If you’ve conducted any research on penetration testing, you’ve more than likely come across something known as a penetration testing report – or ‘pentest report’ as it’s so often referred to as.
As you might know, penetration testing plays an important role in the health of your organisation’s cyber security. Having these safeguards in place ensures that you are constantly staying ahead of anyone looking to infiltrate your network.
If you’ve ever wondered what is included in a pentest report, the benefits of a penetration report, and whether or not you have to write the report yourself, then you’ve come to the right place.
Think of this blog as a comprehensive report in and of itself, one that outlines pentest reporting in full. Our goal here is to provide you with everything you need to go off and begin creating reports of your own.
Later in the post we will also talk about what we here at TLR are doing to streamline the pentest reporting process through our own services. We support cyber professionals in a variety of sectors, making the services we provide accessible to all!
Let’s begin by defining what a penetration testing report is before looking at what you should include in one.
What is a Pentest Report?
For us to understand what a penetration testing report is, we must first look at what penetration testing is generally.
Pentests are simulated attacks against your network, applications, or infrastructure, used to identify weaknesses or vulnerabilities before hackers can exploit them. In other words, you simulate a hack as if it were really happening to cover you should it legitimately happen.
By simulating the hack, you outline any potential holes in your organisation; holes that you can then fill to ensure that no one gets in and does anything harmful. To create as real of a scenario as possible, third party companies typically perform this test for you.
For more information on penetration testing, check out this page here.
So, with that in mind, you should have a pretty good idea as to what a pentest report is.
Essentially, a penetration testing report is the output of a technical risk assessment that acts as a reference for businesses and technical teams – teams that either operate within the business or externally.
In simpler terms, it’s a detailed rundown of your system’s vulnerabilities and how to mitigate them.
The tests themselves are prepared using multiple methods. These range from:
- Traditional penetration test reports (written by security consultants)
- Template-based report generators
- Online portals (where tests can be viewed anytime)
- What information has been provided to testers
- What test cases are included (tools, tactics, and procedures)
- What assets are defined within the scope
- Outline of risk exposure for tested assets
- Strategic and tactical recommendations
- Specific security issues found in the test
- Indicate the severity level of those issues
- Risk levels in the likelihood they occur
- Recommendations based on findings
- Executive summary
- Key findings during assessment
- Strategic/tactical recommendations
- Network Penetration Testing
- Physical Penetration Testing
- Application Penetration Testing
- API Penetration Testing
What is the Purpose of a Penetration Testing Report?
It’s best to think of a pentest report as a security passport for your products and services, after all, it is used to protect your organisation from the rest of the world. Hackers aren’t bound to a single location and are always on the lookout for new vulnerabilities in your organisation.
The purpose of penetration testing, and the subsequent report that follows, is to keep tabs on any and all vulnerabilities, not to mention, provide solutions to anything it might find.
Do keep in mind that a pentest report can only provide information based on what parameters have been outlined. All of the following will have an impact on what type of results are generated:
Generally speaking, collating and presenting penetration testing reports is great for nurturing confidence amongst your team, which applies to everyone from stakeholders, to security departments, to clients and customers.
What to Include in a Pentest Report?
As a general rule of thumb, every pentest report produced needs to include the following for it to be considered thorough:
That last inclusion is an important one, as your debriefs will ensure that whomever is looking at your penetration testing report understands the risks and how best to proceed. This is something dedicated security consultants (like us here at TLR Global) will include in reports.
Below we look at what needs to be included in a pentest report. If you’re writing the report yourself, make sure that all of them are included.
Failure not to include one of them could affect how successful your report is in relaying the appropriate information, so make sure that all are included.
The executive report typically sits at the top of your pentest report and can be broken down into three key areas, those being:
Your executive summary should provide a high-level overview of the risks and potential impact those risks could have on your organisation as a whole.
This summary should include non-technical insight and offer a short but snappy rundown of what to expect. Doing so will help executives translate security language, and understand what risks they pose.
TLR Tip: When writing your executive report, ensure that the key findings identified are within the context of the impact to a customer business as well as their environment. Not everyone is as tech-savvy as you might think, so you need to present the information in a clear and concise way that anyone can interpret.
Here you can also include charts, risk grids, and graphs to help contextualise what you’ve mentioned, and, again, help other individuals in your organisation understand where the vulnerabilities lie.
In short, the idea behind the executive report section is:
To present a clear and simple rundown of the pentest report so that anyone can read it and understand what vulnerabilities have been found and what to do about them.
Walkthrough of Risks
This section is significantly different from the executive report, as you can imagine. Here, you need to describe, in great detail, issues, vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and any other weaknesses, alongside the likelihood of attack and impact.
Risk and vulnerability metrics such as CVSS scoring, CWE IDs, and Control area should also be considered.
For those reading this section to fully grasp what the penetration test has found, screenshots, images, and raw data, should all be presented to ensure that the problems are outlined in full, leaving nothing to chance.
We know we’ve already mentioned it, but risk scoring is an important part of this stage, as a pentest report can find multiple issues, all of which might vary in terms of severity. Scoring these risks will help highlight which pose the most problems.
Likelihood of Attack
Likelihood of attack is a very important part of your penetration testing report. You see, some reports are sometimes far too ambiguous, and don’t take into consideration how likely an attack is to happen in a real setting.
Sure, highlighting these vulnerabilities is important, but not all of them need to be communicated throughout the entire organisation.
Context is so often lost in pentest reports, which can make a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to the potential impact some issues may have. Which is why this needs to be included in your reports.
Remember, not everyone is as tech savvy as you might think, and won’t understand the severity of some vulnerabilities.
So tell them.
Remediation advice is the most important part of your pentest report. Without remediation, your reports are simply documents outlining what vulnerabilities your organisation has. No one likes to be told they have dirty laundry without advice on how to get it clean.
There needs to be some plan in place that mitigates these issues, or more specifically, how you’re going to proceed.
Do you have the means to solve these issues in-house, or will you require the help of a Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) service provider? Providing the answer to this question will be key.
Again, a penetration test report without remediation in mind is simply a document. Sure, it raises awareness, but steps need to be taken to sort out any vulnerabilities pen tests find.
Strategic recommendations are so often overlooked by most VAPT service providers. Still, they are crucial as they can define your organisation’s security strategies and posture moving forwards.
One-time security fixes can only do so much to protect your assets and your organisation.
VAPT service providers, like us here at TLR, recognise that cyber security is ever-changing. Meaning, there needs to be safeguards put in place to ensure that there are no holes left in future that could lead to bigger problems later down the line.
How TLR are Making Pentest Reporting Easier
At TLR Global, we offer complete cyber security services that empower you. This includes comprehensive penetration testing, not to mention, vulnerability scanning with our proprietary Cavalry system, that both work to identify weak spots or deliberately penetrate your network and infrastructure to imitate a real malicious attacker.
The results are generated pentest reports that help outline any vulnerabilities, the severity of these vulnerabilities, and what to do next. This applies to all four of our pen test packages, which includes:
Many IT managers and security teams have way too much to do, which means tests and scans aren’t run as often as they should. With continuous and on-going scans provided by Cavalry, TLR is radically changing the way organisations can manage their security posture.
We ensure that you get constant updates about the security of your business or company, allowing you to focus on other aspects of the organisation without worry. If a severe issue pops up, the Cavalry Report will notify you, otherwise you will receive your reports on a cadence which allows you to strategically plan out your improvements.
To learn more about how we can help you become more cyber resilient, simply get in touch. A friendly member of the team will happily respond to any questions you may have.
What to Really Expect From a Pentest Report
What you can expect from a penetration testing report will depend entirely on how comprehensive your report is to begin with. This is something every VAPT service provider will tell you, not just us.
If your report includes all of the headings mentioned above, then you should expect nothing but success when it comes to outlining problems in your organisation and patching those vulnerabilities before a hacker has the opportunity to do something damaging.
We hope you’ve found this post interesting, and now have a better understanding of a penetration testing report, what it includes, and why you need it to begin with.
If you’re writing a pentest report of your own, always remember to include remediation advice within the report itself. It’s the most important part, and it tells you whether or not you need to seek the help of a TLR Global to help you out.
Again, we offer forward-thinking cyber security that empowers you, be it through our penetration testing, or through Cavalry, which provides IT Asset discovery and automated vulnerability scanneing. Get in touch to find out more!
In short, we empower your teams to stay up-to-date with the latest in cyber security, allowing you to stay one step ahead.
Pentest Report FAQs
What is a penetration testing report?
A pentest report is a document that records a list of vulnerabilities found within a penetration test. The report consists of multiple sections that help outline the problems, and provide solutions to those problems.
What does VAPT stand for?
VAPT is a common abbreviation that stands for vulnerability assessment and penetration testing. Most VAPT will simplify the term this way for simplicity purposes (and because saying it the long way can be a little time consuming).
What does a pentest report look like?
A pentest report typically can appear in many forms depending on the preferences of the organisation and the provider. It can exist in a PDF format, an Excel format, or a mixture of both. Again, it all depends on the preferences of those reading.