In business, you can never have everything you want. There are always tradeoffs in time, quality, and cost. You can have it fast and cheap but the quality will suffer. You can have the best quality at a good price point but it can take forever. You can get great quality fast but will pay a fortune for it. There’s always a tradeoff.
When it comes to pentest services at a managed security services provider (MSSP), the same factors are in play. The key is to decide what you want the most and go for that… right? Maybe… but the most successful businesses have cracked the code to balancing the time/quality/cost/ tradeoff.
At an MSSP, the pentesting cycle is often fraught with inefficiencies and manual processes that slow the work down, cost a lot in pentesters’ valuable time, and reduce the quality of the final deliverables. Fortunately, the key to balancing the factors in the pentesting workflow isn’t a great mystery. Workflow and collaboration automation is the investment that will improve quality, reduce cycle time, and improve productivity without adding significant resources.
Have It All with Pentest Reporting Automation
Manual pentest management and reporting is often a sprawling task involving many tools and programs. Context switching and data management can take testers away from more critical testing activities just so they can make SLA deadlines. The administrative work related to documenting findings puts a tremendous burden on skilled pentesters — yet delivering results to clients is the money maker.
Fortunately, a mature pentest reporting automation solution can deliver both significant time savings throughout the pentesting lifecycle and ensure the highest-quality deliverables. But what about the cost? Well, an automation solution can more than offset the financial investment by increasing the productivity (and morale) of highly-paid pentesters.That’s not to mention that a premium deliverable can demand premium pricing.
So how does pentest reporting automation actually do all this?
Here are six benefits security service providers can realize by implementing an automation solution and how reporting automation makes them possible.
1.) Automate for Thorough Data Aggregation and Analysis
Pentesters use a variety of tools to support their work, whether for data gathering or exploitation. These tools produce a tremendous amount of baseline data that informs the results of their work. Unfortunately, managing information from disparate sources is not only a time suck but also leads to missed detail or errors.
A reporting automation platform solves this problem by serving as a central repository to automatically ingest or easily upload results from all standard pentesting tools. Those raw data files can then be parsed and analyzed with no information loss.
2.) Automate for More Consistent Content
Another significant pain point for testers occurs in the writeup of their findings analysis. Technical snippets are a critical component of the report. However, they often are repetitive as similar findings come up in many different engagements. But copying and pasting from old reports or Word document repositories often leads to errors and inconsistencies — not to mention the time it takes to hunt for the content you want. The same is true for narrative content, the boilerplate and team biographies.
A reporting automation solution that includes a powerful content management module can transform the quality and consistency of report content, like findings writeups and narratives. It enables you to store quality-assured content in organized repositories directly in the reporting platform for single-click, permission-based access.
Saving your content snippets directly in the platform makes it easy to pull them into a report and further customize as needed. Junior testers or less experienced writers can use common writeups and narratives from the organization’s library to ensure consistency and quality across all reports.
3.) Automate for Better QA Processes
Many inefficiencies in the report creation process happen during collaboration. Collaboration, particularly for quality assurance (QA), is essential for effective reports that meet clients’ needs. Even superior content creators can’t effectively edit their own work to perfection.
A robust reporting automation platform facilitates collaboration and QA processes to save time and improve the final deliverable. Commenting and change tracking in the same place where reusable content is housed and the report is produced greatly reduces context shifting and version-control issues.
4.) Automate to Improve Templates
The report template is the secret sauce for many pentesters and service providers. What goes into their security report is often a major differentiator for the business. And the branding of the report is also essential for marketing purposes. Formatting those unique templates again and again is both time-consuming and fraught with the potential for errors.
The ability to create the template once and automate the inclusion of content and formatting is a game changer for ensuring quality and consistency with every deliverable, not to mention a significant time saver. Whether you need a fully customized template to represent your service provider’s unique perspective or are seeking multiple standardized templates for different types of security reports, a reporting automation platform will keep branding and content consistent with company standards every time — with much less effort for everyone involved.
5.) Automate for More Comprehensive Reports
Penetration testing produces myriad data. Analyzing and prioritizing that information for clients is what sets top service providers apart from the crowd. The report is the standard deliverable for communicating that expertise, but static reports are limited. Report writers must continuously make decisions about what to include and how to prioritize the material to provide the greatest client benefits.
Reporting automation makes it much easier to include more information without requiring more time to prepare it. Scaling an engagement and a report without expending more resources is only possible with automation. Additionally, a reporting automation platform that can support secure dynamic findings delivery gives clients access to in-depth information — and even raw data findings — without turning the report itself into an unreadable tome.
6.) Automate for More Actionable Insights
Ultimately, security service providers are in business to improve the security posture of their clients. Completing annual testing and finding the same issues engagement after engagement, for example, is frustrating for testers and dangerous for clients. While a service provider can’t control the actions a client takes after receiving a report, they can help the client move the needle by arming them with more actionable findings and clearer prioritization.
Automation in the reporting process supports this goal by enabling dynamic findings delivery. When the service provider and client both use a reporting automation platform, recommendations can be immediately turned into remediation tickets and assigned and tracked, whether through the platform itself or integrations with tools such as Jira and ServiceNow. Even if the client doesn’t use the reporting automation solution, a client portal to view findings and update those that have been resolved creates a greater sense of urgency than a static document.
Unlock the power of automation to streamline the pentest findings delivery process, accelerate reporting cycles, and enhance the quality of client deliverables at your security service provider. You might just save the sanity of your pentesters too!