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Decoding the Characteristics of Modern Pentesting: Effectiveness

  • Quality/Effectiveness: Effectiveness measures the method’s ability to provide reliable and accurate vulnerability detections, comprehensive system coverage, compliance with standards, and a diverse testing team for nuanced perspectives.
  • Speed/Efficiency: Efficiency concerns the method’s operational benefits, such as the ease and rapidity of obtaining pentesting services, the immediate delivery of results and analytics, continuous and transparent communication, and effortless SDLC integration.
  • Value: Value explores the method’s ROI, focusing on scalability, both tangible and intangible outcomes from pentesting efforts, and its success in risk mitigation.

With these categories in mind, let’s explore the “Effectiveness” factor more closely and see how each security testing alternative measures up.

Pentesting Options

The landscape of security testing is diverse, where players offer a variety of methodologies and pentesting options that cater to different organizational needs. Understanding these methods is crucial for selecting the pentesting strategy that best fits your security needs, but it’s not an easy task. Here are the primary pentesting methods currently in use:

  • Traditional Pentesting via Consultancies: Pentesting services are delivered by professional service providers, primarily leveraging their in-house salaried pentesters or long-term contractors.
  • Traditional Pentest as a Service (PTaaS): Essentially, traditional pentesting with an added user interface.
  • Community-driven Pentest as a Service (PTaaS): A modern evolution of pentesting, harnessing the collective expertise of a global community of vetted security researchers.
  • Automated Pentesting: Including autonomous approaches powered by generative AI (GenAI) algorithms and advanced machine learning models, uses predefined scripts or tools to systematically scan and assess systems for vulnerabilities based on recognized signatures or patterns.

The Problem With Pentest Effectiveness

When it comes to pentesting, organizations are often frustrated with one thing: the researcher talent pool. While there are other factors that come into play, such as the relevance and severity of vulnerabilities surfaced and the versatility of the testing, all these elements start with the pentesters. 

“When customers tell me about their experiences with traditional vendors, they mention that they often don’t get an entire team of experienced pentesters. More often than not, they get a team mostly composed of junior pentesters with limited experience who work with a more senior pentester with more experience. As a result, the senior pentester is forced to split their time between testing, teaching, and reporting, and the customer doesn’t get the full value.”

— Spencer Chin, Senior Manager, Sales Engineering, HackerOne

But if security teams have access to elite pentesters, won’t they receive the highest quality results?

Measuring Pentest Effectiveness

When evaluating security testing options, the quality of results and how seamlessly they integrate into existing SDLC processes is paramount. This comparison breaks down each approach, assessing the performance and the effectiveness of the testing.

  • Depth and Relevance: Considers both the significance of vulnerabilities discovered 
 and the potential impact, emphasizing quality over quantity
  • Report Delivery and Compliance: Focuses on the clarity and actionability of the final test report while ensuring adherence to security compliance standards and regulations
  • Talent Diversity: Reflects the diverse skills, qualifications, and testing methodologies of the pentester pool, emphasizing a mix of certifications, training, diverse testing approaches, and the capability to rotate across tests
  • Coverage and Versatility: Demonstrates the thoroughness of the pentest across all critical components while highlighting the adaptability of the approach, incorporating techniques like bug bounties or source code reviews

Our methodology evaluates different pentesting approaches against key dimensions of effective security testing, using
a scale of Low to High. While the results do highlight a preferred method, it’s essential to understand that our scoring system reflects the general attributes of each security testing type. The actual effectiveness of an approach may vary based on business priorities, technology stack, and other unique factors. As you interpret the findings, remember that Quality/Effectiveness is only one of three factors, and it may or may not resonate most with your specific business objectives.


In pentesting, effectiveness measures the impact of the testing process and outcomes, guaranteeing that the tests yield meaningful, actionable, and relevant results. The elements addressed above underscore the depth, precision, and thorough nature of a modern pentesting alternative, ensuring a structured and methodology-driven assessment of an organization’s security posture.

In the webinar, The Role of PTaaS: From Compliance to Enhancing Application Security, Cresta Head of Security and Compliance Robert Kugler explains:

“With PTaaS, you have a software-enabled platform that you can use to integrate and directly streamline results to your engineering teams. It cuts out copy/pasting and makes the whole process faster. You can also tap into a huge talent market, so rather than having five pentesters a consultancy has selected, you have the choice of hundreds, all with their own specialties and skills. If you just have any doubts about the skill set of a specific individual, you can check out their findings in Hacktivity, and you can see the kind of thinking that person brings to testing.”

Security Testing Effectiveness Evaluation Matrix

This checklist can be used to evaluate the speed of each of the four security testing options: traditional pentesting, bug bounty, modern pentesting via Pentest as a Service (PTaaS), and automated and autonomous pentesting. 

Pentest Effectiveness Checklist


The Power of PTaaS With HackerOne

When scoring against Effectiveness and Quality, PTaaS stands out as a flexible approach that can adapt to an organization’s specific needs, and is priced accordingly. Community-driven PTaaS is the premier choice for comprehensive testing combined with in-depth analysis, all while ensuring a swift setup and completion of the assessment.

Quote from Zebra


  • 72% of HackerOne Pentest customers value HackerOne pentesters’ ability to detect hard-to-spot vulnerabilities and discover unknowns within their attack surface.
  • 18% of HackerOne Pentest findings are high or critical severity —
which is nearly double the industry standard.
  • 11 valid vulnerabilities are reported
on average, per pentest.

“As a CISO, you’re not running penetration tests for yourself, you’re not patching systems. What you’re doing is reporting to the board and so a good report puts a service above and beyond others. A platform ensures those things are consistent with checklists and a pattern of systems and solutions in place to help produce excellent quality.”

— Howard Holton, CTO of GigaOm

HackerOne Pentest transcends routine compliance checks, delivering in-depth insights, efficiency, and actionable results tailored to your business and security needs. If you’re ready to learn more about how PTaaS measures up in other criteria, download the eBook: The Pentesting Matrix: Decoding Modern Security Testing Approaches. Or, tell us about your pentesting requirements, and one of our experts will contact you.

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