Running regular penetration tests is so important for maintaining a strong network security infrastructure within your business.
For those who are new to the subject, penetration tests – also known as pen tests – are a simulated ethical hacking of a company’s networks and systems, used as a way of highlighting any vulnerabilities that could be exploited by real hackers.
Those of you who have heard of this security strategy before, or perhaps have run one before, will be aware that there are several different stages to a penetration test.
One of the most important stages of the test is when the final report is created. This report can be used by businesses and their security/tech teams to bolster their security strategy in the future.
How does it work?
Well, they use the information within the report to analyse, assess and put a plan into action. This is why it is so important that any penetration test report includes these six things:
1. A clear and coherent summary
First and foremost, the report must contain an overview that outlines the scope and purpose of the penetration test. It is crucial that this is written clearly, in a language that everyone involved can understand, regardless of their technical background and know-how.
This section will also give a summary of the findings, highlighting both the highest and lowest level risks. Graphs, charts and imagery may be used to help get these points across as simply and effectively as possible at this early stage in the report.
2. A breakdown of the hacking attempt
In order to get a better understanding of the findings, it’s helpful to have a detailed breakdown of exactly what happened during the test and what parts of the network or system were targeted. This is because each phase of the simulated attacking process reveal the different ways in which possible hackers could gain access to and attack your systems or inject malware.
Having a detailed, step by step breakdown allows you to carefully see when and where your systems and networks are most vulnerable. Again, images, charts or tables may be used in the report to help illustrate the journey the pen tester took.
3. A detailed explanation of the vulnerabilities found
One of the most important parts of the report is going to be a very detailed explanation of the risks or vulnerabilities that were highlighted during the test; for example, if a vulnerability was found when uploading files to your website or with your employee’s logins.
The report will give context to each of the vulnerabilities found, sharing information about how these might be exploited by hackers.
Most penetration test reports will follow a rating system that ranks these vulnerabilities to easily show which are the biggest risks and therefore need to be dealt with first and which don’t.
4. The impact that these vulnerabilities could have on the business
As well as understanding what problems have been found, it’s also vital to learn about the impact that these could have on the business if not addressed. This can be the push that some businesses need to ensure they take action and get stronger security systems in place right away.
And this shouldn’t just be stated as a percentage; for example, weak login credentials could increase the risk of a hacker gaining access to employee information by 65%.
Instead, the report should factor in all details and possible outcomes regarding a security risk or vulnerability as this help to build a complete picture that all stakeholders in the company can understand.
5. The prioritisation of any highlighted vulnerabilities
The rating system we discussed above really helps when it comes to ranking and prioritising which problems or vulnerabilities need to be addressed first by the business.
This again is a crucial part of the report as it gives direction to the security/tech teams in terms of how to bolster their security efforts and where to start. Without this, they might instead opt to start with easier or cheaper fixes.
And although every problem must be addressed at some stage, the biggest and most risky problems need to be sorted first. Otherwise, a more costly issue could arise in the future.
6. The possible solutions to these vulnerabilities
Nearing the end of every report, there will be a section that outlines the possible solutions to the key vulnerabilities that were highlighted. After all, what is the point in running these reports if there is no way to rectify the issues that have been detected?
Therefore, one of the final but most important aspects of the report is going to be the solutions section. This section will not just outline the most immediate changes that need to be made, but it will also include ways that businesses can future proof their security strategy.
Of course, in lots of cases, a generic general resolution will be given. This is not necessarily a one size fits all approach which means this won’t always work for every business. Some will still need to find a more tailored and specific approach to solving their issues and vulnerabilities.
But for the most part, at least one of the more general solutions will be offered to give the relevant teams or professionals a starting point for boosting their security efforts.
Is it time you ran a penetration test in your business?
Taking into account all of the above, it’s easy to see why and how penetration tests can be so beneficial to businesses.
These useful tools help your business to keep on top of your security infrastructure, and by running these regularly, businesses can highlight any new or emerging vulnerabilities as they reveal themselves.
That way, they can preempt and prevent a cyberattack, something which is very important right now with cybercrime on the rise.
So, if you haven’t run a test for a while, or perhaps you’ve never run a penetration test at all, now is the perfect time to do so. And be sure to get a complete and comprehensive report at the end!