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6 Security Testing Methodologies Explained: Definitions, Processes, Checklist

Updated on: May 21, 2024

6 Security Testing Methodologies Explained: Definitions, Processes, Checklist

Article Summary

You cannot put enough stress on the importance of consistent security testing. You can implement one or multiple Security Testing Methodologies to embolden your security posture, resist cyber attacks, and build trust. The article talks about six such Security Testing Methodologies.

As of November 2021, there are 455 million sites that use WordPress. According to report, 90,000 attacks are launched on WordPress sites every minute. Most mass cyber attacks of this kind target sites or applications with known security loopholes like XSS, outdated components, security misconfigurations, etc. With any of these vulnerabilities, your site becomes easy prey for attackers. 

Let us say, an attacker succeeds in exploiting an XSS vulnerability in your site, they can gain privileged administrative access and steal your data, or redirect your customers to nefarious sites. Your website suffers from downtime and you lose the trust of your customers, or you might lose your site altogether. 

These situations can be avoided through consistent and proper security measures. By following standard security testing methodologies, you can free your business from vulnerabilities that invite malicious actors.

What is security testing?

Security testing is a form of non-functional software testing that checks the software for threats, risks, and vulnerabilities. While functional testing checks whether the software is running properly, security testing determines whether it is well configured, well designed, and risk-free.

Security testing focuses on a bunch of key elements such as,

  • Assets like applications, and infrastructure that need protection
  • Vulnerabilities that can expose the assets to attackers
  • Risk imposed by different security loopholes 
  • Remediation of the security issues

Who needs security testing?

Certain industries like Banking, healthcare, and ITES are legally bound to conduct regular security testing. For instance, payment card providers who transmit sensitive cardholder data must maintain compliance with PCI-DSS through regular security audits.

Nevertheless, any business in any industry that has an online existence is a potential target for cyber attacks. Hence, any online entity trying to manage risk and protect its assets needs security tests as well as an understanding of security testing methodologies. 

Expected business outcomes of security testing

According to a recent report, the cost of a data breach rose from $3.86 million in 2020 to 4.24 million in 2021. 60% of small businesses close after they suffer from a breach

  • Consistent security testing ensures this fate does not befall your business. 
  • Not only does it identify and help fix the vulnerabilities, but it also helps you grow as a trusted brand through certification.
  • You stay protected from newly found vulnerabilities.

Also Read: IoT Security Testing | Security Testing Software – 5 Things to Understand Before You Choose One

It is one small security loophole v/s your entire website or web application

Get your web app audited with Astra’s Continuous Pentest Solution

Types of Security Testing Methodologies

Astra illustrates the different security testing methodologies
List of Security Testing Methodologies

Your business objectives should determine the type of Security Testing Methodologies you will employ. If your objective is to find a defined set of vulnerabilities under uniform conditions automated vulnerability scanners will do the job for you. If you want to take it one step forward and look for deeper coverage you will need to engage manual Pentesting on top of automated tools. Let us find out more about different Security Testing Methodologies.

1. Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is an automated process used by security engineers and attackers alike to identify vulnerabilities in a website, an application, or a network. The vulnerability scanning methodology further involves:

  • External vulnerability scan : It is used to identify vulnerabilities in areas of a network that are exposed to the internet.
  • Internal vulnerability scan : It is used for scanning areas of a network reserved for a company’s internal use.
  • Non-Intrusive vulnerability scan : This method determines the potential vulnerabilities extant in a network based on environmental clues without actually exploiting any vulnerability.
  • Intrusive vulnerability scan : In this method, the attacker exploits a vulnerability to determine how much risk that particular vulnerability poses to the network – whether it yields administrative access, or allows privilege escalation, etc. The intrusive form of vulnerability assessment has the potential to hinder the functionality of a site, hence it should be practiced with extreme caution. 

2. Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a form of security testing wherein security engineers simulate a hack to check vulnerabilities present in a site, an application, or a network. 

While these tests resemble a real-life hack, they are conducted under safe conditions and controlled by predetermined rules of engagement. The capability of identifying hidden vulnerabilities makes it one of the most popular security testing methodologies.

The process of penetration testing is generally divided into seven phases: 

  1. Pre-engagement : The Pentesters consult with you to determine the goal of the penetration test. The scope of the test is defined in this phase along with the rules of engagement.
  2. Information gathering and recon : The Pentesters use a variety of active and passive techniques to learn as much about the target network as they can.
  3. Discovery : In this phase, the Pentesters scan the target for known vulnerabilities.
  4. Vulnerability analysis : The vulnerabilities identified in the previous phase are analyzed and scored in terms of severity and impact.
  5. Exploitation and post exploitation : The attackers exploit certain severe vulnerabilities to gain access and then try to escalate the access. This is the phase where they can determine how much risk a certain vulnerability really poses.
  6. Report and recommendation : A report is prepared depicting the findings of the previous phases. It contains a list of vulnerabilities, their CVSS scores, and recommendations for remediation.
  7. Remediation and rescan : In this phase, the Pentesters collaborate with the client-side developers to remove the vulnerabilities and rescan the system to confirm the secure status.

Related Blog- Security Testing vs Pentesting | 10 Best Cyber Security Audit Companies [Features and Services Explained]

3. Risk assessment

Risk assessment methodology involves the identification and mitigation of security risks associated with various assets within an application or a network. We can roughly divide this method into four steps.

  • Identification : This involves creating a list of all assets critical for a network, diagnosing the data transmitted, or stored by each of them, and curating a risk profile for each asset.
  • Assessment : The assets are checked for risk in terms of exploitation, impact on business, loss of revenue, etc. The assets are also scored in terms of their criticality for the business so that the most important ones can be prioritized.
  • Mitigation : In this step, the business owners in tandem with security professionals plan a mitigation approach and implement certain measures to see that through. 
  • Prevention : Once the existing risk is mitigated, further preventive security measures like firewalls are implemented.       

4. Security Audit

A security audit is a comprehensive approach to security testing. You can employ a Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) company to perform a security audit of your systems or you can get it done internally.

A security audit combines automated vulnerability scanning and manual penetration testing to create an exhaustive report depicting the common as well as rare and hidden vulnerabilities in your site, application, or network. 

You get a detailed report consisting of analytical information about the vulnerabilities – their CVSS score, and possible business impact. The report also includes detailed guidance and video PoC for your developers to follow and fix the vulnerabilities.

After you have fixed the issues the VAPT company offers a rescan to confirm the remediation. Once you pass the audit the VAPT provider issues a certification.  

Also Read- WordPress Security Audit

5. Secure code review

It is the process of testing an application’s source code for security flaws associated with logic, spec implementation, style guideline, and other activities.

You can opt for an automated code review or a manual code review. We recommend a combined approach that uses both modes. Let us see how they work.

Automated code review : This approach quickly detects a set of flaws during the software development lifecycle. Developers often use DAST tools to find and fix vulnerabilities within the source code, before checking the code in.

Manual code review : Just as it sounds, it is a manual review of the entire code base. This approach can unveil flaws like business logic errors that an automated review might miss.

A combination of both the forms provides maximum security, as you may guess.

Download For Free: Secure Coding Checklist

6. Security posture assessment

The security posture of a network determines its health and resilience in the face of cyber security threats. It describes how well equipped your website, app, or network is to defend itself. 

A cyber security posture assessment combines all different security testing methodologies to conduct a comprehensive assessment of your network. Its goal is to provide C-level executives with a clear picture of the health of their digital organization along with a better plan to manage risk and increase ROI in security measures.

The steps involved in a security posture assessment are :

  • Identification and value assessment of critical assets
  • Determining security risks and data exposure
  • Assessment of current security measures
  • Plan for better ROI on security measures

Also Read: Network Security Testing and 5 Best Network Security Tools in 2022

Make your Web Application the safest place on the Internet.

With our detailed and specially curated SaaS security checklist.

Attributes of security testing

The end goal of all security testing methodologies is to gain a better understanding of the current security environment and to drive the organization towards a better state of security. The status of a company’s cybersecurity is determined by certain attributes:

  • CIA : Ensuring Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability of information.
  • Authentication and Authorization : To validate the user’s identity and authenticity
  • Non-repudiation : Ability to ensure a user cannot deny having made a transaction.
  • Resilience : Ability to withstand and recover from adverse conditions.

By now, you have an understanding of security testing and the different security testing methodologies. Let us sum up the benefits.

Benefits of Security Testing

  • Reveal vulnerabilities : Without regular security testing your website becomes a sitting duck, waiting to be exploited. It has vulnerabilities, and a security test exposes them.
  • Risk assessment : It is not enough to find the vulnerabilities, you need to understand what sort of risk they pose to your business in order to narrow down the fix. Security testing helps you do that.
  • Security posture assessment : You need to check and revise your security measures to ensure maximum ROI and the best defense. That’s exactly what you get with a security test.
  • Business continuity : Security breaches sometimes result in business downtime. Avoid that with regular security checks.
  • Compliance : You must engage in security tests in order to comply with global standards like ISO 27001, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and SOC2.
  • Build trust : Regular security testing protects you and your customers from information breaches, in turn you build trust. The security testing certification definitely helps in this respect.
Security Testing Methodologies help in compliance

Security Testing Checklist  

The following are methods of security testing you can use to attain a comprehensive picture of your organization’s security posture:

  1. Activities in the recon stage
  • Port Scanning
  • Web Server, CMS Version, and OS fingerprinting.
  • HTTP Methods
  • Cookie Attributes
  1. Discovering the first set of vulnerabilities
  • Finding alternative content i.e. directory/files brute force
  • Finding default configurations or misconfigurations
  • Login Fuzzing
  • Testing Session Tokens
  • Injections: SQL, XSS, XML, Template, OS Command
  • Open Redirection
  • LFI & RFI attacks
  • Business Logic Flaws
  • Denial of Service
  • Testing REST and SOAP web services
  1. Test for Encryption Flaws
  • Heartbleed
  • Poodle
  • HTTPS strip
  • Oracle Padding Attack
  • Weak Cryptography or Poor implementation
  1. The Exploitation starts here
  • Test for Browser hijacking using XSS
  • Test for Data Exfiltration using various injections
  • Test for Authentication Bypass
  • Test for Offline password cracking
  • Test for Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

It is one small security loophole v/s your entire website or web application

Get your web app audited with Astra’s Continuous Pentest Solution

Security Testing Tools

Here is a list of tools you can use to implement different security testing methodologies.

  • SCA : It stands for Software Composition Analysis and is used to find open source components in a codebase. SCA is useful for identifying elements in the open source components that may pose maintenance or compliance issues. 
  • SAST : Static Application Security Testing inspects the source code of an application to find out design issues that might pose a security threat.
  • DAST : Dynamic Application Security Testing finds vulnerabilities in an application in real time whether the app is running or in production. 
  • IAST : Interactive Application Security Testing analyzes the code for vulnerabilities within a certain functionality of an app. 

Also Read: 11 Top Penetration Testing Tools of 2022 [Reviewed] | Top 5 Software Security Testing Tools in 2022 [Reviewed]

Comprehensive Security Testing by Astra

Astra conducts an all-round security assessment complete with automated and manual Pentesting, Vulnerability Analysis, and Business Logic Testing, to find any vulnerability and security loophole present on your site or application.

Astra Pentest Suite takes care of security testing methodologies
Astra Pentest Suite

Here are some highlights for Astra Pentest:

  • Astra Pentest consists of 2500+ tests to find security loopholes.  
  • You get a dedicated dashboard to visualize the vulnerability analysis.
  • Astra’s Pentest suite lets you start working on the fix while the security audit still runs.
  • Your developers get video PoCs and step-by-step guidelines for remediation.
  • Along with in-call assistance from our security engineers.
  • Get free rescans after the issues are fixed. 
  • Get a globally acknowledged certification.      

Astra makes Security Testing incredibly simple for the users while maintaining a comprehensive approach. 

In Conclusion

A recent study states  that in 2021, the average time elapsed before a security breach is detected was 287 days. The average cost of a security breach in the USA is a little above $9 million. It is a hindrance that the majority of small and midsize businesses cannot really recover from. Your best way forward is to build security awareness and treat security testing as an indispensable activity for your business.

Want to know more or have a quick question? Talk with our engineers!

We are always online! 😊


  1. What is the timeline for Penetration Testing?
    The timeline for Penetration Testing is 4 to 10 days depending on the nature of the target, and the scope of the Penetration Test.
  2. How much does a vulnerability scan cost?
    A security audit can cost between $490 and $5999 per scan depending on the target, the number of scans per year, and the scope of the scan.
  3. Why is Astra a good choice for security testing?
    Astra is focused on making the Security Testing Methodologies extremely simple for the customers. With 9300+ tests, video based and in-call remediation assistance, dedicated Pentest dashboard, and globally acknowledged certification, Astra is pretty hard to beat.
  4. Do we get rescans after the vulnerabilities are fixed?
    Yes, you get 1-3 rescans within 30 days of the initial scan completion. The number of scans is dependent on the plan you are on.

Saumick Basu

Saumick is a Technical Writer at Astra Security. He loves to write about technology and has deep interest in its evolution. Having written about spearheading disruptive technology like AI, and Machine Learning, and code reviews for a while, Information Security is his newfound love. He's ready to bring you along as he dives deeper.
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