Ethical Hacking: Penetration Test Reports

Man wearing Anonymous mask in a server room

How to Write Better Penetration Test Reports

Good penetration test reports are very important. It’s what the client is paying you for and it’s the product you’re selling. As a penetration tester, you will be required to communicate your findings to clients and all relevant parties in the form of a detailed report that highlights the assessment process and the results obtained from the process (vulnerabilities, misconfigurations etc.) The report must be easily understood by a wide range of audiences with/without technical knowledge.

Using a structured format is key to making good reports. A well-structured and informative report is essential to communicate the findings of a penetration test effectively to clients or stakeholders.

What to Include in Your Penetration Test Reports

Here’s an outline and some key points to consider for your penetration test reports:

Executive Summary:
  • Start with an executive summary that provides a high-level overview of the key findings and their potential impact on the organization.
  • Keep this section concise, as it’s often the first part stakeholders read.
  • Report tailored for C-Suite/Executives (Here is what was performed and what was found)
  • Highlight the strengths and weaknesses (What company is doing right and wrong)
  • Summary – Final grade/report card
  • Provide context for the penetration test, including the objectives and scope.
  • Mention the testing methodology and the systems or applications targeted.
Scope and Methodology:
  • Detail the scope of the test, specifying what was in and out of scope. Clearly defined and agreed upon scope and any exclusions.
  • Specific client allowances need to be documented.
  • Describe the testing methodology used, such as black-box, gray-box, or white-box testing.
  • Explain any constraints or limitations during the test.
Target Systems:
  • List the systems, applications, or network components that were tested.
  • Include details about the environment, such as production or staging, and any specific configurations.
  • Present the vulnerabilities and weaknesses discovered during the test.
  • Organize findings by severity and provide a clear description of each, including how it was exploited and potential impact.
  • Use clear and concise language and include screenshots or evidence wherever possible.
Risk Assessment:
  • Evaluate the potential impact and likelihood of each finding.
  • Assign risk ratings to help prioritize remediation efforts.
  • Consider factors like confidentiality, integrity, and availability in your assessment.
  • Provide actionable and specific recommendations for mitigating the identified vulnerabilities.
  • Include best practices, fixes, or configuration changes.
  • Prioritize recommendations based on their criticality.
Technical Details:
  • Include technical details, such as vulnerability scripts, tools used, and any custom scripts or exploits.
  • Offer recommendations for patches, updates, or security configurations.
Testing Logs and Evidence:
  • Include any logs, screenshots, or captured data from the test to validate findings.
  • Maintain the evidence to support your claims.
  • Summarize the key takeaways from the penetration test.
  • Reiterate the importance of addressing the identified issues promptly.
  • Include any additional information that may be relevant, such as network diagrams, configuration files, or supplementary technical details.
  • Thank the client for their cooperation during the test.
  • Mention any legal and ethical considerations and any permission obtained for the test.
  • Cite any tools, standards, or references used during the test.
Legal and Compliance Statements:
  • Include disclaimers, confidentiality agreements, and any compliance statements to protect both the client and the testing organization.


Remember to tailor the report to the specific needs of the client or organization, focusing on their priorities and concerns. Communication is key, well-written penetration test reports can make the difference in ensuring that vulnerabilities are addressed promptly and effectively.

Report the good as well as the bad, to avoid a negative report!

A good source for example penetration test reports can be found at:

Happy Hacking Folks!

You can read all of our Ethical Hacking guides here: Ethical Hacking


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Luke Barber

Hello, fellow tech enthusiasts! I'm Luke, a passionate learner and explorer in the vast realms of technology. Welcome to my digital space where I share the insights and adventures gained from my journey into the fascinating worlds of Arduino, Python, Linux, Ethical Hacking, and beyond. Armed with qualifications including CompTIA A+, Sec+, Cisco CCNA, Unix/Linux and Bash Shell Scripting, JavaScript Application Programming, Python Programming and Ethical Hacking, I thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of coding, computers, and networks. As a tech enthusiast, I'm on a mission to simplify the complexities of technology through my blogs, offering a glimpse into the marvels of Arduino, Python, Linux, and Ethical Hacking techniques. Whether you're a fellow coder or a curious mind, I invite you to join me on this journey of continuous learning and discovery.

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