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How Do I Write a Penetration Test Report?

Writing a penetration test report requires a clear structure: start with an executive summary, detail the methodology, present findings with evidence, and conclude with risk assessments and recommendations. Ensure it's accessible to both technical and non-technical stakeholders. Want to ensure your report not only informs but also prompts action? Let's delve deeper into crafting a report that stands out.
Jeremy Laukkonen

In order to write a good penetration test report, there are several steps you may want to go through. The first phase of writing these reports is typically to create a plan and gather the necessary information together, after which you may want to create a rough draft before finalizing it. In order to write the best report, there are also a few important tips to consider. You should always think about your target audience when writing these reports, since it is important for the document to convey information in an understandable manner. Keep your executive summary tight and descriptive for the senior management, but make sure to include in-depth technical details in the body so the information technology (IT) staff will be able to implement any necessary changes to its security systems.

Penetration test reports are often the most important facet of the entire penetration testing process, due to the valuable information they can contain. Regardless of how well penetration tests are carried out, they are effectively useless if the information gathered is not effectively conveyed in a report. A good penetration test report should contain both a high-level abstract of the test results and a detailed account of any problems encountered.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

The first step to write a good penetration test report is to create a plan. This process can actually begin before you even start the testing process, as your preliminary report can double as test guidelines. You should create a concrete set of objectives and make sure to identify them within the report. After the test has occurred, you must then analyze the results and determine what specific information will need to be conveyed. Identify all of the problem areas that were uncovered by the penetration test and consider ways that the IT department of the organization could fix them.

You should then gather all of the relevant information together, so you will be able to back up your findings. It can also be helpful to include a timeline that identifies when and how your testing took place. You may then want to create a draft of the penetration test report, which can allow you to fine tune it before submitting the final version to the organization that ordered the test.

There are also a few factors to consider when writing a penetration test report that can help you create an effective document. If your report will be read by both non-technical management and the IT staff responsible for instituting changes, make sure that it speaks to both of these groups. A concise executive summary can outline all of your findings for the senior staff, while the IT department will benefit from a detailed report that outlines the weaknesses you identified and suggests potential solutions.

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