In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, it is crucial for organisations to consistently assess and bolster their security measures. Penetration testing, commonly referred to as ‘pen testing,’ is a key component in this endeavour, serving to identify vulnerabilities and enhance an organisation’s security posture. But what exactly is pen testing, and how can you maximise its benefits?

Skilled cyber security professionals perform pen testing by intentionally targeting applications and networks to evaluate their security strength. These expert technicians utilise their extensive knowledge and specialised tools to thoroughly examine security measures, pinpointing vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other potential weaknesses.

However, effective reporting is key to empowering organisations with the necessary information to improve their security defenses. Upon completion of a pen test, a report is generated, detailing the identified vulnerabilities, their potential impact, and recommended remediation actions. This report serves as a valuable tool for decision-makers, allowing them to prioritise resources and focus on the most pressing security concerns.

So, what are the essential components of a pen test report to ensure full protection against potential security breaches?

Know your audience

Understanding your audience is paramount, as it determines the most effective way to communicate the findings and recommendations of the pen test. The report should speak to two main audience types: executives and technical professionals. Catering to the diverse needs of both executive and technical audiences ensures that the report is not only informative but also actionable.

For executives, it is essential to provide a high-level overview of the security posture, key vulnerabilities, and their potential impact on the organisation. For technical professionals, the report should include detailed information on vulnerability mappings, detection measures, and remediation actions, enabling them to address the identified weaknesses efficiently.

Tailored risk ratings

Accurate risk ratings are essential for organisations to prioritise response efforts and allocate resources for addressing security vulnerabilities. Many testing firms use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) or similar rating systems, such as the Mitre ATT&CK Framework, however, these may not always account for an organisation’s unique circumstances. A better approach is to assess vulnerabilities based on:

Exploitability: Evaluate ease of exploitation, including exploit availability, attack complexity, and attacker skill level. Prioritise higher exploitable vulnerabilities.

Existing Safeguards: Assess the effectiveness of current security controls and measures, and prioritise vulnerabilities accordingly. Lower priority for vulnerabilities addressed by robust measures.

Likelihood of Successful Exploitation: Consider threat landscape, adversary motivation, and targeted asset value to determine priority based on likelihood of successful exploitation.

Required Attacker Access Levels: Assess vulnerability severity based on required attacker access levels. Remote or minimal privilege vulnerabilities are more severe than those needing physical access or admin privileges.

Customised recommendations

Developing a comprehensive pen test report requires a thorough understanding of the organisation’s specific needs and constraints. One-size-fits-all recommendations can lead to ineffective solutions that do not address the unique aspects of each organisation. Consider the following steps:

Understand the organisation’s operations and risk profile to identify relevant threats and vulnerabilities.

Assess constraints, such as budget and legacy systems, to provide realistic remediation actions.

Offer alternative solutions when upgrading isn’t feasible, like network isolation, access control, and monitoring.

Prioritise remediation actions based on potential impact and likelihood of exploitation.

Provide ongoing support, including regular assessments, training, and guidance.

Communicate effectively with clear, concise language, visuals, and an executive summary for both technical and non-technical stakeholders.

Think outside the box

An effective report should demonstrate creativity in chaining findings and considering potential attack scenarios. This helps organisations understand the full scope of threats and take appropriate action. The report should include the likelihood of each scenario, potential impact on the organisation, recommendations to address vulnerabilities, and proposed mitigation strategies.

Highlight the positives

A balanced pen test report is crucial in assessing an organisation’s cybersecurity posture by highlighting its strengths and weaknesses. The report should identify vulnerabilities and emphasise successful security measures to showcase triumphs, which helps clients appreciate their cybersecurity investments and motivates employees to maintain and improve the security framework. Celebrating security achievements fosters continuous improvement, enabling organisations to stay ahead of emerging threats.


Cyber-remediation checklist

Finally, the testing firm should provide a clear, actionable remediation list alongside the main cybersecurity report. This list should include a brief description of each vulnerability or risk, its priority, and a reference to the report section. The remediation checklist streamlines the process of addressing security concerns, allowing clients to allocate resources and delegate tasks efficiently within their organisation.

In conclusion, a pen test report is only as valuable as the insights it provides to an organisation. By catering to different audience types, offering accurate risk ratings, providing tailored recommendations, thinking outside the box, highlighting the positives, and supplying a remediation list, testing firms can deliver meaningful results that empower organisations to improve their security posture.

Learn more about Nexon’s Penetration Testing

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Don’t leave your organisation’s security to chance – act now and assess whether your pen test report addresses these vital criteria to safeguard the security and resilience of your digital assets. Contact us today.