodology to formulate their assessment criteria according to the security requirements or the technological standpoint of the firm. 


One of the more popular penetration testing methodologies for pentesting processes, the Penetration Testing Methodologies and Standards (PTES) framework sets the guidelines for conducting the procedure including reconnaissance and modeling simulated attacks. This framework requires testers to be well aware of the context in which the firm being tested operates since this will assist in highlighting the potentially vulnerable areas that need to be exploited further.

This information is used to frame potential attack vectors that could impact the system the most along with the steps to be taken after the first stage of exploitation. The latter step will help all the stakeholders to verify that the vulnerabilities discovered from the testing phase have been detected and resolved. There are seven phases mentioned under this framework that will allow the team to build an efficient pentesting procedure along with the required security recommendations for revamping overall security. 


The Information System Security Assessment Framework (ISSAF) highlights a suitably detailed procedure to pentesting organizations with unique security requirements with contextualized and advanced methodologies. Testers use this framework to inform their pentesting process from planning to execution with the help of different tools for each scenario. 

Under the assessment procedure, ISSAF tackles each area of vulnerability with the help of contextual information, different attack vectors, and other vulnerabilities that could build up the impact. The framework also provides information on tools that have been used in real attack scenarios by hackers, allowing firms to simulate advanced attack scenarios. 

These are some of the most common penetration testing methodology standards used for cybersecurity purposes by firms. The next important step is to ensure that qualified third-party testers are employed with awareness of these methodologies and testing procedures to improve the overall security posture of the firm.

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L. Dias William

L. Dias William is an established writer who specializes in Apple goods, iOS, and other technology. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has years of hands-on experience in the IT business. William has a sharp eye for detail and an enthusiasm for innovation, and he has written countless articles and reviews that are popular among computer fans throughout the world. His distinct combination of technical understanding and creative flare makes him a desirable voice in the consumer electronics industry.

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