Penetration tests are an extremely useful exercise to mitigate risks and patch your security gaps. If you’ve been asking yourself why do penetration testing more than once, look no further than the pentest report for your answer. Below, we’ll discuss what’s included in a penetration testing report and why this information is crucial to shoring up your organization’s cybersecurity.
3 Parts of a Penetration Testing Report
1. An Executive Summary
Penetration test reports typically begin with a high-level summary of the pentester’s findings. This executive summary is often intended to be a concise overview of the results meant for company executives who are looking for actionable takeaways without needing to dig into the entirety of the report.
This summary reveals where the pentesters bypassed your security controls and what they were able to uncover within your systems. The best part? It’s all explained without deep technical language, accessible to any reader.
It also spells out recommendations for security improvements, including what they advise you to secure first, followed by other short, medium, and long-term goals for enhancing your enforcements.
2. What Happened During the Penetration Testing Phase
This part of your penetration test report details a walkthrough of the pentester’s engagement. It’s different from what you would find in a vulnerability assessment report, since the penetration test was a simulated attack against your organization. The explanation will describe each phase of the attack process and how the pentester went about compromising your system.
The section will explain how the pentester was able to perform all of their activities. For instance, if they employed social engineering tactics, the report will reveal where they acquired the information they used — such as on your website or an employee’s LinkedIn page, etc. — to convince someone on your team. Pentesters also share exactly how they got into your system. For example, they may describe how they used a series of phishing emails to build rapport and trust before sending a malicious link to one of your employees. You’ll see the full narrative to understand the context of how the attack was conducted and the resulting gaps in your security.
The breakdown of your penetration test report will also explain the full scope of the outcome. This may show, for instance, that the pentester was able to inject simulated malware onto your employee’s computer, packaged in an all-too-seemingly-normal software update installation. From there, the pentester will reveal the path they took to acquiring login credentials, accessing data, or whatever other information or systems they acquired after infiltrating your environment.
3. Recommendations for Mitigating Risks
After walking through the details of the attack, you’ll get what you really want: the real value of the report. The next section will clearly define the vulnerabilities the pentesters uncovered as well as the potential risk of each one.
Every risk will be labeled by the pentesters as critical, high, medium, or low in priority — ranked by the impact and the risk threshold each falls into. Recommendations will vary and should be customized based on the findings of your test. For example, you may find that there are some critical technical changes needed to resolve glaring issues and that increasing your investment in Kevin Mitnick’s security awareness training with KnowBe4 is a long-term strategy for improving security.
Your pentesting partner should provide a road forward, but may not recommend specific products or software, as the tech (and the threat) landscape is always changing and evolving; be wary of a company that pushes products.
Not all Penetration Test Reports are the Same
It’s important to note that pentesting partners are not created equal and will not all offer the same results. An expert pentesting company will fully engineer a test customized to your employees and organization. This level of detail and dedication in test design and planning will make the engagement more realistic than one that starts with broad phishing emails, which are less likely to be used by an actual hacker.
Too many pentesting companies leave the hands-on work of cyber security testing to entry-level employees and interns. Mitnick Security employs only senior-level pentesters — called the Global Ghost Team — who have expert skills and a deep breadth of experience. Pentesting isn’t just a process, it’s an in-depth service that should be built around your needs so you can make full use of the penetration test report to better defend against threat actors.
Curious to learn more about how we do this at Mitnick Security? Explore our pentesting services for an introduction to Kevin Mitnick and his Global Ghost Team.