As we previously discussed, good scoping is essential in penetration testing. But let’s not forget the importance of a thorough and well-written report. It should analyze vulnerabilities and their potential impact on the business while providing clear recommendations for improving security and preventing future attacks. The report should be written in a concise and straightforward manner, so clients can easily understand the findings and take appropriate action.
What is a Penetration Testing Report?
A penetration testing report is a document that details the scope, methodology, findings, and recommendations for a penetration test. It gives stakeholders a comprehensive view of security risks or threats to a company’s network, systems, or applications and possible remediation/mitigation solutions for identified vulnerabilities.
The report should be tailored specifically for its target audience and provide actionable insights that can be implemented to strengthen a company’s security posture. Using clear and concise language and avoiding technical jargon can help ensure that the report’s findings and recommendations are understood by everyone involved.
Importance of a Comprehensive Penetration Testing Report
An effective penetration testing report serves multiple functions. First, it provides stakeholders with an in-depth view of security risks posed to their infrastructure by intruders and can then help prioritize remediation efforts and allocate resources appropriately against those that present the most severe threats.
Second, this report serves as evidence of due diligence by documenting vulnerabilities identified and steps taken to mitigate them during a retest – something essential when complying with industry standards and regulations. Finally, a thorough report can educate stakeholders about the significance of pen tests and the potential repercussions of successful attacks, which may increase awareness and investment in security measures.
Penetration Testing Standards and Frameworks
Penetration testing standards and frameworks offer guidelines and best practices for conducting penetration tests and reporting. Some of the more widely adopted standards and frameworks include:
- OSSTMM (Open-Source Security Testing Methodology Manual): An in-depth guide for penetration testing that covers various stages of the testing process and guidance for reporting.
- NIST SP 800-115: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) publication offers guidance for conducting penetration testing and reporting.
- PTES (Penetration Testing Execution Standard): An all-encompassing standard for performing penetration testing that covers every step in its execution and provides guidance for reporting.
- PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard): This standard outlines guidelines to safeguard payment card data and requirements for penetration testing.
Adherence to these standards and frameworks will help ensure that penetration testing is conducted consistently and comprehensively and meets industry best practices.
The Elements of an Effective Penetration Testing Report
An effective penetration testing report must contain these components:
- Executive Summary: An overarching review of the testing process, findings, and recommendations. It should be written using non-technical language to provide a better understanding of risks and actions taken to mitigate those risks.
- Scope and Methodology: This details the scope and methodology used for testing systems or applications and any methodologies employed during its conduct.
- Findings: A detailed account of each vulnerability identified, detailing its severity, impact, and likelihood of exploitation. This section should give stakeholders enough detail to comprehend risks and prioritize remediation efforts accordingly.
- Recommendations: Specific actions to address identified vulnerabilities, timelines, and priorities.
- Appendices: Additional raw data, supporting documentation, and technical details.
The Ultimate Checklist for Your Penetration Testing Report
To ensure the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of your penetration testing report, it should include the following:
- Clarification of Objectives: Your report should set clearly defined testing objectives, including scope, methodology, and expected outcomes.
- Detailed Findings: The report should provide a detailed account of testing results, detailing vulnerabilities identified, severity, and potential impact.
- Recommendations: Your report must include actionable recommendations for addressing identified vulnerabilities, with clear time frames and priorities.
- Risk Ratings: A risk rating system should be included in the report to give stakeholders a clear picture of the severity and likelihood of exploiting identified vulnerabilities.
- Technical Details: A report should provide detailed technical information that supports its findings and recommendations.
- Clear and Concise Language: When creating the report, ensure it uses simple language that non-technical stakeholders can easily comprehend. Avoid technical jargon, which might make the text too dense to read easily.
Common Mistakes to Avoid in a Penetration Testing Report
Avoid these mistakes to make sure your penetration testing report is effective:
- Lack of Clarity: Reports must be clear and straightforward, free from technical jargon and acronyms that might make understanding difficult for non-technical stakeholders.
- Failing to Prioritize Recommendations: Your report should include a prioritized list of recommendations based on severity and likelihood of exploiting identified vulnerabilities.
- Lack of Detail: For effective communication among stakeholders, reports must provide enough details to enable them to fully comprehend risks and recommendations.
- Lack of Actionable Recommendations: For an effective report to address identified vulnerabilities, actionable recommendations that address them with timelines and priorities should be included in it.
How to Present the Report to Stakeholders
Presenting a report to stakeholders is an integral step of the process and should be tailored specifically for them. Your presentation should address the following:
- Executive Summary: An overarching overview of the testing process, findings, and recommendations in non-technical language should provide a clear understanding of risks and recommended actions.
- Detailed Findings: Provide a full, detailed account of each vulnerability identified, including severity, impact, and likelihood of exploitation. This section should give enough detail so stakeholders can fully comprehend risks and prioritize remediation efforts accordingly.
- Actionable Recommendations: Provide a list of recommendations to address identified vulnerabilities, with timelines and priorities attached to each action taken to address them.
- Risk Ratings: Risk rating systems provide stakeholders with a clear understanding of the severity and likelihood of exploiting vulnerabilities identified.
- Q&A Sessions: Q&A Sessions provide an opportunity for stakeholders to voice any of their queries or voice any of their concerns.
Benefits of a Well-Written Penetration Testing Report
An effective penetration testing report brings many advantages, such as:
- Clear Understanding of Risks: It gives stakeholders a detailed account of security risks to their infrastructure from threats posed by malicious parties.
- Effective Prioritization: It allows stakeholders to prioritize remediation efforts and allocate resources to address the most significant risks.
- Evidence of Due Diligence: It offers proof of due diligence by outlining vulnerabilities and taking measures to address them, which is essential in meeting industry standards and regulations.
- Increased Awareness and Investment: A detailed report can serve as a platform for informing stakeholders on the importance of security measures and the potential repercussions of successful cyber attacks, leading to increased awareness and investment in these measures.
In conclusion, a comprehensive penetration testing report is essential in providing stakeholders with a clear understanding of the security risks. They should be tailored specifically for their audience, adhere to industry standards and frameworks, and offer specific steps to address identified vulnerabilities. By following the checklist detailed in this blog, you can ensure that your penetration testing report effectively improves your company’s security posture.