Penetration Testing: Methodology, Approaches, Types, and Stages


Penetration testing evaluates the security of systems, networks and applications by simulating attacks. The objective is to find security flaws and fix them before they cause a security incident. There are different methods and approaches that can be used during a penetration test, and the type of test will depend on the organisation’s needs and resources. In this blog post, we will discuss the different stages of a typical pentest, as well as the various approaches and types of tests that can be used. Avoid Internet Scams follow the Guest Posting as we provides you most updated technology news. We will also explore two popular methodologies for conducting pentests: OWASP and NIST.

Methods for penetration testing:

There are two popular methodologies for conducting a penetration test: OWASP and NIST.

OWASP has published a complete software penetration testing guide for web applications. It not only covers how to test for common vulnerabilities but also complex logic flaws and human error. The OWASP methodology is popular with security professionals because it provides a comprehensive approach to testing.

NIST has also published guidelines for penetration testing, which focus on the assessment of system security controls. NIST’s approach is more tailored to organisations that are required to meet specific compliance standards.

Other methods are SOC 2, OSSTMM, PTES, ISSAF, etc.

Different approaches to penetration testing:

Automated pentesting:

Automated pentesting relies on software to conduct the test. It’s more efficient than manual testing and may be used for larger projects. Automated pentests are less expensive than manual ones, but they may miss some vulnerabilities because of their limited scope and inability to detect logic flaws or other complex issues. The cost savings are often offset by the higher risk of false positives, which can lead to a decrease in overall security.

Manual pentesting:

Manual penetration testing is conducted by humans and requires extensive knowledge of how the network or application works on both sides of the server-client relationship. This method takes longer but is more thorough than an automated approach because it is for customised attacks. Manual pentests can also be used to exploit vulnerabilities that are not detectable by automated tools.

Types of penetration testing:

There are three main types of penetration tests:

Black-box pentesting:

This is conducted on a system that is unknown to the tester. The goal of this type of pentest is to identify vulnerabilities without any information about the system or its configuration just like a hacker.

White-box pentesting:

White-box pentesting is also known as “clear-text” testing. It is conducted on systems where the tester has full knowledge of the network layout and security controls. This type of test is used to verify the effectiveness of security measures and find vulnerabilities that may not be detected in a black-box test.

Grey-box pentesting:

This is a combination of black-box and white-box testing. Testers have limited knowledge about the system, but more than what would be available in a black-box test. This type of pentest is used to identify vulnerabilities that are not detectable with either approach.

Stages of penetration testing:

A typical pentest goes through five stages: reconnaissance, vulnerability scanning, exploitation, post-exploitation, and reporting and remediation.

1. Reconnaissance:

The first stage of a pentest is reconnaissance. This stage entails gathering information about the target system so that a hacker may devise an assault. Reconnaissance activities may include network scans, open-source intelligence (OSINT), and social engineering.

2. Vulnerability scanning:

In this step, the tester identifies potential vulnerabilities in the target system by running automated or manual tests. Vulnerabilities found during this phase are usually low-risk and easy to exploit.

3. Exploitation:

The next stage is exploitation, which involves exploiting the vulnerabilities that were discovered in previous stages to gain access or escalate privileges on a system. Exploitation can be done using either automated tools or manual methods such as social engineering attacks and phishing emails. The goal of this step is to compromise sensitive data from the target network without being detected by security controls like antivirus software and intrusion detection systems (IDS). Exploiters may use exploits found online, write their own custom scripts for specific purposes, or try different combinations until they find one that works best at achieving their goals while staying under radar detection mechanisms put in place by security solutions.

4. Post-exploitation:

Once a tester has successfully exploited the vulnerabilities in a system, they can move on to the post-exploitation stage. Post-exploitation involves gathering more information about your target and making changes to their configuration (e.g., changing passwords), leaving backdoors, etc. Pentesters need to try to remain undetected as this is how a real-world hacker would work. It will give them control over an infected machine indefinitely without needing direct access again after the initial compromise occurs.

5. Reporting and Remediation:

The final step of a pentest is reporting. The tester will then prepare a report outlining their findings, recommendations for remediation, and information on how to prevent future attacks from happening. These types of reports should only ever be shared with trusted parties because sensitive data is often included within them such as IP addresses which could lead hackers back into your network if published publicly online.


Penetration testing is one of the most effective security testing methods for preventing data breaches and cyberattacks. It identifies vulnerabilities in networks, systems, and applications just like hackers would.

There are different methods and approaches that can be used during a pentest, depending on the information available about the target environment and the goal of the test.

Duly note that pentesting should only be conducted by trusted individuals who have been properly trained in the process. The results of a pentest should always be shared with appropriate parties within an organisation so that they can be remediated.


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