Penetration Testing Reports: How to Write an Effective Pentest Report
Date: 3 May 2023
As cyber security threats continue to evolve, organisations need advanced tools and techniques to ensure the security of their IT systems and networks.
Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking or pentesting, is a crucial process that allows organisations to identify security vulnerabilities. The idea is to spot the exploitable vulnerabilities in the systems before malicious hackers exploit them.
However, the true value of penetration testing lies in the comprehensive and actionable pentesting reports. These reports are generated at the end of the testing process. In this article, we will explore the power of penetration testing reports. In the realm of professional writing, the clarity and structure found in a well-executed pentest report can be likened to a finely crafted academic essay. Just as organisations turn to essay writer services at EssayHub.com for impeccable work, businesses seek skilled experts for penetration testing to ensure their systems remain uncompromised and secure.
We will also provide insights on how to write a pentest report and utilise actionable findings.
What is a penetration test report?
Penetration testing reports are not just technical documents. They are valuable communication tools that facilitate effective communication between technical and non-technical stakeholders.
These reports are typically used to communicate the findings and recommendations to senior management, IT teams, and other relevant stakeholders. They may not always have the technical expertise to understand the intricacies of the vulnerabilities identified.
However, the pen testing reports should help them understand clearly what their organisational security loopholes are. Only then can they put in the necessary controls to prevent criminals from gaining access to sensitive information and IT infrastructure.
Therefore, it is crucial to write the various types of penetration testing reports in a clear and concise manner. They should be easily understood by different audiences.
How to Write a Pentest Report Effectively?
Writing actionable penetration testing reports requires careful planning, attention to detail, and effective communication skills. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when writing penetration testing reports:
1. Understand the Audience
It is important to understand the target audience of the security testing report. The report should be written in a concise and clear manner. It must highlight the most critical findings and recommendations.
It should also include a brief executive summary. This provides an overview of the key findings and their impact on the organisation's security posture.
2. Use Technical Language Only Where Needed
Yes, penetration testing reports are technical documents. But it is important to use technical language judiciously and avoid high level jargon. The report should use plain language to explain the vulnerabilities identified, their impact, and the recommended mitigations.
Technical terms should be defined or explained in simple language. This ensures that the report is easy to understand by a wider audience.
3. Include Comprehensive Findings
The penetration testing report should provide a comprehensive overview of the vulnerabilities and weaknesses identified. It should include details such as the type of vulnerability, its severity level, its impact on the system or network.
It must also have every relevant evidence or proof of concept. Including screenshots, logs , and other supporting evidence can make the findings more tangible and actionable.
4. Prioritise Findings
Not all vulnerabilities are created equal. It is important to prioritise the findings based on their severity and potential impact on the organisation's security posture. The report should clearly highlight the critical findings that require immediate attention and mitigation. It should categorise the findings based on their severity levels, such as high, medium, and low.
5. Provide Detailed Recommendations
Penetration testing reports should not only identify vulnerabilities but also provide detailed recommendations for mitigation. The recommendations should be practical, actionable, and feasible for the organisation to implement.
They should also be prioritised based on the severity of the vulnerabilities and the attack surface.
Each recommendation should include a clear description of the mitigation steps, their expected impact. It’s good to include relevant references or resources for further guidance.
6. Include Technical Details
Iit is important to write the penetration testing report in a language that is easily accessible for non-technical stakeholders. But it should also provide sufficient technical details for IT teams and other technical personnel.
This may include technical descriptions of the vulnerabilities, their root causes, and the exploitation techniques used during the testing. Including technical details can help IT teams understand the vulnerabilities in depth and implement effective mitigations.
7. Use Visuals Effectively
Visuals, such as diagrams, charts, and tables, can be powerful tools to convey complex information in a visually appealing manner.
Penetration testing reports can benefit from the use of visuals. They can illustrate the findings, demonstrate the impact of vulnerabilities, and present the recommendations of the pen tester.
Visuals can make the report more engaging and accessible. This is especially true for non-technical stakeholders. They may not have the technical expertise to interpret the findings solely based on textual content.
Importance of a Pentest Report in your Cyber Security Strategy
Writing an actionable penetration testing report is just the first step. The true value of the report lies in its utilisation to improve the organisation's cybersecurity posture. Here are some tips on how to effectively utilise the actionable findings from penetration testing reports. And then using them to build your cyber resilience strategy:
1. Develop a Remediation Plan
Based on the recommendations provided in the penetration testing report, IT teams and other stakeholders should develop a comprehensive remediation plan.
The plan should prioritise the mitigation steps based on the severity of the vulnerabilities and allocate resources accordingly. It should also include a timeline for implementing the mitigation measures. These measures include assigning responsibilities to relevant teams/individuals, and establishing regular monitoring and follow-up mechanisms.
2. Communicate Findings and Recommendations to Relevant Stakeholders
The findings and recommendations from the penetration testing report should be effectively communicated to relevant stakeholders. These include senior management, IT teams, and other relevant personnel. Visuals can be used to aid the communication process and make the findings more accessible to non-technical stakeholders.
3. Collaborate with IT Teams and Other Stakeholders
Effective collaboration between different teams and stakeholders is crucial for implementing the recommended mitigations.
IT teams, in particular, play a critical role in implementing the technical measures to address the vulnerabilities. Close collaboration between the security team and IT teams can ensure that the recommended mitigations are implemented in a timely manner.
Regular meetings, progress tracking, simulated attack exercises and follow-up mechanisms can ensure that the mitigation plan is on track.
4. Monitor and Test Remediation Measures
After implementing the recommended mitigations, it is important to monitor and test the effectiveness of the remediation measures.
Regular monitoring of the systems and networks can help identify any potential gaps that may have emerged after the initial testing. Periodic penetration testing can also be conducted to validate the effectiveness of the remediation measures. This ensures that the vulnerabilities have been adequately addressed.
5. Update Cybersecurity Policies and Procedures
The findings and recommendations from the penetration testing report should also be used to update the organisation's cybersecurity policies and procedures.
This may include revising security policies, cyber incident response plans. It could also involve updating security standards, and implementing new security controls based on the pen test findings.
It is important to incorporate the findings into the organisation's security framework to prevent similar vulnerabilities from arising in the future. It is also recommended to enlist the help of external cybersecurity experts to update your security policies, plans and procedures. This is especially effective for organisations who don’t have the internal capabilities or expertise to do so.
6. Learn from the Findings
Penetration testing reports can provide valuable insights into the organisation's security posture and highlight areas that may require improvement. It is essential to learn from the findings and take appropriate actions to strengthen the organisation's security defences.
This may involve providing additional cybersecurity training and awareness programs for employees, enhancing security monitoring and incident response capabilities.
It is imperative to prioritise implementing best practices for secure coding and configuration management. The findings from the penetration testing report should be used as a learning opportunity to continuously improve the organisation's security posture.
In conclusion, penetration testing reports are a powerful tool to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in an organisation's security posture. By following best practices for writing and utilising actionable findings from penetration testing reports, organisations can effectively address vulnerabilities, mitigate risks, and enhance their overall security posture.
About the Author
Jeff P. is a tech writer at 500 Word Essay and Exemplification Help with expertise in coding and computer science. He provides valuable insights to Information Security professionals, and technical audiences.