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How to Document and Report Findings Clearly Post-Penetration Testing

November 28, 20234 min read

After completing a penetration test, it’s essential to document and report the findings in a clear, concise, and actionable manner. A well-prepared report can help an organization understand the vulnerabilities in their systems and the potential impact of these weaknesses. Here’s a detailed guide on achieving this:


Initial Preparation

Before you begin writing the report, make sure you have all the necessary information at hand:

  • All collected data: logs, screenshots, and any other evidence gathered during the testing.
  • Test scope and objectives: a reminder of what was agreed upon before the test started.
  • Tools and methods used: details of the software, hardware, and methodologies applied.

Report Structure and Formatting

Executive Summary

  • Objective clarity: brief but comprehensive overview for busy stakeholders.
  • High-level findings: summarize the most critical vulnerabilities and the potential impact.
  • Business language: avoid technical jargon; present in terms that management will understand.

Introduction

  • Background information: context about the organization, its assets, and why the test was conducted.
  • Scope: outline what systems, networks, and applications were included in the test.
  • Timeframe: detail when the test took place.

Methodology

  • Testing process: explain the steps and phases of the penetration test—from reconnaissance to exploitation to post-exploitation.
  • Tools used: list the tools and versions for reproducibility and credibility.
  • Techniques and tactics: describe the tactics employed to identify vulnerabilities (e.g., OWASP Testing Guide).

Findings and Evidence

  • Vulnerability details: for each finding, include a descriptive title and a unique identifier (if applicable).
  • Risk level: classify findings as Critical, High, Medium, or Low risk. Use a standard risk assessment matrix.
  • Evidence documentation:
    • Screenshots
    • Logs
    • Exploits executed
  • Reproduction steps: provide detailed steps to replicate the finding.
  • Impact analysis: explain the potential consequences if the vulnerability is exploited.

Recommendations

  • Remediation steps: for each vulnerability, offer clear, prioritized remediation advice.
  • Preventive measures: propose ways to prevent similar vulnerabilities in the future.

Appendices and Supporting Information

  • Glossary: define any technical terms used in the report.
  • Additional resources: include links or references to help the reader understand the vulnerabilities and their implications.
  • Raw data and logs: optionally put verbose data that supports the findings in an appendix.

Review and Quality Assurance

Ensure your report is not only comprehensive but also clear and free of errors.

  • Peer review: have another expert review the report to verify technical accuracy.
  • Grammar and spelling check: use tools and manual proofreading for a professional finish.
  • Format consistency: check that headings, bullet lists, fonts, and spacing are uniform.

Distribution and Follow-up

Distribution

  • Controlled sharing: only share the report with authorized personnel to maintain confidentiality.
  • Secure transmission: use encryption or secure channels to send the report.

Follow-up

  • Presentation and Q&A: be prepared to present the key findings and answer questions from stakeholders.
  • Offer support: provide contact information for follow-up questions or assistance in addressing the findings.

By meticulously preparing, structuring, and reviewing your penetration testing report, you ensure that your findings are communicated effectively. This approach helps stakeholders understand the risks and take appropriate actions to secure their systems and data.

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