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How to Write a Pentesting Report – With Checklist

A penetration testing report discloses the vulnerabilities discovered during a penetration test to the client.

A pentest report should also outline the vulnerability scans and simulated cybersecurity attacks the pentester used to probe for weaknesses in an organization’s overall security stack or specific systems, such as websites, applications, networks, and cloud infrastructure.

To be truly useful, the report must be more than a simple list. Penetration test reports deliver the only tangible evidence of the pentest process and must deliver value for a broad range of readers and purposes.

We explore the art of writing effective penetration testing reports in the sections below:

Table of Contents

How to Write a Great Pentest Report in 6 Steps

The process of writing a great penetration test report is straightforward and can be covered in six key steps. Each step builds on the previous step to increase the quality of the information, the organization of the findings, and the usability of the report for stakeholders.

6 Key Steps to a Great Pentest: Plan, Add Tech Details, Rough Draft, Create Key Findings, Revise Draft, Proof

  • Plan: Outlining the testing and creating report templates in advance acts both as a checklist of information needed and as a repository for testing details.
  • Capture the technical details: Include notes, screenshots, and log files in the report, but to make documentation less disruptive, take video and narrate while conducting the pentest and take screenshots later.
  • Start with a rough draft: Begin with the most significant vulnerabilities, remediations, and overall results. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or complete sentences just yet.
  • Categorize and summarize key findings: Including criticality, vulnerability, system, and other important findings will help clients address issues by the level of risk they pose.
  • Revise the draft: Here’s where you focus on grammar, punctuation, and spelling to turn the content into plain, formal English, using non-technical language to help IT generalists and managers understand the risks.
  • Organize and proofread: Double check the information to eliminate errors, make the report easy to read, and to focus on the most important findings; move non-critical information to appendices.

Although the process is simple enough, a quality report relies on the proper execution of this process and the inclusion of expected information.

  • 7 Types of Penetration Testing: Guide to Pentest Methods & Types
  • Penetration Testing Phases & Steps Explained

8 Common Sections to Include in a Pentest Report

Every penetration test will be unique because each organization’s IT infrastructure, security stack, application code, website APIs, and vulnerabilities will be a unique combination. However, the usability of the report depends on a writer’s ability to take the unique information and organize it into an expected format clearly and concisely.

Some components of a pen test will be mandatory and must be present to provide value. Other components are nice to have because they help to improve the value of the report to stakeholders. The table below lists key information on eight common sections found in a typical pentest report, which we’ll go into in more detail below.

Executive Summary

Unless an organization is extremely technical and focused on security, the executives of the company that make resource allocation decisions will generally not understand most of the key findings of a pentest report. They may know they have a network, but not understand how firewall rules protect that network.

An executive summary must be simple, written in non-technical English, and to the point. The pentest writer must outline the key findings and high-level recommendations based on urgency and risk in a clear manner.

The executive summary contains similar sections as the rest of the report, but in summary form: key findings, engagement summary, and overall penetration test results. Where possible, tables, charts, and graphics should be used to help quickly convey the findings by severity rating, items to address immediately, etc.

The executive summary will generally be placed first in the pen test report, but written last once all of the other findings have been compiled and drafted. This is perhaps the most critical section of the report since the non-technical executives will likely determine future budgets for vulnerability correction and pentesting needs.

Key Findings

As this is the most important section for the technical team , it is placed as the second major section of the report.

For every unique vulnerability identified, the pen test report writer will create a vulnerability report. All major vulnerabilities will be listed and detailed within the key findings section, with backup information that explains:

  • Vulnerability name , standardized if possible
  • Location of the vulnerability (list of systems, apps, etc.)
  • Technique used to find the vulnerability
  • Proof of concept , or an explanation of how the vulnerability was actually exploited or might have been exploited
  • Likelihood of exploitation within the context of the organization and current trends
  • Potential impact of the exploit directly to affected systems and indirectly if there are cascading effects to security or operations
  • Overall risk assessment based on the nature of the vulnerability, ease of exploit, likelihood of exploit, and impact to the security stack and the overall business impact
  • Recommendations , at a high level, to eliminate or mitigate the vulnerability

While this appears second in the report, it will be one of the last sections drafted, as the Key Findings will be extracted from the Full Penetration Test Results.

This section should contain only the high-risk vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. Low-risk vulnerabilities can be listed in a table or graph in this section but details on less important vulnerabilities should be left for the Penetration Test Results section.

For clients that do not wish to use the penetration testing team for remediation, a high-level list of potential remediations should be used that explains possible solutions. A short recommendation such as “upgrade to version 10.x” will often be sufficient, but should also consider the context of the business environment.

For example, a Windows XP machine maintained to run critical industrial equipment will be highly vulnerable and easily exploited. However, a recommendation to simply replace the old computer with a Windows 11 machine will be useless to the client that can only use Windows XP with that equipment.

If the client has contracted for remediation or if this is an internal penetration testing report, recommendations may need to be quite involved and include prices for various options, timelines, and labor requirements. In some cases this might merit a separate Remediation Section.

Engagement Summary

The Engagement Summary can be the first section written because it comes from the statement of work. This section provides the context for the full penetration test results to follow and should outline both the original terms of engagement as well as any added requirements or limitations introduced in the course of the testing.

This section should include:

  • The scope of the testing, including IP addresses, systems, applications, exclusions, etc.
  • The timeline, including dates of testing and times (if limited) for testing specific resources (example: only test the web application between 10pm and 11pm weekdays)
  • Security defenses tested
  • Assumptions
  • Standards applied to testing, such as PTES standard for networks, OWASP for applications
  • Compliance standards considered in the testing

Full Pen Test Results

The Full Pen Test Results section includes all details for all testing performed. Instead of focusing on vulnerabilities, this section will focus on a system-by-system and test-by-test review of the penetration testing process.

This section will discuss all attack methods attempted, including those that did not succeed. This expanded information will help reinforce the value of the parts of the security stack that performed well.

This section can be very long as it will contain many details. It will typically be written as a draft or as notes early in the process and pen testers can put raw notes and screenshots here initially.

If the section seems too long, some repetitive information for non-critical vulnerabilities can be moved to the appendix. For example, if a test was performed on all 1,500 endpoints in an organization and was blocked by the local firewall, it would be better to give this test a name and show that the endpoints passed the test. The details of how this test was performed can be moved to the Full Testing Procedure Details Appendix.

Ratings & Risk Score Appendix

When assigning priority to vulnerabilities, most penetration testing companies use a standardized method and score to determine a rating or risk score (numeric or qualitative). This section in the appendix should explain the system for the client and will usually be written in advance as a standardized section of all pen test reports.

Vulnerability Details Appendix

For each vulnerability found, the vulnerability can be explained in detail in this appendix.

For example, most non-technical readers will not need to know the details of a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability and many technical teams already know what they are.

A full explanation may not be needed and therefore not included in the main sections of the pentest. However, some might find more details helpful and thus an appendix can be considered. Since many vulnerabilities are standardized, this section can also be prepared in advance for the most common vulnerabilities expected in the pentest.

Full Testing Procedure Details Appendix

As noted above, some testing will be repetitive and if they do not result in any discovered vulnerabilities the tests may not be interesting. However, some technical teams and some compliance auditors will want to see the methodology performed for each test and would appreciate a detailed appendix section.

Acronym Appendix

Security and IT use an enormous number of acronyms for technologies, vulnerabilities, protocols, etc. This appendix should explain each acronym used in the report to help eliminate any confusion and misunderstanding. For electronic copies, the acronyms used elsewhere in the report could use internal document links directly to this appendix.

3 Factors For Effective Penetration Test Reports

For a pentest report to be effective, the results must be useful and provide value to all levels of readers, from executives to hands-on technicians.

Pentest report writers must keep these three factors in mind:

  • Penetration test objectives that will vary at different levels of the organization
  • Useful pentest results must be provided to extract value
  • Tips and cautions to maximize the value of the report

Penetration Test Objectives

When authorizing a penetration test, an organization seeks to test their existing security controls for the systems authorized for testing. To deliver value on this investment, the penetration test writer must display the professionalism and competence of the testers clearly, both through the results of the test and the effective communication of the results.

The penetration test report content must reflect the objectives of a diverse set of stakeholders:

  • Executives and board members will want to see value for their investment and need a clear and understandable non-technical summary
  • Technical teams will want clear, detailed, and actionable information that can be used to remedy discovered vulnerabilities
  • Compliance and legal teams will need penetration test results that clearly show how the organization satisfies their compliance obligations
  • Penetration testers , of course, want to demonstrate the quality of their skills and the satisfaction of the objectives of the testing process

Useful Pentest Results

Penetration test results will be used to determine resource allocations, remediation requirements, justify the acquisition of new cybersecurity tools, and determine the urgency of corrective action. Usable reports enable these goals efficiently and effectively.

The key factors for usability are: clear presentation, client customization, and standardized ratings.

Clear Presentation

The pen test report writer must consider how to clearly present:

  • Importance of Key Findings
  • Overall findings
  • Recommended Remediations
  • Technical details
  • Tested systems and methods used

Often tables and graphics help for easy digestion of information and should be used frequently. Similarly, a pen test report should be written as clearly and concisely as possible for clear and quick understanding.

Client Customization

Although key findings will typically be listed by severity and overall findings will tend to be listed by system, a pen test report should be customized to the needs of the client. For example, in a large enterprise, there may be separate groups responsible for networks and for application development. This type of organization will likely want reports with completely segregated key findings and overall results organized by team responsibility.

Standardized Ratings

A simple good / bad rating will not convey enough information, but will be equally as useful as an overly complex matrix of, say, three categories of eight possible ratings levels. To be most usable, ratings need to mirror ratings systems familiar to the technical teams.

The Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) list developed by MITRE or scores based on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) will be familiar to all technical staff and are not too difficult to explain to executives. While these scores will lack the context of the business or active exploitation efforts, using standardized ratings as an initial base will typically be appreciated and easily understood.

Tips and Cautions

The main purpose of pentesting is to locate and remediate vulnerabilities before an attacker can exploit them. However, there are adjacent issues related to compliance and confidentiality that need to be considered for testing and reporting.

Compliance Penetration Tests

Generic pentests can check for vulnerabilities, but not necessarily touch on all elements to verify compliance. Some compliance standards require specific tests on specific systems and penetration testers should be told of such requirements in advance.

Likewise the pen test report should reflect any compliance needs and specifically demonstrate the pen test results against specific compliance standards, either as the core of the penetration test results or within related appendices. The report should specifically demonstrate that the security for systems or processes protecting regulated data have been tested as required and the results of those required tests.

Penetration Test Confidentiality

Confidentiality is key to security. Yet a thorough penetration test result will include many confidential details (IP addresses, security tool settings, application code, etc.) that would seriously harm an organization if exposed.

Confer with the client to determine the distribution needs for the report. If necessary, offer an edited or redacted version of the report that removes confidential information for broader distribution to non-privileged stakeholders (customers, vendors, affected executives, etc.). The client should also be consulted to determine the need for compliance-specific reports that contain only the pen test results for systems and assets touching the regulated data.

If delivering reports electronically, consider encrypted or technologically restricted distribution (specific-user only permissions, etc.). Physical reports should be numbered and tracked.

Pentest Report Checklist

The preparation of a penetration test report can be stressful and it will be easy to miss critical steps in the stress of writing and the technical details. To assist writers, we have created this Pentest Report Checklist:

*The full pentest outline prepares the document with all of the systems and tests to be performed. This outline can enable pentesters to place their documentation directly within this document, or for pentest report writers to use the outline as a checklist to avoid missing any technical details.

5 Examples of Pentest Reports

There are almost as many different types of penetration test reports as there are systems to test. Fortunately, many penetration testing reports have been made public and can be found in a variety of resources. Two key repositories with hundreds of reports can be found at Pentest Reports and the public-pentesting-reports GitHub repository for JulioCesarFort.

Most published reports focus on application security testing which can be published for open source projects or older applications without disclosing dangerous secrets. Penetration tests for network security require redaction or changing the information to hide IP addresses and security measures that likely continue to remain in place.

Of course, with hundreds of reports, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. Below, we list five key report types and aspects to examine for each:

  • Application Code Audit: Kudelski Security code review provides an effective Issue Summary List and supporting technical details section.
  • External IP Address Penetration Report: 7ASecurity pentest on an minivpn implementation provides quality findings and recommendations, but lacks a useful executive summary to determine the results at a glance.
  • Internal Network Pentest: Rhino Security network assessment using open source nmap and nessus tools includes an attack narrative to help convey the significance and potential business impact of server message block (SMB) protocol issues.
  • Industrial Control System Network: Redacted pentest on Next Generation Power, Electric, and Water on an ICS subnet demonstrates a good use of graphics and formatting to aid in communication.
  • Social Engineering or Phishing Test Report: The Volkis phishing campaign report provides good process details, but lacks graphical representation of the findings to reinforce easy understanding of the executive summary.

Pen Test Report FAQ

What is the difference between internal and external penetration test reports.

The biggest differences between internal and external penetration testing reports will typically be the formality. Internal penetration testing will often be conducted by employees of an organization and external pen testing will be conducted by third parties contracted for the work.

Third parties need to demonstrate more value and will often have more polished reports to demonstrate value. However, internal reports still need to accomplish all of the same goals and contain useful information for all readers so the key sections (executive summary, key findings, engagement summary, full pen test results) need to be present and the report must also be usable.

What is the Difference Between Application, Website, Infrastructure, and Physical Penetration Test Reports?

There is no real difference between different types of penetration test reports even for different penetration testing methods and the type of assets tested. The evidence and technical details for findings will be completely different, but the method, common sections, elements, and factors for success for different types of penetration test reports will be the same.

Bottom Line: Reports Are the Final Pentesting Product

Penetration testing plays an increasingly important role in assessing the health of security systems protecting organizations of all sizes. However, without an effective penetration test report, the investment in time and resources may be wasted, even with a quality penetration test assessment. Penetration testers must master the art of clearly presenting their results if they want their hard work to be appreciated.

Further reading:

  • Penetration Testing vs Vulnerability Scanning: What’s the Difference?
  • 7 Best Penetration Testing Service Providers
  • 7 Best Penetration Testing Tools & Software
  • 8 Best Vulnerability Scanner Tools & Software

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What is a pentesting report?

Pentesting Report

A pentesting report, short for penetration testing report, is a comprehensive document that provides an in-depth analysis of the findings and results of a penetration test. Penetration testing, often referred to as “pentesting”, is a controlled and simulated cyber attack on a system, network, application, or organization’s infrastructure, conducted to identify security vulnerabilities and vulnerabilities.

The primary purpose of a pentesting report is to communicate the results of the security assessment to relevant stakeholders, such as management, the IT team, and security professionals. The report should include detailed information about the identified vulnerabilities, their potential impact on the organization’s security, and recommended remedial actions to address and mitigate these issues.

Pentesting Report

Elements of a Pentesting Report

Here are some key elements typically found in a pentesting report:

  • Executive Summary: This section provides a high-level overview of the pentesting process, objectives, and key findings. It is usually designed for non-technical stakeholders, summarizing key risks and recommended actions.
  • Methodology: The report must outline the scope of the penetration test and the methodology employed by the testers during the test. This ensures clarity and allows the readers to understand the examination procedure.
  • Detailed Findings: This section provides an in-depth analysis of each discovered vulnerability. It includes information such as the name of the vulnerability, its severity level, the system affected, and steps to reproduce it. Screenshots and code snippets can be included for clarity.
  • Risk Rating: A risk rating should be assigned based on the potential impact and exploitability of each identified vulnerability. Common rating scales include “low,” “moderate,” “high,” and “critical.”
  • Impact analysis: The report should discuss the potential impact of identified vulnerabilities on the organization’s assets, data and operations. This helps stakeholders understand the potential consequences of these security vulnerabilities.
  • Recommendations: For each vulnerability, the report should include actionable and prioritized recommendations for remediation. These recommendations may vary based on the severity and criticality of the vulnerability.
  • Supporting Evidence: The report should include any additional evidence to support the findings, such as log files, configuration files, or proof-of-concept code.
  • Appendix: This section may contain additional technical details, a glossary of terms, and references to external resources.

Understanding a pentesting report requires basic knowledge of cybersecurity concepts and technical jargon. If you’re not familiar with cybersecurity terminology, it’s a good idea to engage IT or cybersecurity professionals who can interpret the report and guide the organization in implementing the recommended fixes.

How to Use A pentesting Report

As a company owner, a pentesting report can provide valuable insight into your organization’s security posture. It allows you to understand the weaknesses and vulnerabilities that exist within your systems, applications and network infrastructure To make the most of Pentesting reports and increase your company’s security, follow these steps:

  • Review the Executive Summary: Start by reading the Executive Summary to get a high-level overview of the findings, risks, and recommendations. This will give you a quick understanding of security issues that need attention
  • Understand Vulnerabilities: Dive into the detailed investigation section to understand specific vulnerabilities identified during penetration testing. Pay close attention to critical and high-risk vulnerabilities that could lead to potentially serious consequences.
  • Prioritize remediation efforts: Work with your IT and security teams to prioritize remediation efforts based on risk ratings and the potential impact of each vulnerability. Focus on solving the most critical problems first to effectively reduce overall risk.
  • Hire the right experts: If your IT team lacks the expertise to address certain vulnerabilities, consider hiring external cyber security experts or consultants to assist with remediation efforts. Their experience can be invaluable in solving complex security problems.
  • Create a remediation plan: Create a detailed plan that outlines steps to address each vulnerability, including timelines, responsibilities, and milestones. Make sure this plan aligns with your organization’s operational and budgetary constraints.
  • Monitor progress: Regularly track the progress of remediation efforts and hold your team accountable for meeting established milestones. Stay informed about the revision status and any challenges faced during the process.
  • Implement preventive measures: In addition to addressing vulnerabilities identified in pentesting reports, consider implementing preventive security measures. This may include regular security awareness training for employees, implementation of multi-factor authentication, and continuous monitoring of network activity.
  • Periodic retesting: Schedule regular follow-up pen tests to verify the effectiveness of remediation efforts and identify new vulnerabilities that have arisen since the last assessment.
  • Share learning across the organization: Use pentesting report findings to educate employees and other stakeholders about cybersecurity best practices and the importance of maintaining a security-aware culture.
  • Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated with the latest security trends, threats and best practices in the industry. Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field, and staying informed will help you make informed decisions to protect your company from emerging threats.
  • Establish a security policy: Create a comprehensive security policy for your organization that outlines personnel roles and responsibilities, security protocols, and incident response procedures. Ensure that all employees are aware of and adhere to this policy.

By gaining insights from pentesting reports and proactively addressing identified vulnerabilities, you can significantly improve your company’s cybersecurity posture, reduce the risk of security breaches, and protect your valuable assets and sensitive data.

Pentesting Report

Reviewing Pentesting Report

When reviewing a pentesting report, consider the following steps:

Read the Executive Summary: Start with the Executive Summary to get a quick overview of key findings and risks.

  • Focus on critical outcomes: Pay particular attention to vulnerabilities of high and critical severity, as they represent the most significant risk.
  • Review recommendations: Examine proposed remedial actions and prioritize them based on their potential impact and complexity.
  • Engage experts: If necessary, engage cybersecurity experts within your organization or hire external consultants to help resolve identified issues.
  • Monitor progress: Keep track of progress in fixing vulnerabilities and verify that recommended actions are effectively implemented.

Pentesting reports play an important role in improving an organization’s security posture by highlighting vulnerabilities and guiding remediation processes. Properly understanding and acting on the findings can significantly increase an organization’s resilience against cyber threats.

What will happen if the Pentesting Report falls into the wrong hands?

If a pentesting report falls into the wrong hands, it can have serious consequences for the penetration testing organization. Here are some risks and effects:

  • Vulnerability Disclosure: The report contains detailed information about vulnerabilities and weaknesses identified in the organization’s systems and infrastructure. If this information falls into the hands of malicious actors, they can exploit these vulnerabilities to launch a true cyber attack, causing damage, breaching data, or disrupting the organization’s operations.
  • Data breach: Pentesting reports may contain sensitive information about the organization’s network architecture, access credentials, and other confidential data. Unauthorized access to this information can lead to data breaches, exposing sensitive customer information, intellectual property, financial information, and other important assets.
  • Damage to Reputation: Violation of pentesting reports can seriously damage an organization’s reputation, destroying trust among customers, partners, and stakeholders. This can be perceived as a failure to protect sensitive data and protect customer information, resulting in lost business opportunities.
  • Legal and compliance issues: Depending on the nature of the information disclosed, organizations may face legal repercussions and regulatory penalties for failing to adequately protect sensitive data. This may violate contractual agreements with clients, leading to potential legal disputes.
  • Loss of competitive advantage: If the report falls into the hands of competitors, they may gain insight into the organization’s security vulnerabilities, potentially undermining its competitive advantage.
  • Financial losses: A successful cyber attack resulting from the publication of pentesting reports can cause significant financial losses, including costs associated with incident response, data recovery, legal action, and reputational damage.

Prevent falling into the wrong hands

To prevent these potential risks, companies should take the following measures to protect their pentesting reports:

  • Restricted Access: Limit access to pentesting reports to authorized personnel only. Use strong encryption and access controls to protect the document from unauthorized access.
  • Secure storage: Store the report in a secure location, preferably on an isolated network segment or on a password-protected file-sharing platform with strict access controls.
  • Proper disposal: After reviewing the report and implementing recommended actions, ensure safe disposal of physical and digital copies of the report.
  • Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs): All parties involved in penetration testing, including the testing team and any third-party consultants, must sign NDAs to ensure confidentiality and legal consequences in the event of a breach.
  • Redaction: Before sharing the report with non-technical stakeholders or external parties, redact sensitive information to reduce the potential risk if the document accidentally falls into the wrong hands.
  • Secure communication: If the report needs to be shared electronically, use secure channels such as encrypted email or a secure file-sharing platform.

By following these practices, organizations can significantly reduce the likelihood of a pentesting report falling into the wrong hands and reduce the potential risks associated with such an incident.

RedNode , a trusted and experienced cybersecurity firm, has been securing the cyber world for over a decade. With an unmatched track record, RedNode brings extensive expertise to effectively address various cyber threats. Expert in conducting comprehensive penetration testing, their team of skilled professionals is equipped to fortify your organization’s infrastructure against potential security breaches. RedNode’s tailored approach provides deep insight into your system’s vulnerabilities, ensuring a thorough vulnerability assessment.

By hiring RedNode to conduct a pentest, you’ll benefit from their industry-leading knowledge and state-of-the-art methods, ensuring critical security risk identification and prioritization. Their diligent and meticulous reporting empowers you to proactively address vulnerabilities, strengthen your defenses, and protect sensitive data from malicious actors. Choosing RedNode demonstrates a commitment to robust cyber security practices, instilling confidence among stakeholders and clients alike. With RedNode as your trusted cyber security partner, you can rest assured that your infrastructure will be resilient and protected against cyber threats for years to come.

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Web application penetration testing report – the structure.

penetration testing report structure explained

Information security is a broad subject that can be tackled in many different ways depending on numerous factors.

When you want to improve the security of your web application, penetration testing is one of the approaches to achieve that. Whether you hire an external company or request an internal security team to conduct the pentest, you should receive a report at the end of the assessment. In this blog post, I describe the structure of a typical web application penetration testing report.

! This is the first post of the 6-part series called “Web application Penetration Testing Report”. In this series, I take you through the typical report structure and explain its different elements.

What is web application penetration testing?

Penetration Testing is a process in the cyber security experts’ arsenal that allows for identifying vulnerabilities and security misconfigurations in your web application. The main goal is to find security holes that could be exploited by cybercriminals and provide recommendations to fix them.

Penetration testers conduct a series of manual and semi-automated tests, analyze the application behaviors and functionalities, and exploit identified issues to confirm their impact.

If you would like to read about specific approaches to improving the security of web applications, check out our case study where we describe how we helped to secure an open-source project .

As a result of the penetration testing assessment, penetration testers create a report with vulnerabilities details and provide recommended actions to fix them.

Penetration testing can be conducted on other types of software as well. In Zigrin Security we provide penetration testing services for web applications, standalone applications, internal networks, IoT devices, mobile applications, network services, and more.

Report structure

The report is a very important part of the penetration testing process. It provides detailed information about security issues and more importantly recommendations on how different parties should address them.

However, different people will focus on different parts of the report. As an example, a Chief Information Security Officer may not be interested in the actual HTTP request that led to SQL injection vulnerability. He will be more concerned about the overall impact of this security bug. A developer on the other hand will spend less time reading about the number of findings, or statistical data and focus more on the technical details and recommendations of each finding.

Therefore, it is important that whoever reads the report, can quickly find information that is of the most interest to him or her.

Different companies and pentesting teams create reports in different ways. However, the structure of the pentest report I describe here is the one we in Zigrin Security found to provide the most value to our customers.

Introduction

This is the first part of the report where you find information about the subject of the penetration test, dates, authors, and other types of metadata.

This section is useful to understand what the report is about and when and why the testing was done. Especially when the document is opened by a person who was not involved in the whole process.

Here you will also see the scope of the penetration test and what was excluded from the test.

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Let’s talk about securing your web application, book a chat with me, executive summary.

The executive summary is the most interesting part of the penetration testing report for Chief-level officers. The executive summary provides a high-level overview of the identified vulnerabilities. Here you learn about the number of detected vulnerabilities divided by severity and what type of impact they cause. If vulnerabilities can be chained to conduct more dangerous attacks, you will read about it here too.

Methodology

The methodology used to conduct the penetration tests is described here. This means information such as the approach (black, grey, white box), testing phases, severity classification, and used tools.

Findings details

The core of every pentesting report is the details of the findings. Every vulnerability is described in detail here. The findings details section is mostly interesting for security engineers and developers who are involved in fixing identified vulnerabilities. You will find here the title of every discovered vulnerability, its severity, description, technical details, and more importantly recommendations aiming to fix or remediate the impacts. For many vulnerabilities, you will also find a reference sub-section with external resources helping you to apply fixes or understand the vulnerability in a broader view.

Additional resources

Additional resources about the penetration testing reports can be found below:

  • Web Application Security Testing Guide – Reporting

! The next article will shed some light on what a good executive summary of the penetration testing report should look like.

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The Basics of Web Application Penetration Testing

Due to the increase in the complexity of cyberattacks, companies are investing more resources than ever to secure their systems from reputational and financial losses. One of the most used security testing techniques is web application penetration testing, Pen Test or Pen Testing. 

Web Application Penetration Testing

Web Application Penetration Testing: Market Research

Web application penetration testing involves simulating cyberattacks against application systems (APIs, front-end servers, back-end servers) to identify exploitable vulnerabilities and access sensitive data. It helps companies verify their systems’ security, identify any vulnerabilities and their scope of the damage, and develop strategies to mitigate potential threats. 

Table of Contents

Types of web application penetration testing

There are two major types of penetration testing for web applications:

Internal pen testing

  • Simulation of Phishing attacks 
  • Malicious employee attacks 
  • Attacks using user privileges 
  • Social engineering attacks

External pen testing

Web application penetration testing

Web Application Penetration Testing: Importance

Steps of Web Application Penetration Testing:

Planning and reconnaissance, active reconnaissance.

  • Shodan network scanner 
  • Fingerprinting the web application 
  • DNS zone transfer 
  • DNS forward and reverse lookup

Passive Reconnaissance

Scanning and exploitation.

  • Cross-Site Scripting
  • Security Misconfigurations
  • SQL Injection
  • Password Cracking
  • Caching Servers Attacks
  • Cross-Site Request Forgery
  • File Upload flaws
  • Broken authentication and session management

Analysis and reporting

Web Application Penetration Testing

Web Application Penetration Testing: Conclusion

Web applications are the primary source of business for numerous companies. With thousands of transactions taking place every second, securing these applications from attacks and data theft becomes crucial. Web application penetration testing can help organizations achieve the highest system security and prepare for any potential threat. Security personnel can leverage the latest testing tools to examine the existing source code, servers, WAF, database connectivity, APIs, third-party integrations, etc., to discover vulnerabilities, mitigate risks, and update security policies.

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Web Application Penetration Testing: Basics

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Your 2024 Guide to Web Application Penetration Testing

  • Cybersecurity
  • Your 2024 Guide to Web Application ...

Due to the growing number of cyber threats, companies are constantly looking for new ways to protect their web apps. Web application penetration testing is one of those techniques, and it has already become an essential part of any solid protection strategy.

The popularity of cybersecurity services is constantly growing, and this isn’t just talk. Research from Markets and Markets projects the pen testing industry will increase from $1.7 billion in 2020 to an impressive $2.7 billion by 2027 . That’s why we suggest you discover what penetration testing for a web application is, why it is important, and what protective value it adds.

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Table of Contents

What Is Web Application Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, often abbreviated as “pen test,” is a simulated cyber attack against computer systems to check for exploitable vulnerabilities. In the context of web applications, it involves testing websites, web applications, and online services for security weaknesses that hackers could use. 

Penetration testing for web applications can involve the attempted breaching of any number of application systems (e.g., application protocol interfaces (APIs), frontend/backend servers) to uncover web app vulnerabilities , such as unsanitized inputs that are susceptible to code injection attacks.

Why Is Web Application Penetration Testing Important? 

E-commerce, online banking, healthcare, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Content Management Systems (CMS), billing, accounting, and payrolling software usually come in the form of a web app. Since these web applications store and transfer sensitive data, it is crucial to keep these apps secure through the software development lifecycle , particularly those that are publicly exposed to the World Wide Web.

Web application penetration testing, in turn, is important for the next reasons: 

  • Identifying Unknown Vulnerabilities : Even with the most thorough security protocols, some weaknesses can slip through the cracks. Penetration testing proactively seeks out these blind spots, uncovering vulnerabilities that automated tools or routine checks might miss.
  • Evaluating Security Policies : It’s one thing to have web and mobile application security policies in place; it’s another to know they work as intended. Pen testing puts these policies under the microscope, testing their effectiveness in real-world scenarios. This process helps ensure that theoretical defenses hold up under actual attack conditions.
  • Testing Publicly Exposed Components : The digital façade of a company, including its firewalls, routers, and DNS systems, is often the first target for attackers. Penetration testing scrutinizes these components, identifying weaknesses that could be exploited and assessing the resilience of the perimeter defense.
  • Identifying the Weakest Link : Attackers often look for the path of least resistance. Pen testing helps pinpoint the most vulnerable aspects of a system, which could serve as a gateway for broader attacks. Understanding these weak points allows for targeted strengthening of defenses.
  • Uncovering Data Theft Loopholes : Data is a prime target for cybercriminals. Web application penetration testing searches for loopholes that could lead to data theft, including insecure data transmission, improper storage practices, and other vulnerabilities that could be exploited to access sensitive information.

Let’s pen test your application

For 8 years of building web and mobile applications, we have learned how to make them secure. Contact us to get a quote for penetration testing services from our cybersecurity experts.

Types of Penetration Testing for Web Applications

Penetration testing for web applications can be categorized into various types, each focusing on different aspects of web security. These tests aim to identify vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by attackers. Here’s a breakdown of the primary types of penetration testing 2024 specifically tailored for web applications:

1. Black Box Testing

In black box testing, the tester has no prior knowledge of the application’s internal workings. This approach simulates an external cyber attack and focuses on identifying vulnerabilities that can be exploited from the outside, without any insider information. It’s useful for testing the application’s external defense mechanisms.

2. White Box Testing (Also Known as Clear Box Testing or Glass Box Testing)

White box testing provides the tester with complete information about the application, including source code, architecture diagrams, and credentials. This comprehensive knowledge allows for a thorough examination of the application for vulnerabilities, including those that are difficult to detect from the outside. It’s effective for assessing the application’s internal security and logic.

3. Gray Box Testing

Gray box testing is a hybrid approach that offers the tester partial knowledge of the application’s internals. This might include limited access or an overview of the architecture and protocols but not full source code access. Gray box testing balances the depth of white box testing with the realism of black box testing, providing a well-rounded security assessment.

4. Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

SAST involves analyzing the source code, byte code, or binaries of an application without executing it. This type of testing is designed to identify security flaws at the code level, making it possible to find vulnerabilities early in the development cycle.

5. Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

DAST focuses on testing an application during its execution, simulating attacks against a running application. This approach is effective for identifying runtime and environment-related vulnerabilities, such as those related to authentication and session management.

6. Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST)

IAST combines elements of both SAST and DAST, analyzing the application from within during runtime. This method provides deep insight into how data flows through the application and how vulnerabilities can be exploited, offering a comprehensive view of the application’s security posture.

7. API Penetration Testing

Given the critical role of APIs in modern web applications, API penetration testing specifically targets the security of web APIs. This involves testing methods, data handling, authentication mechanisms, and the way APIs interact with other components of the application.

8. Client-Side Penetration Testing

This testing method zeroes in on the weak spots found in client-side technologies, including HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. It aims to identify security issues that could be exploited through the user’s browser, such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF).

Each type of penetration testing offers unique insights into the security vulnerabilities of web applications. By employing a combination of these testing approaches, organizations can achieve a comprehensive assessment of their web application’s security, uncovering and mitigating potential vulnerabilities to prevent cyber attacks.

Your next read – Recognise App Security Vulnerabilities Beforehand With Application Threat Modeling

Web Application Penetration Testing Methodology

Web Application Penetration Testing follows a structured approach to identify and exploit vulnerabilities within web applications. This methodology is designed to systematically assess the security of web applications by simulating attacks that could be carried out by malicious actors. Here’s an overview of the typical phases involved in a Web Application Penetration Testing Methodology 2024:

1. Planning and Reconnaissance

  • Objective Setting: Define the scope and objectives of the penetration test, including which applications and functionalities will be tested.
  • Information Gathering: Collect as much information as possible about the target application and its environment. This includes understanding the application’s technology stack, mapping out the application, and identifying potential entry points. To gather crucial data, the following web application penetration testing tools and techniques are employed:

a. Passive Reconnaissance: Leverage search engines, social media, and public sources for information on the organization, its employees, and potential security gaps.

b. Active Reconnaissance: Utilize tools such as Nmap and automated web crawlers to map out the application’s structure, along with its ports and services.

2. Scanning and Enumeration

  • Automated Scanning: Use automated tools to scan the web application for known vulnerabilities, such as outdated software versions, misconfigurations, and common security flaws.
  • Manual Enumeration: Manually inspect the application for logical vulnerabilities that automated tools might miss. This involves examining the application’s behavior, identifying user roles, and understanding data flow.

3. Vulnerability Analysis

  • Identify Vulnerabilities: Analyze the results from both automated scanning and manual enumeration to identify potential vulnerabilities within the application.
  • Risk Assessment: Assess the severity and potential impact of identified vulnerabilities. This helps in prioritizing which vulnerabilities to exploit first.

4. Exploitation

  • Exploit Vulnerabilities: Attempt to exploit identified vulnerabilities to determine if unauthorized access or other malicious activities can be achieved. This step verifies if the vulnerabilities are exploitable in real-world attack scenarios.
  • Advanced Exploitation Techniques: In some cases, chaining vulnerabilities or using advanced exploitation techniques may be necessary to gain deeper access or demonstrate the full impact of a security flaw.

5. Post-Exploitation

  • Determine Impact: Once access is gained, evaluate what type of data can be accessed, the level of control obtained over the system, and how the vulnerability could be leveraged for further exploitation.
  • Persistence: Test if the access can be maintained, simulating an attacker’s ability to persist within the application environment undetected.

6. Analysis and Reporting

  • Compile Findings: Document all findings, including the vulnerabilities discovered, the exploitation process, and the potential impact.
  • Recommend Remediations: Provide detailed recommendations for mitigating the identified vulnerabilities, prioritized by their risk level.
  • Report Delivery: Deliver a comprehensive report to stakeholders, outlining the vulnerabilities, evidence of exploitation, and recommendations for security enhancements.

7. Remediation and Re-Testing

  • Remediation Verification: After vulnerabilities have been addressed, cybersecurity developers verify the effectiveness of the remediation efforts through re-testing.
  • Continuous Assessment: Recommend that web application penetration testing be conducted regularly, not just as a one-time activity, to ensure ongoing security as the application evolves.

This structured methodology ensures a thorough assessment of web application security, uncovering vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers and providing actionable insights for enhancing the application’s security posture.

How Is Penetration Testing for Web Apps Done? 

Penetration testing for web applications involves a targeted approach to identify and exploit vulnerabilities. Here’s how web penetration testing could be executed for an e-commerce app:

  • Define the Scope: Clearly outline the boundaries of the test, focusing on the e-commerce platform, including its user authentication, product listing, shopping cart, checkout process, and any associated APIs.
  • Gather Information: Use tools and techniques to collect data about the e-commerce platform, such as the web server details, application framework, and third-party plugins. This stage might involve automated scanning to identify visible application endpoints and services.
  • Automated Scanning: Utilize automated tools to scan the e-commerce platform for known vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and security misconfigurations. Tools like OWASP ZAP or Burp Suite can be handy.
  • Manual Testing and Exploitation: Focus on areas that automated tools might miss. For example, manually test for business logic vulnerabilities that could allow unauthorized access to other users’ shopping carts or manipulate product prices.
  • Exploit Identified Vulnerabilities: Attempt to exploit vulnerabilities to assess their impact. For instance, if an SQL injection vulnerability is found in the product search feature, try to extract sensitive database information or manipulate the query to gain unauthorized access.
  • Session Management Testing: Evaluate the security of user sessions by attempting to hijack or manipulate session cookies to impersonate users.
  • Data Access and Exfiltration: Explore how much sensitive data can be accessed or exfiltrated through exploited vulnerabilities, such as customer personal data, credit card information, or internal application data.
  • Maintain Access: Assess if and how an attacker could maintain access to the system, perhaps by creating backdoor accounts or exploiting weaknesses in the application’s session management.
  • Document Findings: Prepare a detailed report outlining identified vulnerabilities, how they were exploited, the potential impact, and evidence of the exploitation process.
  • Recommend Remediations: Provide actionable recommendations for each identified vulnerability, prioritizing them based on their severity and impact on the e-commerce platform.
  • Re-Testing: After remediations are applied, conduct a re-test to ensure vulnerabilities are adequately addressed, and no new issues have been introduced.

This web pentesting roadmap provides a comprehensive assessment of the e-commerce web application’s security posture, focusing on identifying and addressing vulnerabilities to enhance the platform’s defense against potential cyberattacks.

Web Application Penetration Testing Tools

Web application penetration testing tools are a vital part of any organization’s security strategy. These tools simulate attacks on a web application in order to identify vulnerabilities and assess the effectiveness of the application’s defenses. Let’s look at the top penetration tools used for web applications in the industry today: 

John The Ripper

A popular tool for penetration testing, used to crack password hashes. It can perform dictionary attacks, brute-force attacks, and hybrid combinations. John the Ripper analyzes password hashes and, if successful, reveals the cracked password along with the number of attempts needed.

SQLmap is a penetration tester’s secret weapon against SQL injection vulnerabilities, one of the most common web application security flaws. This command-line warrior automates the entire process, from detecting these vulnerabilities to exploiting them with lightning speed and efficiency.

Wireshark, a top network protocol analyzer, lets you capture and dissect live or recorded traffic. The tool deeply analyzes protocols, then exports data (XML, CSV, etc.) for further exploration.

This vulnerability assessment tool helps testers identify vulnerabilities, configuration problems, and even the presence of malware on web applications. This tool, however, is not designed for executing exploitations but offers great help when doing reconnaissance. 

Nmap or Network Mapper is more than a scanning and reconnaissance tool. It is used for both network discovery and security auditing purposes. Aside from providing basic information on the target website, it also includes a scripting engine that can be used for vulnerability and backdoor detection and execution of exploitations. 

Metasploit stands out among other penetration testing tools for web applications. The reason is that this is actually a framework and not a specific application. You can use it to create custom tools for particular tasks. You can use it to select and configure the exploit, payload, and encoding schema to be used, then execute the exploit.

Aircrack-ng

Aircrack-ng is a go-to tool for cracking WEP/WPA/WPA2 keys on wireless LANs, beloved by penetration testers since 2002 for its efficacy in testing wireless network security. Beyond testing, Aircrack-ng helps identify unsecured networks, crack weak or unprotected Wi-Fi passwords, and decrypt traffic on encrypted networks.

We’ve mentioned Burp Suite a couple of times earlier, and this is because this tool is an all-in-one platform for testing the security of web applications.  It has several tools that can be used for every phase of the testing process, including Intruder for fuzzing and brute-forcing, Repeater for manipulating requests and responses, and Sequencer for identifying predictable elements.

Penetration Testing Certifications

While the concept of penetration testing seems simple at first glance, building a career in this field requires specific certifications. Let’s review them briefly.

Foundational Certifications

  • CompTIA PenTest+: This entry-level certification establishes basic knowledge in penetration testing methodology, vulnerability scanning, legal aspects, and report writing.
  • EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): This vendor-neutral certification covers ethical hacking methodologies, tools, and techniques across various IT systems, including web applications.

Intermediate Certifications

  • Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP): This hands-on certification emphasizes practical skills in web application penetration testing through a real-world lab environment simulation.
  • Certified Ethical Hacker Practical (e|PH): This builds upon CEH knowledge through a performance-based exam to demonstrate web application penetration testing skills.
  • GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN) certification: This delves deeper into penetration testing practices, vulnerability analysis, and risk assessment.

Advanced Certifications

  • Certified Penetration Tester (CPT): This vendor-neutral certification emphasizes advanced penetration testing skills across various IT systems, requiring strong technical knowledge and experience.
  • Certified Expert Penetration Tester (CEPT): This demands in-depth expertise in penetration testing across various systems, including web applications.
  • GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester (GXPN): This focuses on advanced exploitation techniques, custom exploit development, and in-depth research skills.

Specialized Certifications

  • Certified Mobile and Web Application Penetration Tester (CMWAPT): This focuses on vulnerabilities specific to mobile and web applications, emphasizing mobile app security testing principles.
  • GIAC Certified Web Application Penetration Tester (GWAPT): This highlights advanced web application penetration testing skills and covers secure coding practices for developers.
  • Licensed Penetration Tester Master (LPT) Certification: This rigorous 2-year program designed for seasoned professionals seeking mastery in penetration testing and network security, emphasizing practical experience through projects and labs.

Automated vs. Manual Pentesting

Automated and manual web application penetration testing are two different approaches to conducting a penetration test.

Automated pen testing involves using specialized software tools to scan a system for vulnerabilities and perform attacks. This approach is fast and efficient, and it can cover a large number of vulnerabilities in a short amount of time. However, it can also produce false positives (i.e., reporting vulnerabilities that do not actually exist) and may not be able to identify all vulnerabilities, especially those that require a human touch to discover.

Manual pen testing, on the other hand, involves a skilled security professional manually testing a system for vulnerabilities and exploiting them. This approach is slower and requires more human effort, but it can be more thorough and accurate. Manual pen testing can uncover vulnerabilities that automated tools might miss, and it allows the tester to think creatively and adapt to unexpected situations.

While both approaches have pros and cons, they can be used together successfully to create a more thorough test. In fact, some companies find that combining the two approaches gives them the best possible results by bringing together the strengths of each method.

Read our guides on how to hire a cybersecurity developer and site reliability engineer . 

Web Application Penetration Testing: Summing Up 

Web applications are convenient, cost-effective, and value-adding. However, most systems are publicly exposed to the Internet, and the data can become easily available to those who are willing to do a bit of research. What’s more, even the most advanced web applications are prone to vulnerabilities, in both design and configuration, that hackers might find and exploit. Because of this, the web application penetration testing roadmap should be a priority.

Relevant has helped more than 200 companies with setting up teams of remote developers and site reliability engineers with industry-specific expertise and a product-oriented mindset. Our cybersecurity developers would also be glad to help you run a web application penetration testing and get an insightful look into the possible vulnerabilities. 

Contact us now to get a quote for penetration testing for your web app. 

Penetration testing tools are a set of programs that help you test your system’s security. They do this by replicating the actions of malicious hackers and then identifying how your system would hold up in those circumstances. So, the goal of penetration testing tools is not to break into a system but rather to show how a hacker might gain access to it.

Penetration testing methodologies are a set of steps that a security researcher will take to verify the security of a system. Penetration testing is done by first identifying vulnerabilities, then attempting to exploit those vulnerabilities in order to gain access to the system. This process is repeated until no more vulnerabilities can be found or exploited.

It can be automated, but it’s not always necessary or recommended. Automated penetration testing can be useful when you want to run a large number of tests quickly and efficiently, but it’s important to note that automated testing isn’t as thorough as manual testing—it’s more likely to miss some vulnerabilities. If you’re using an automated tool, you’ll need to make sure you’re keeping an eye on how effective it is and making sure it’s not missing issues that could lead to breaches.

Penetration testing is a method of analyzing the security of an information system. It involves actively attacking the system to identify potential vulnerabilities. A penetration tester will often use automated tools, such as scanners and vulnerability scanners, to identify vulnerabilities in the system. They may also utilize other techniques, such as social engineering and buffer overflows, to exploit these vulnerabilities.

Penetration testing can help keep networks secure by revealing any vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit. Penetration testing is the process of identifying and successfully exploiting vulnerabilities in a system. This allows you to fix any problems before a hacker finds them and exploits them.

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Everything You Need to Know About Web Pentesting: A Complete Guide

This post will go through what web pentesting is, why you need it, and how to use it to safeguard your site..

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It's critical to ensure that your website is secure if you're running one. Hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities to exploit, and if they can find one on your site, they could do serious damage. That's where web penetration testing comes into the scene. Web penetration testing is the act of detecting and exploiting security flaws on a website. In this post, we'll go through what web pentesting is, why you need it, and how to use it to safeguard your site. We'll also look at some of the top web pentesting tools available, both open source and commercial.

What Is Web Pentesting?

Web application penetration testing, often known as web application security testing, is the activity of detecting and exploiting vulnerabilities in web applications. Pentesting can be used to find both known and unknown vulnerabilities. Once a vulnerability has been discovered, the tester may try to exploit it in order to steal confidential information or gain control of the system.

Why Do You Need Web Pentesting?

There are many reasons why you might need to pentest your website . Maybe you're launching a new site and want to make sure it's secure before going live. Or maybe you've had an incident where your site was hacked, and you want to prevent it from happening again. Either way, web pentesting can help you identify and fix potential security issues before they're exploited.

List of Top Web Pentesting Tools Open Source and Commercial

There are a number of available, both open source and commercial. Here are some of the top options:

Open Source:

Commercial:, astra's pentest, methodology for web pentesting.

  • Information Gathering: The pentester attempts to discover fingerprints in the backend of a website while gathering information. It usually contains things such as the Server OS, CMS version, etc.
  • Discovery: The second stage is where automatic tools  are used to reveal any known security flaws or CVEs that may exist in the services. Because these sorts of holes are frequently missed by automated tool scans, a manual engineering inspection is also necessary to find business logic vulnerabilities.
  • Exploitation:  In the last stage of exploitation, any vulnerabilities discovered in the first phase are used. The exploitation portion is also utilized to exfiltrate data from the target and keep access.

How Can Web Pentesting Help You Achieve Compliance?

Web pentesting can help you achieve compliance with security standards by identifying and fixing potential vulnerabilities before they're exploited. You can safeguard your consumers' data and avoid hefty fines and damage by ensuring that your website is secure.

Web Pentesting Checklist

To make sure you're pentesting your website effectively, here's a checklist of things to keep in mind:

  • Understand the web application architecture
  • Identify the most important assets on the site
  • Perform an initial scan with automated tools
  • Manually inspect the code for vulnerabilities
  • Exfiltrate data and take control of the system

By following these steps, you can ensure that your website is secure and compliant with security standards.

Further Exploring the Top Web Pentesting Tools Open Source 

Wapiti is a free, open-source project from SourceForge that performs black box testing of web applications. Wapiti uses black box testing to analyze web apps for potential security flaws. Because it's a command-line program, you'll need to be familiar with various Wapiti commands.

Wapiti is simple to use for veterans but may be difficult for novices. Wapiti injects payloads into a website to determine whether it's vulnerable or not. This particular open-source security testing tool can handle both GET and POSTHTTP assaults.

SQLMap is a free, open-source tool that allows you to automate the detection and exploitation of database-based SQL injection flaws. The security testing software has a strong testing engine that can be used to test for six types of SQL injection attacks, namely — 

  • Boolean-based blind
  • Error-based
  • Out-of-band
  • Time-based blind
  • Stacked queries
  • UNION query

The popular open-source security testing software is SonarQube. It's used to assess the quality of a website application's code as well as identify security flaws. Despite the fact that it is written in Java, SonarQube may analyze more than 20 different programming languages. SonarQube identifies issues and displays them in green or red light.

The first deals with low-risk vulnerabilities and problems, whereas the latter refers to severe ones. Command prompt access is available for more experienced users. There is an interactive user interface (GUI) for individuals who are just getting started in testing. 

Further Exploring the Top Web Pentesting Tools Commercial

Astra Security was founded with the goal of making online application security easier for end users. The spirit of Astra's Pentest has been taken into everyday life as part of its ethos. There are several benefits to using this web application penetration testing solution. For example, you may connect CI/CD tools with the Astra pentest suite such that an automated scan is triggered whenever there is a code update.

You may also connect it to, for example, Jira or Slack so that you may assign pentest and recovery-related activities to your team members without them having access to the suite. Of course, the pentest suite allows you to converse with software developers and security experts.

Netsparker is an online application and web API security tool that can find SQL Injection and Cross-site Scripting vulnerabilities. Netsparker proves the verified problems are genuine instead of false positives by uniquely validating them. 

As a result, you won't have to waste hours manually checking each identified vulnerability after a scan is completed. It's accessible as a Windows program and an online service. 

Acunetix is a fully automated web application vulnerability scanner that finds and reports on over 4,500 web application security flaws, including all variants of SQL Injection and XSS. 

It complements the job of a penetration tester by automating activities that may take hours to execute manually while still providing correct answers in record time. 

Acunetix supports HTML5, JavaScript, and Single-page applications, as well as CMS systems. It has powerful manual tools for penetration testers and works with popular Issue Trackers and WAFs. 

Because it ensures the safety and security of your website, web penetration testing is critical. You may repair potential vulnerabilities before they are exploited by hackers by performing web penetration tests. There are a variety of different types of web penetration testing software available, both open source and commercial. In this article, we've discussed some of the top web pentesting tools to help you get started in testing the security of your website.

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This is Web Application Penetration Testing Report made for everybody who wanted a glance of how to make a professional report for pentetring purpose. The penetration testing has been done in a sample testable website.

h0tPlug1n/Web-Penetration-Testing-Report-Sample

Folders and files, repository files navigation, web-penetration-testing-report---sample.

This is Web Application Penetration Testing Report made for everybody who wanted a glance of how to make a professional report for pentetring purpose. The penetration testing has been done in a sample testable website. No system/organization has been harmed. The VAPT session has been conducted in a safe and simulated enivironment. Before performing any VAPT on any site, take prior permission to do so.

The Word file has also been given for you to modify your own report without making it from scratch.

Details required in the Report

Introduction, assessment attribute, risk calculation & classification, details of a particular bug with poc(s).

Go through the attached pdf for detailed understanding.

Public pentest reports

Follow the links to see more details and a PDF for each one of the penetration test reports.

  • astra - Astra-Security-Sample-VAPT-Report
  • BishopFox - Beast - Hybrid Application Assessment 2017 - Assessment Report - 20171114
  • BishopFox - Bishop Fox Assessment Report - Winston Privacy
  • BishopFox - Bishop-Fox-Research-Report-Efficacy-of-micro-segmentation-V01
  • BishopFox - C Plus Plus Alliance - Boost JSON Security Assessment 2020 - Assessment Report - 20210317
  • BishopFox - CF2016 Security Audit Report
  • BishopFox - stj expert witness report
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PRC State-Sponsored Actors Compromise and Maintain Persistent Access to U.S. Critical Infrastructure

Actions to take today to mitigate volt typhoon activity:.

  • Apply patches for internet-facing systems. Prioritize patching critical vulnerabilities in appliances known to be frequently exploited by Volt Typhoon.
  • Implement phishing-resistant MFA.
  • Ensure logging is turned on for application, access, and security logs and store logs in a central system.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency (NSA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assess that People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-sponsored cyber actors are seeking to pre-position themselves on IT networks for disruptive or destructive cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure in the event of a major crisis or conflict with the United States.

CISA, NSA, FBI and the following partners are releasing this advisory to warn critical infrastructure organizations about this assessment, which is based on observations from the U.S. authoring agencies’ incident response activities at critical infrastructure organizations compromised by the PRC state-sponsored cyber group known as Volt Typhoon (also known as Vanguard Panda, BRONZE SILHOUETTE, Dev-0391, UNC3236, Voltzite, and Insidious Taurus):

  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • Australian Signals Directorate’s (ASD’s) Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)
  • Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS), a part of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE)
  • United Kingdom National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC-UK)
  • New Zealand National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC-NZ)

The U.S. authoring agencies have confirmed that Volt Typhoon has compromised the IT environments of multiple critical infrastructure organizations—primarily in Communications , Energy , Transportation Systems , and Water and Wastewater Systems Sectors—in the continental and non-continental United States and its territories, including Guam. Volt Typhoon’s choice of targets and pattern of behavior is not consistent with traditional cyber espionage or intelligence gathering operations, and the U.S. authoring agencies assess with high confidence that Volt Typhoon actors are pre-positioning themselves on IT networks to enable lateral movement to OT assets to disrupt functions. The U.S. authoring agencies are concerned about the potential for these actors to use their network access for disruptive effects in the event of potential geopolitical tensions and/or military conflicts. CCCS assesses that the direct threat to Canada’s critical infrastructure from PRC state-sponsored actors is likely lower than that to U.S. infrastructure, but should U.S. infrastructure be disrupted, Canada would likely be affected as well, due to cross-border integration. ASD’s ACSC and NCSC-NZ assess Australian and New Zealand critical infrastructure, respectively, could be vulnerable to similar activity from PRC state-sponsored actors.

As the authoring agencies have previously highlighted , the use of living off the land (LOTL) techniques is a hallmark of Volt Typhoon actors’ malicious cyber activity when targeting critical infrastructure. The group also relies on valid accounts and leverage strong operational security, which combined, allows for long-term undiscovered persistence. In fact, the U.S. authoring agencies have recently observed indications of Volt Typhoon actors maintaining access and footholds within some victim IT environments for at least five years. Volt Typhoon actors conduct extensive pre-exploitation reconnaissance to learn about the target organization and its environment; tailor their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to the victim’s environment; and dedicate ongoing resources to maintaining persistence and understanding the target environment over time, even after initial compromise.

The authoring agencies urge critical infrastructure organizations to apply the mitigations in this advisory and to hunt for similar malicious activity using the guidance herein provided, along with the recommendations found in joint guide Identifying and Mitigating Living Off the Land Techniques . These mitigations are primarily intended for IT and OT administrators in critical infrastructure organizations. Following the mitigations for prevention of or in response to an incident will help disrupt Volt Typhoon’s accesses and reduce the threat to critical infrastructure entities.

If activity is identified, the authoring agencies strongly recommend that critical infrastructure organizations apply the incident response recommendations in this advisory and report the incident to the relevant agency (see Contact Information section).

For additional information, see joint advisory People’s Republic of China State-Sponsored Cyber Actor Living off the Land to Evade Detection and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) press release U.S. Government Disrupts Botnet People’s Republic of China Used to Conceal Hacking of Critical Infrastructure . For more information on PRC state-sponsored malicious cyber activity, see CISA’s China Cyber Threat Overview and Advisories webpage.

Download the PDF version of this report:

Read the accompanying Malware Analysis Report:  MAR-10448362-1.v1 Volt Typhoon .

For a downloadable copy of indicators of compromise (IOCs), see:

TECHNICAL DETAILS

Note: This advisory uses the MITRE ATT&CK for Enterprise framework, version 14. See Appendix C: MITRE ATT&CK Tactics and Techniques section for tables of the Volt Typhoon cyber threat actors’ activity mapped to MITRE ATT&CK ® tactics and techniques. For assistance with mapping malicious cyber activity to the MITRE ATT&CK framework, see CISA and MITRE ATT&CK’s Best Practices for MITRE ATT&CK Mapping and CISA’s Decider Tool .

Overview of Activity

In May 2023, the authoring agencies—working with industry partners—disclosed information about activity attributed to Volt Typhoon (see joint advisory People’s Republic of China State-Sponsored Cyber Actor Living off the Land to Evade Detection ). Since then, CISA, NSA, and FBI have determined that this activity is part of a broader campaign in which Volt Typhoon actors have successfully infiltrated the networks of critical infrastructure organizations in the continental and non-continental United States and its territories, including Guam.

The U.S. authoring agencies have primarily observed compromises linked to Volt Typhoon in Communications , Energy , Transportation Systems , and Water and Wastewater Systems sector organizations’ IT networks. Some victims are smaller organizations with limited cybersecurity capabilities that provide critical services to larger organizations or key geographic locations.

Volt Typhoon actors tailor their TTPs to the victim environment; however, the U.S. authoring agencies have observed the actors typically following the same pattern of behavior across identified intrusions. Their choice of targets and pattern of behavior is not consistent with traditional cyber espionage or intelligence gathering operations, and the U.S. authoring agencies assess with high confidence that Volt Typhoon actors are pre-positioning themselves on IT networks to enable the disruption of OT functions across multiple critical infrastructure sectors (see Figure 1).

  • Volt Typhoon conducts extensive pre-compromise reconnaissance to learn about the target organization’s network architecture and operational protocols. This reconnaissance includes identifying network topologies, security measures, typical user behaviors, and key network and IT staff. The intelligence gathered by Volt Typhoon actors is likely leveraged to enhance their operational security. For example, in some instances, Volt Typhoon actors may have abstained from using compromised credentials outside of normal working hours to avoid triggering security alerts on abnormal account activities.
  • Volt Typhoon typically gains initial access to the IT network by exploiting known or zero-day vulnerabilities in public-facing network appliances (e.g., routers, virtual private networks [VPNs], and firewalls) and then connects to the victim’s network via VPN for follow-on activities.
  • Volt Typhoon aims to obtain administrator credentials within the network, often by exploiting privilege escalation vulnerabilities in the operating system or network services. In some cases, Volt Typhoon has obtained credentials insecurely stored on a public-facing network appliance.
  • Volt Typhoon uses valid administrator credentials to move laterally to the domain controller (DC) and other devices via remote access services such as Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).
  • Volt Typhoon conducts discovery in the victim’s network, leveraging LOTL binaries for stealth . A key tactic includes using PowerShell to perform targeted queries on Windows event logs, focusing on specific users and periods. These queries facilitate the discreet extraction of security event logs into .dat files, allowing Volt Typhoon actors to gather critical information while minimizing detection. This strategy, blending in-depth pre-compromise reconnaissance with meticulous post-exploitation intelligence collection, underscores their sophisticated and strategic approach to cyber operations.
  • Volt Typhoon achieves full domain compromise by extracting the Active Directory database ( NTDS.dit ) from the DC. Volt Typhoon frequently employs the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) using command-line utilities such as vssadmin to access NTDS.dit . The NTDS.dit file is a centralized repository that contains critical Active Directory data, including user accounts, passwords (in hashed form), and other sensitive data, which can be leveraged for further exploitation. This method entails the creation of a shadow copy—a point-in-time snapshot—of the volume hosting the NTDS.dit file. By leveraging this snapshot, Volt Typhoon actors effectively bypass the file locking mechanisms inherent in a live Windows environment, which typically prevent direct access to the NTDS.dit file while the domain controller is operational.
  • Volt Typhoon likely uses offline password cracking techniques to decipher these hashes. This process involves extracting the hashes from the NTDS.dit file and then applying various password cracking methods, such as brute force attacks, dictionary attacks, or more sophisticated techniques like rainbow tables to uncover the plaintext passwords. The successful decryption of these passwords allows Volt Typhoon actors to obtain elevated access and further infiltrate and manipulate the network.
  • Volt Typhoon uses elevated credentials for strategic network infiltration and additional discovery, often focusing on gaining capabilities to access OT assets. Volt Typhoon actors have been observed testing access to domain-joint OT assets using default OT vendor credentials, and in certain instances, they have possessed the capability to access OT systems whose credentials were compromised via NTDS.dit theft. This access enables potential disruptions, such as manipulating heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in server rooms or disrupting critical energy and water controls, leading to significant infrastructure failures (in some cases, Volt Typhoon actors had the capability to access camera surveillance systems at critical infrastructure facilities). In one confirmed compromise, Volt Typhoon actors moved laterally to a control system and were positioned to move to a second control system.

Figure 1: Typical Volt Typhoon Activity

After successfully gaining access to legitimate accounts, Volt Typhoon actors exhibit minimal activity within the compromised environment (except discovery as noted above), suggesting their objective is to maintain persistence rather than immediate exploitation. This assessment is supported by observed patterns where Volt Typhoon methodically re-targets the same organizations over extended periods, often spanning several years, to continuously validate and potentially enhance their unauthorized accesses. Evidence of their meticulous approach is seen in instances where they repeatedly exfiltrate domain credentials, ensuring access to current and valid accounts. For example, in one compromise, Volt Typhoon likely extracted NTDS.dit from three domain controllers in a four-year period. In another compromise, Volt Typhoon actors extracted NTDS.dit two times from a victim in a nine-month period.

Industry reporting—identifying that Volt Typhoon actors are silent on the network following credential dumping and perform discovery to learn about the environment, but do not exfiltrate data—is consistent with the U.S. authoring agencies’ observations. This indicates their aim is to achieve and maintain persistence on the network. In one confirmed compromise, an industry partner observed Volt Typhoon actors dumping credentials at regular intervals.

In addition to leveraging stolen account credentials, the actors use LOTL techniques and avoid leaving malware artifacts on systems that would cause alerts. Their strong focus on stealth and operational security allows them to maintain long-term, undiscovered persistence. Further, Volt Typhoon’s operational security is enhanced by targeted log deletion to conceal their actions within the compromised environment.

See the below sections for Volt Typhoon TTPs observed by the U.S. authoring agencies from multiple confirmed Volt Typhoon compromises.

Observed TTPs

Reconnaissance.

Volt Typhoon actors conduct extensive pre-compromise reconnaissance [ TA0043 ] to learn about the target organization [ T1591 ], its network [ T1590 ], and its staff [ T1589 ]. This includes web searches [ T1593 ]—including victim-owned sites [ T1594 ]—for victim host [ T1592 ], identity, and network information, especially for information on key network and IT administrators. According to industry reporting, Volt Typhoon actors use FOFA[ 1 ], Shodan, and Censys for querying or searching for exposed infrastructure. In some instances, the U.S. authoring agencies have observed Volt Typhoon actors targeting the personal emails of key network and IT staff [ T1589.002 ] post compromise.

Resource Development

Historically, Volt Typhoon actors use multi-hop proxies for command and control (C2) infrastructure [ T1090.003 ]. The proxy is typically composed of virtual private servers (VPSs) [ T1583.003 ] or small office/home office (SOHO) routers. Recently, Volt Typhoon actors used Cisco and NETGEAR end-of-life SOHO routers implanted with KV Botnet malware to support their operations [ T1584.005 ]. (See DOJ press release U.S. Government Disrupts Botnet People’s Republic of China Used to Conceal Hacking of Critical Infrastructure for more information).

Initial Access

To obtain initial access [ TA0001 ], Volt Typhoon actors commonly exploit vulnerabilities in networking appliances such as those from Fortinet, Ivanti Connect Secure (formerly Pulse Secure), NETGEAR, Citrix, and Cisco [ T1190 ]. They often use publicly available exploit code for known vulnerabilities [ T1588.005 ] but are also adept at discovering and exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities [ T1587.004 ].

  • In one confirmed compromise, Volt Typhoon actors likely obtained initial access by exploiting CVE-2022-42475 in a network perimeter FortiGate 300D firewall that was not patched. There is evidence of a buffer overflow attack identified within the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)-VPN crash logs.

Once initial access is achieved, Volt Typhoon actors typically shift to establishing persistent access [ TA0003 ]. They often use VPN sessions to securely connect to victim environments [ T1133 ], enabling discreet follow-on intrusion activities. This tactic not only provides a stable foothold in the network but also allows them to blend in with regular traffic, significantly reducing their chances of detection.

Volt Typhoon actors rarely use malware for post-compromise execution. Instead, once Volt Typhoon actors gain access to target environments, they use hands-on-keyboard activity via the command-line [ T1059 ] and other native tools and processes on systems [ T1218 ] (often referred to as “LOLBins”), known as LOTL, to maintain and expand access to the victim networks. According to industry reporting, some “commands appear to be exploratory or experimental, as the operators [i.e., malicious actors] adjust and repeat them multiple times.”[ 2 ]

For more details on LOTL activity, see the Credential Access and Discovery sections and Appendix A: Volt Typhoon LOTL Activity.

Similar to LOTL, Volt Typhoon actors also use legitimate but outdated versions of network admin tools. For example, in one confirmed compromise, actors downloaded [ T1105 ] an outdated version of comsvcs.dll on the DC in a non-standard folder. comsvcs.dll is a legitimate Microsoft Dynamic Link Library (DLL) file normally found in the System32 folder. The actors used this DLL with MiniDump and the process ID of the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS) to dump the LSASS process memory [ T1003.001 ] and obtain credentials (LSASS process memory space contains hashes for the current user’s operating system (OS) credentials).

The actors also use legitimate non-native network admin and forensic tools. For example, Volt Typhoon actors have been observed using Magnet RAM Capture (MRC) version 1.20 on domain controllers. MRC is a free imaging tool that captures the physical memory of a computer, and Volt Typhoon actors likely used it to analyze in-memory data for sensitive information (such as credentials) and in-transit data not typically accessible on disk. Volt Typhoon actors have also been observed implanting Fast Reverse Proxy (FRP) for command and control.[ 3 ] (See the Command and Control section).

Persistence

Volt Typhoon primarily relies on valid credentials for persistence [ T1078 ].

Defense Evasion

Volt Typhoon has strong operational security. Their actors primarily use LOTL for defense evasion [ TA0005 ], which allows them to camouflage their malicious activity with typical system and network behavior, potentially circumventing simplistic endpoint security capabilities. For more information, see joint guide Identifying and Mitigating Living off the Land Techniques .

Volt Typhoon actors also obfuscate their malware. In one confirmed compromise, Volt Typhoon obfuscated FRP client files ( BrightmetricAgent.exe and SMSvcService.exe ) and the command-line port scanning utility ScanLine by packing the files with Ultimate Packer for Executables (UPX) [ T1027.002 ]. FRP client applications support encryption, compression, and easy token authentication and work across multiple protocols—including transmission control protocol (TCP), user datagram protocol (UDP), hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), and hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS). The FRP client applications use the Kuai connection protocol (KCP) for error-checked and anonymous data stream delivery over UDP, with packet-level encryption support. See Appendix C and CISA Malware Analysis Report (MAR)-10448362-1.v1 for more information.

In addition to LOTL and obfuscation techniques, Volt Typhoon actors have been observed selectively clearing Windows Event Logs [ T1070.001 ], system logs, and other technical artifacts to remove evidence [ T1070.009 ] of their intrusion activity and masquerading file names [ T1036.005 ].

Credential Access

Volt Typhoon actors first obtain credentials from public-facing appliances after gaining initial access by exploiting privilege escalation vulnerabilities [ T1068 ] in the operating system or network services. In some cases, they have obtained credentials insecurely stored on the appliance [ T1552 ]. In one instance, where Volt Typhoon likely exploited CVE-2022-42475 in an unpatched Fortinet device, Volt Typhoon actors compromised a domain admin account stored inappropriately on the device.

Volt Typhoon also consistently obtains valid credentials by extracting the Active Directory database file ( NTDS.dit )—in some cases multiple times from the same victim over long periods [ T1003.003 ]. NTDS.dit contains usernames, hashed passwords, and group memberships for all domain accounts, essentially allowing for full domain compromise if the hashes can be cracked offline.

To obtain NTDS.dit , the U.S. authoring agencies have observed Volt Typhoon:

  • Move laterally [ TA0008 ] to the domain controller via an interactive RDP session using a compromised account with domain administrator privileges [ T1021.001 ];
  • Execute the Windows-native vssadmin [ T1006 ] command to create a volume shadow copy;
  • Use Windows Management Instrumentation Console (WMIC) commands [ T1047 ] to execute ntdsutil (a LOTL utility) to copy NTDS.dit and SYSTEM registry hive from the volume shadow copy; and
  • Exfiltrate [ TA0010 ] NTDS.dit and SYSTEM registry hive to crack passwords offline) [ T1110.002 ]. (For more details, including specific commands used, see Appendix A: Volt Typhoon LOTL Activity.) Note: A volume shadow copy contains a copy of all the files and folders that exist on the specified volume. Each volume shadow copy created on a DC includes its NTDS.dit and the SYSTEM registry hive, which provides keys to decrypt the NTDS.dit file.

Volt Typhoon actors have also been observed interacting with a PuTTY application by enumerating existing stored sessions [ T1012 ]. Given this interaction and the exposure of cleartext-stored proxy passwords used in remote administration, Volt Typhoon actors potentially had access to PuTTY profiles that allow access to critical systems (see the Lateral Movement section).

According to industry reporting, Volt Typhoon actors attempted to dump credentials through LSASS (see Appendix B for commands used).[ 2 ]

The U.S. authoring agencies have observed Volt Typhoon actors leveraging Mimikatz to harvest credentials, and industry partners have observed Volt Typhoon leveraging Impacket . [ 2 ]

  • Mimikatz is a credential dumping tool and Volt Typhoon actors use it to obtain credentials. In one confirmed compromise, the Volt Typhoon used RDP to connect to a server and run Mimikatz after leveraging a compromised administrator account to deploy it.
  • Impacket is an open source Python toolkit for programmatically constructing and manipulating network protocols. It contains tools for Kerberos manipulation, Windows credential dumping, packet sniffing, and relay attacks—as well as remote service execution.

Volt Typhoon actors have been observed using commercial tools, LOTL utilities, and appliances already present on the system for system information [ T1082 ], network service [ T1046 ], group [ T1069 ] and user [ T1033 ] discovery.

Volt Typhoon uses at least the following LOTL tools and commands for system information, network service, group, and user discovery techniques:

Some observed specific examples of discovery include:

  • Specifically, in one incident, analysis of the PowerShell console history of a domain controller indicated that security event logs were directed to a file named user.dat , as evidenced by the executed command Get-EventLog security -instanceid 4624 -after [year-month-date] | fl * | Out-File 'C:\users\public\documents\user.dat' . This indicates the group's specific interest in capturing successful logon events (event ID 4624 ) to analyze user authentication patterns within the network. Additionally, file system analysis, specifically of the Master File Table (MFT), uncovered evidence of a separate file, systeminfo.dat , which was created in C:\Users\Public\Documents but subsequently deleted [ T1070.004 ]. The presence of these activities suggests a methodical approach by Volt Typhoon actors in collecting and then possibly removing traces of sensitive log information from the compromised system.
  • Executing tasklist /v to gather a detailed process listing [ T1057 ], followed by executing taskkill /f /im rdpservice.exe (the function of this executable is not known).
  • Executing net user and quser for user account information [ T1087.001 ].
  • Creating and accessing a file named rult3uil.log on a domain controller in C:\Windows\System32\ . The rult3uil.log file contained user activities on a compromised system, showcasing a combination of window title information [ T1010 ] and focus shifts, keypresses, and command executions across Google Chrome and Windows PowerShell, with corresponding timestamps.
  • Employing ping with various IP addresses to check network connectivity [ T1016.001 ] and net start to list running services [ T1007 ].

See Appendix A for additional LOTL examples.

In one confirmed compromise, Volt Typhoon actors attempted to use Advanced IP Scanner, which was on the network for admin use, to scan the network.

Volt Typhoon actors have been observed strategically targeting network administrator web browser data—focusing on both browsing history and stored credentials [ T1555.003 ]—to facilitate targeting of personal email addresses (see the Reconnaissance section) for further discovery and possible network modifications that may impact the threat actor’s persistence within victim networks.

In one confirmed compromise:

  • Volt Typhoon actors obtained the history file from the User Data directory of a network administrator user’s Chrome browser. To obtain the history file, Volt Typhoon actors first executed an RDP session to the user’s workstation where they initially attempted, and failed, to obtain the C$ File Name: users\{redacted}\appdata\local\Google\Chrome\UserData\default\History file, as evidenced by the accompanying 1016 (reopen failed) SMB error listed in the application event log. The threat actors then disconnected the RDP session to the workstation and accessed the file C:\Users\{redacted}\Downloads\History.zip . This file presumably contained data from the User Data directory of the user’s Chrome browser, which the actors likely saved in the Downloads directory for exfiltration [ T1074 ]. Shortly after accessing the history.zip file, the actors terminated RDP sessions.
  • About four months later, Volt Typhoon actors accessed the same user’s Chrome data C$ File Name: Users\{redacted}\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Local State and $ File Name: Users\{redacted}\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Login Data via SMB. The Local State file contains the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption key [ T1552.004 ] used to encrypt the passwords stored in the Chrome browser, which would enable the actors to obtain plaintext passwords stored in the Login Data file in the Chrome browser.

In another confirmed compromise, Volt Typhoon actors accessed directories containing Chrome and Edge user data on multiple systems. Directory interaction was observed over the network to paths such as C:\Users\{redacted}\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\ and C:\Users\{redacted}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Edge\User Data\ . They also enumerated several directories, including directories containing vulnerability testing and cyber related content and facilities data, such as construction drawings [ T1083 ].

Lateral Movement

For lateral movement, Volt Typhoon actors have been observed predominantly employing RDP with compromised valid administrator credentials. Note: With a full on-premises Microsoft Active Directory identity compromise (see the Credential Access section), the group may be capable of using other methods such as Pass the Hash or Pass the Ticket for lateral movement [ T1550 ].

In one confirmed compromise of a Water and Wastewater Systems Sector entity, after obtaining initial access, Volt Typhoon actors connected to the network via a VPN with administrator credentials they obtained and opened an RDP session with the same credentials to move laterally. Over a nine-month period, they moved laterally to a file server, a domain controller, an Oracle Management Server (OMS), and a VMware vCenter server. The actors obtained domain credentials from the domain controller and performed discovery, collection, and exfiltration on the file server (see the Discovery and Collection and Exfiltration sections).

Volt Typhoon’s movement to the vCenter server was likely strategic for pre-positioning to OT assets. The vCenter server was adjacent to OT assets, and Volt Typhoon actors were observed interacting with the PuTTY application on the server by enumerating existing stored sessions. With this information, Volt Typhoon potentially had access to a range of critical PuTTY profiles, including those for water treatment plants, water wells, an electrical substation, OT systems, and network security devices. This would enable them to access these critical systems [ T1563 ]. See Figure 2.

Figure 2: Volt Typhoon Lateral Movement Path File Server, DC, and OT-Adjacent Assets

Additionally, Volt Typhoon actors have been observed using PSExec to execute remote processes, including the automated acceptance of the end-user license agreement (EULA) through an administrative account, signified by the accepteula command flag.

Volt Typhoon actors may have attempted to move laterally to a cloud environment in one victim’s network but direct attribution to the Volt Typhoon group was inconclusive. During the period of the their known network presence, there were anomalous login attempts to an Azure tenant [ T1021.007 ] potentially using credentials [ T1078.004 ] previously compromised from theft of NTDS.dit . These attempts, coupled with misconfigured virtual machines with open RDP ports, suggested a potential for cloud-based lateral movement. However, subsequent investigations, including password changes and multifactor authentication (MFA) implementations, revealed authentication failures from non-associated IP addresses, with no definitive link to Volt Typhoon.

Collection and Exfiltration

The U.S. authoring agencies assess Volt Typhoon primarily collects information that would facilitate follow-on actions with physical impacts. For example, in one confirmed compromise, they collected [ TA0009 ] sensitive information obtained from a file server in multiple zipped files [ T1560 ] and likely exfiltrated [ TA0010 ] the files via Server Message Block (SMB) [ T1048 ] (see Figure 3). Collected information included diagrams and documentation related to OT equipment, including supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, relays, and switchgear. This data is crucial for understanding and potentially impacting critical infrastructure systems, indicating a focus on gathering intelligence that could be leveraged in actions targeting physical assets and systems.

Figure 3: Volt Typhoon Attack Path for Exfiltration of Data from File Server

In another compromise, Volt Typhoon actors leveraged WMIC to create and use temporary directories ( C:\Users\Public\pro , C:\Windows\Temp\tmp , C:\Windows\Temp\tmp\Active Directory and C:\Windows\Temp\tmp\registry ) to stage the extracted ntds.dit and SYSTEM registry hives from ntdsutil execution volume shadow copies (see the Credential Access section) obtained from two DCs. They then compressed and archived the extracted ntds.dit and accompanying registry files by executing ronf.exe , which was likely a renamed version of the archive utility rar.exe ) [ T1560.001 ].

Command and Control

Volt Typhoon actors have been observed leveraging compromised SOHO routers and virtual private servers (VPS) to proxy C2 traffic. For more information, see DOJ press release U.S. Government Disrupts Botnet People’s Republic of China Used to Conceal Hacking of Critical Infrastructure ).

They have also been observed setting up FRP clients [ T1090 ] on a victim’s corporate infrastructure to establish covert communications channels [ T1573 ] for command and control. In one instance, Volt Typhoon actors implanted the FRP client with filename SMSvcService.exe on a Shortel Enterprise Contact Center (ECC) server and a second FRP client with filename Brightmetricagent.exe on another server. These clients, when executed via PowerShell [ T1059.001 ], open reverse proxies between the compromised system and Volt Typhoon C2 servers. Brightmetricagent.exe has additional capabilities. The FRP client can locate servers behind a network firewall or obscured through Network Address Translation (NAT) [ T1016 ]. It also contains multiplexer libraries that can bi-directionally stream data over NAT networks and contains a command-line interface (CLI) library that can leverage command shells such as PowerShell, Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), and Z Shell (zsh) [ T1059.004 ]. See Appendix C and MAR-10448362-1.v1 for more information.

In the same compromise, Volt Typhoon actors exploited a Paessler Router Traffic Grapher (PRTG) server as an intermediary for their FRP operations. To facilitate this, they used the netsh command, a legitimate Windows command, to create a PortProxy registry modification [ T1112 ] on the PRTG server [ T1090.001 ]. This key alteration redirected specific port traffic to Volt Typhoon’s proxy infrastructure, effectively converting the PRTG’s server into a proxy for their C2 traffic [ T1584.004 ] (see Appendix B for details).

DETECTION/HUNT RECOMMENDATIONS

Apply living off the land detection best practices.

Apply the prioritized detection and hardening best practice recommendations provided in joint guide Identifying and Mitigating Living off the Land Techniques . Many organizations lack security and network management best practices (such as established baselines) that support detection of malicious LOTL activity—this makes it difficult for network defenders to discern legitimate behavior from malicious behavior and conduct behavior analytics, anomaly detection, and proactive hunting. Conventional IOCs associated with the malicious activity are generally lacking, complicating network defenders’ efforts to identify, track, and categorize this sort of malicious behavior. This advisory provides guidance for a multifaceted cybersecurity strategy that enables behavior analytics, anomaly detection, and proactive hunting, which are part of a comprehensive approach to mitigating cyber threats that employ LOTL techniques.

Review Application, Security, and System Event Logs

R outinely review application, security, and system event logs, focusing on Windows Extensible Storage Engine Technology ( ESENT) Application Logs . Due to Volt Typhoon’s ability for long-term undetected persistence, network defenders should assume significant dwell time and review specific application event log IDs, which remain on endpoints for longer periods compared to security event logs and other ephemeral artifacts. Focus on Windows ESENT logs because certain ESENT Application Log event IDs ( 216 , 325 , 326 , and 327 ) may indicate actors copying NTDS.dit .

See Table 1 for examples of ESENT and other key log indicators that should be investigated. Please note that incidents may not always have exact matches listed in the Event Detail column due to variations in event logging and TTPs.

Monitor and Review OT System Logs

  • Review access logs for communication paths between IT and OT networks, looking for anomalous accesses or protocols.
  • Measure the baseline of normal operations and network traffic for the industrial control system (ICS) and assess traffic anomalies for malicious activity.
  • Configure intrusion detection systems (IDS) to create alarms for any ICS network traffic outside normal operations.
  • Track and monitor audit trails on critical areas of ICS.
  • Set up security incident and event monitoring (SIEM) to monitor, analyze, and correlate event logs from across the ICS network to identify intrusion attempts.

Review CISA’s Recommended Cybersecurity Practices for Industrial Control Systems and the joint advisory, NSA and CISA Recommend Immediate Actions to Reduce Exposure Across all Operational Technologies and Control Systems , for further OT system detection and mitigation guidance.

Use gait to Detect Possible Network Proxy Activities

Use gait[ 4 ] to detect network proxy activities . Developed by Sandia National Labs, gait is a publicly available Zeek[ 5 ] extension. The gait extension can help enrich Zeek’s network connection monitoring and SSL logs by including additional metadata in the logs. Specifically, gait captures unique TCP options and timing data such as a TCP, transport layer security (TLS), and Secure Shell (SSH) layer inferred round trip times (RTT), aiding in the identification of the software used by both endpoints and intermediaries.

While the gait extension for Zeek is an effective tool for enriching network monitoring logs with detailed metadata, it is not specifically designed to detect Volt Typhoon actor activities. The extension’s capabilities extend to general anomaly detection in network traffic, including—but not limited to—proxying activities. Therefore, while gait can be helpful in identifying tactics similar to those used by Volt Typhoon, such as proxy networks and FRP clients for C2 communication, not all proxying activities detected by using this additional metadata are necessarily indicative of Volt Typhoon presence. It serves as a valuable augmentation to current security stacks for a broader spectrum of threat detection.

For more information, see Sandia National Lab’s gait GitHub page sandialabs/gait: Zeek Extension to Collect Metadata for Profiling of Endpoints and Proxies .

Review Logins for Impossible Travel

Examine VPN or other account logon times, frequency, duration, and locations. Logons from two geographically distant locations within a short timeframe from a single user may indicate an account is being used maliciously. Logons of unusual frequency or duration may indicate a threat actor attempting to access a system repeatedly or maintain prolonged sessions for the purpose of data extraction.

Review Standard Directories for Unusual Files

Review directories, such as C:\windows\temp\ and C:\users\public\ , for unexpected or unusual files . Monitor these temporary file storage directories for files typically located in standard system paths, such as the System32 directory. For example, Volt Typhoon has been observed downloading comsvcs.dll to a non-standard folder (this file is normally found in the System32 folder).

INCIDENT RESPONSE

If compromise, or potential compromise, is detected, organizations should assume full domain compromise because of Volt Typhoon’s known behavioral pattern of extracting the NTDS.dit from the DCs. Organizations should immediately implement the following immediate, defensive countermeasures:

  • If you cannot sever from the internet, shutdown all non-essential traffic between the affected enterprise network and the internet .
  • Review access policies to temporarily revoke privileges/access for affected accounts/devices. If it is necessary to not alert the attacker (e.g., for intelligence purposes), then privileges can be reduced for affected accounts/devices to “contain” them.
  • Monitor related accounts, especially administrative accounts, for any further signs of unauthorized access.
  • Change all credentials being used to manage network devices, to include keys and strings used to secure network device functions (SNMP strings/user credentials, IPsec/IKE preshared keys, routing secrets, TACACS/RADIUS secrets, RSA keys/certificates, etc.).
  • Update all firmware and software to the latest version.
  • Report the compromise to an authoring agency (see the Contact Information section).
  • Verify that all accounts with privileged role assignments are cloud native, not synced from Active Directory.
  • Audit conditional access policies to ensure Global Administrators and other highly privileged service principals and accounts are not exempted.
  • Audit privileged role assignments to ensure adherence to the principle of least privilege when assigning privileged roles.
  • Leverage just-in-time and just-enough access mechanisms when administrators need to elevate to a privileged role.
  • In hybrid environments, ensure federated systems (such as AD FS) are configured and monitored properly.
  • Audit Enterprise Applications for recently added applications and examine the API permissions assigned to each.
  • Reconnect to the internet. Note: The decision to reconnect to the internet depends on senior leadership’s confidence in the actions taken. It is possible—depending on the environment—that new information discovered during pre-eviction and eviction steps could add additional eviction tasks.
  • Minimize and control use of remote access tools and protocols by applying best practices from joint Guide to Securing Remote Access Software and joint Cybersecurity Information Sheet: Keeping PowerShell: Security Measures to Use and Embrace .
  • Consider sharing technical information with an authoring agency and/or a sector-specific information sharing and analysis center.

For more information on incident response and remediation, see:

  • Joint advisory Technical Approaches to Uncovering and Remediating Malicious Activity . This advisory provides incident response best practices.
  • CISA’s Federal Government Cybersecurity Incident and Vulnerability Response Playbooks . Although tailored to U.S. Federal Civilian Executive Branch (FCEB) agencies, the playbooks are applicable to all organizations. The incident response playbook provides procedures to identify, coordinate, remediate, recover, and track successful mitigations from incidents.
  • Joint Water and Wastewater Sector - Incident Response Guide . This joint guide provides incident response best practices and information on federal resources for Water and Wastewater Systems Sector organizations.

MITIGATIONS

These mitigations are intended for IT administrators in critical infrastructure organizations. The authoring agencies recommend that software manufactures incorporate secure by design and default principles and tactics into their software development practices to strengthen the security posture for their customers.

For information on secure by design practices that may protect customers against common Volt Typhoon techniques, see joint guide Identifying and Mitigating Living off the Land Techniques and joint Secure by Design Alert Security Design Improvements for SOHO Device Manufacturers .

For more information on secure by design, see CISA’s Secure by Design webpage and joint guide .

The authoring agencies recommend organizations implement the mitigations below to improve your organization’s cybersecurity posture on the basis of Volt Typhoon activity. These mitigations align with the Cross-Sector Cybersecurity Performance Goals (CPGs) developed by CISA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The CPGs provide a minimum set of practices and protections that CISA and NIST recommend all organizations implement. CISA and NIST based the CPGs on existing cybersecurity frameworks and guidance to protect against the most common and impactful threats, tactics, techniques, and procedures. Visit CISA’s Cross-Sector Cybersecurity Performance Goals for more information on the CPGs, including additional recommended baseline protections.

IT Network Administrators and Defenders

Harden the attack surface.

  • A pply patches for internet-facing systems within a risk-informed span of time [ CPG 1E ]. Prioritize patching critical assets, known exploited vulnerabilities , and vulnerabilities in appliances known to be frequently exploited by Volt Typhoon (e.g., Fortinet, Ivanti, NETGEAR, Citrix, and Cisco devices).
  • Apply vendor-provided or industry standard hardening guidance to strengthen software and system configurations. Note: As part of CISA’s Secure by Design campaign , CISA urges software manufacturers to prioritize secure by default configurations to eliminate the need for customer implementation of hardening guidelines.
  • Maintain and regularly update an inventory of all organizational IT assets [ CPG 1A ].
  • Use third party assessments to validate current system and network security compliance via security architecture reviews, penetration tests, bug bounties, attack surface management services, incident simulations, or table-top exercises (both announced and unannounced) [ CPG 1F ].
  • Limit internet exposure of systems when not necessary . An organization’s primary attack surface is the combination of the exposure of all its internet-facing systems. Decrease the attack surface by not exposing systems or management interfaces to the internet when not necessary.

Secure Credentials

  • Do not store credentials on edge appliances/devices . Ensure edge devices do not contain accounts that could provide domain admin access.
  • Do not store plaintext credentials on any system [ CPG 2L ]. Credentials should be stored securely—such as with a credential/password manager or vault, or other privileged account management solutions—so they can only be accessed by authenticated and authorized users.
  • Change default passwords [ CPG 2A ] and ensure they meet the policy requirements for complexity.
  • Requires passwords for all IT password-protected assets to be at least 15 characters;
  • Does not allow users to reuse passwords for accounts, applications, services , etc., [ CPG 2C ]; and
  • Does not allow service accounts/machine accounts to reuse passwords from member user accounts.
  • Configure Group Policy settings to prevent web browsers from saving passwords and disable autofill functions.
  • Disable the storage of clear text passwords in LSASS memory .

Secure Accounts

  • Implement phishing-resistant MFA for access to assets [ CPG 2H ].
  • User accounts should never have administrator or super-user privileges [ CPG 2E ].
  • Administrators should never use administrator accounts for actions and activities not associated with the administrator role (e.g., checking email, web browsing).
  • Ensure administrator accounts only have the minimum permissions necessary to complete their tasks.
  • Review account permissions for default/accounts for edge appliances/devices and remove domain administrator privileges, if identified.
  • Significantly limit the number of users with elevated privileges . Implement continuous monitoring for changes in group membership, especially in privileged groups, to detect and respond to unauthorized modifications.
  • Remove accounts from high-privilege groups like Enterprise Admins and Schema Admins . Temporarily reinstate these privileges only when necessary and under strict auditing to reduce the risk of privilege abuse.
  • Transition to Group Managed Service Accounts (gMSAs) where suitable for enhanced management and security of service account credentials. gMSAs provide automated password management and simplified Service Principal Name (SPN) management, enhancing security over traditional service accounts. See Microsoft’s Group Managed Service Accounts Overview .
  • Enforce strict policies via Group Policy and User Rights Assignments to limit high-privilege service accounts.
  • Consider using a privileged access management (PAM) solution to manage access to privileged accounts and resources [ CPG 2L ]. PAM solutions can also log and alert usage to detect any unusual activity.
  • Complement the PAM solution with role-based access control (RBAC) for tailored access based on job requirements. This ensures that elevated access is granted only when required and for a limited duration, minimizing the window of opportunity for abuse or exploitation of privileged credentials.
  • Implement an Active Directory tiering model to segregate administrative accounts based on their access level and associated risk. This approach reduces the potential impact of a compromised account. See Microsoft’s PAM environment tier model .
  • Harden administrative workstations to only permit administrative activities from workstations appropriately hardened based on the administrative tier. See Microsoft’s Why are privileged access devices important - Privileged access .
  • Disable all user accounts and access to organizational resources of employees on the day of their departure [ CPG 2G ]
  • Regularly audit all user, admin, and service accounts and remove or disable unused or unneeded accounts as applicable.
  • Regularly roll NTLM hashes of accounts that support token-based authentication.
  • Using cloud only administrators that are asynchronous with on-premises environments and ensuring on-premises administrators are asynchronous to the cloud.
  • Using CISA’s SCuBAGear tool to discover cloud misconfigurations in Microsoft cloud tenants . SCuBA gear is automation script for comparing Federal Civilian Executive Branch (FCEB) agency tenant configurations against CISA M365 baseline recommendations. SCuBAGear is part of CISA’s Secure Cloud Business Applications (SCuBA) project, which provides guidance for FCEB agencies, securing their cloud business application environments and protecting federal information created, accessed, shared, and stored in those environments. Although tailored to FCEB agencies, the project provides security guidance applicable to all organizations with cloud environments. For more information on SCuBAGear see CISA’s Secure Cloud Business Applications (SCuBA) Project .
  • Using endpoint detection and response capabilities to actively defend on-premises federation servers.

Secure Remote Access Services

  • Limit the use of RDP and other remote desktop services . If RDP is necessary, apply best practices, including auditing the network for systems using RDP, closing unused RDP ports, and logging RDP login attempts.
  • Disable Server Message Block (SMB) protocol version 1 and upgrade to version 3 (SMBv3) after mitigating existing dependencies (on existing systems or applications), as they may break when disabled.
  • Harden SMBv3 by implementing guidance included in joint #StopRansomware Guide (see page 8 of the guide).
  • Apply mitigations from the joint Guide to Securing Remote Access Software .

Secure Sensitive Data

  • Securely store sensitive data (including operational technology documentation, network diagrams, etc.), ensuring that only authenticated and authorized users can access the data.

Implement Network Segmentation

  • Ensure that sensitive accounts use their administrator credentials only on hardened, secure computers . This practice can reduce lateral movement exposure within networks.
  • Conduct comprehensive trust assessments to identify business-critical trusts and apply necessary controls to prevent unauthorized cross-forest/domain traversal.
  • Harden federated authentication by enabling Secure Identifier (SID) Filtering and Selective Authentication on AD trust relationships to further restrict unauthorized access across domain boundaries.
  • Implement network segmentation to isolate federation servers from other systems and limit allowed traffic to systems and protocols that require access in accordance with Zero Trust principles.

Secure Cloud Assets

  • Organizations with Microsoft cloud infrastructure, see CISA’s Microsoft 365 Security Configuration Baseline Guides , which provide minimum viable secure configuration baselines for Microsoft Defender for Office 365, Azure Active Directory (now known as Microsoft Entra ID), Exchange Online, OneDrive for Business, Power BI, Power Platform, SharePoint Online, and Teams. For additional guidance, see the Australian Signals Directorate’s Blueprint for Secure Cloud .
  • Organizations with Google cloud infrastructure, see CISA’s Google Workspace Security Configuration Baseline Guides , which provide minimum viable secure configuration baselines for Groups for Business, GMAIL, Google Calendar, Google Chat, Google Common Controls, Google Classroom, Google Drive and Docs, Google Meet, and Google Sites.
  • Enforce this practice through the use of Conditional Access Policies . These policies can initially be run in report-only mode to identify potential impacts and plan mitigations before fully enforcing them. This approach allows organizations to systematically control access to their cloud resources, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized access and potential compromise.
  • Regularly monitor and audit privileged cloud-based accounts , including service accounts, which are frequently abused to enable broad cloud resource access and persistence.

Be Prepared

  • For OT assets where logs are non-standard or not available, collect network traffic and communications between those assets and other assets .
  • Implement file integrity monitoring (FIM) tools to detect unauthorized changes.
  • Ensure the logs can only be accessed or modified by authorized and authenticated users [ CPG 2U ].
  • Store logs for a period informed by risk or pertinent regulatory guidelines .
  • Tune log alerting to reduce noise while ensuring there are alerts for high-risk activities . (For information on alert tuning, see joint guide Identifying and Mitigating Living Off the Land Techniques .)
  • Establish and continuously maintain a baseline of installed tools and software, account behavior, and network traffic . This way, network defenders can identify potential outliers, which may indicate malicious activity. Note: For information on establishing a baseline, see joint guide Identifying and Mitigating Living off the Land Techniques .
  • Document a list of threats and cyber actor TTPs relevant to your organization (e.g., based on industry or sectors), and maintain the ability (such as via rules, alerting, or commercial prevention and detection systems) to detect instances of those key threats [ CPG 3A ].
  • Tailor the training to network IT personnel/administrators and other key staff based on relevant organizational cyber threats and TTPs , such as Volt Typhoon. For example, communicate that Volt Typhoon actors are known to target personal email accounts of IT staff, and encourage staff to protect their personal email accounts by using strong passwords and implementing MFA.
  • In addition to basic cybersecurity training, ensure personnel who maintain or secure OT as part of their regular duties receive OT-specific cybersecurity training on at least an annual basis [ CPG 2J ].
  • Educate users about the risks associated with storing unprotected passwords .

OT Administrators and Defenders

  • Change default passwords [ CPG 2A ] and ensure they meet the policy requirements for complexity. If the asset’s password cannot be changed, implement compensating controls for the device; for example, segment the device into separate enclaves and implement increased monitoring and logging.
  • Require that passwords for all OT password-protected assets be at least 15 characters , when technically feasible. In instances where minimum passwords lengths are not technically feasible (for example, assets in remote locations), apply compensating controls, record the controls, and log all login attempts. [ CPG 2B ].
  • Enforce strict access policies for accessing OT networks . Develop strict operating procedures for OT operators that details secure configuration and usage.
  • Denying all connections to the OT network by default unless explicitly allowed (e.g., by IP address and port) for specific system functionality.
  • Requiring necessary communications paths between IT and OT networks to pass through an intermediary , such as a properly configured firewall, bastion host, “jump box,” or a demilitarized zone (DMZ), which is closely monitored, captures network logs, and only allows connections from approved assets.
  • Closely monitor all connections into OT networks for misuse, anomalous activity, or OT protocols .
  • Monitor for unauthorized controller change attempts . Implement integrity checks of controller process logic against a known good baseline. Ensure process controllers are prevented from remaining in remote program mode while in operation if possible.
  • Lock or limit set points in control processes to reduce the consequences of unauthorized controller access .
  • Maintain and regularly update an inventory of all organizational OT assets.
  • Understand and evaluate cyber risk on “as-operated” OT assets.
  • Create an accurate “as-operated” OT network map and identify OT and IT network inter-dependencies.
  • Plan for how to continue operations if a control system is malfunctioning, inoperative, or actively acting contrary to the safe and reliable operation of the process.
  • Develop workarounds or manual controls to ensure ICS networks can be isolated if the connection to a compromised IT environment creates risk to the safe and reliable operation of OT processes.
  • Regularly test manual controls so that critical functions can be kept running if OT networks need to be taken offline.
  • Regularly test backup procedures.
  • Follow risk-informed guidance in the joint advisory NSA and CISA Recommend Immediate Actions to Reduce Exposure Across all Operational Technologies and Control Systems , the NSA advisory Stop Malicious Cyber Activity Against Connected Operational Technology .

CONTACT INFORMATION

US organizations: To report suspicious or criminal activity related to information found in this joint Cybersecurity Advisory, contact:

  • CISA’s 24/7 Operations Center at [email protected] or (888) 282-0870 or your local FBI field office . When available, please include the following information regarding the incident: date, time, and location of the incident; type of activity; number of people affected; type of equipment used for the activity; the name of the submitting company or organization; and a designated point of contact.
  • For NSA client requirements or general cybersecurity inquiries, contact [email protected] .
  • Water and Wastewater Systems Sector organizations, contact the EPA Water Infrastructure and Cyber Resilience Division at [email protected] to voluntarily provide situational awareness.
  • Entities required to report incidents to DOE should follow established reporting requirements, as appropriate. For other energy sector inquiries, contact [email protected] .
  • For transportation entities regulated by TSA, report to CISA Central in accordance with the requirements found in applicable Security Directives, Security Programs, or TSA Order.

Australian organizations: Visit cyber.gov.au or call 1300 292 371 (1300 CYBER 1) to report cybersecurity incidents and access alerts and advisories.

Canadian organizations: Report incidents by emailing CCCS at [email protected] .

New Zealand organizations: Report cyber security incidents to [email protected] or call 04 498 7654.

United Kingdom organizations : Report a significant cyber security incident: ncsc.gov.uk/report-an-incident (monitored 24 hours) or, for urgent assistance, call 03000 200 973.

VALIDATE SECURITY CONTROLS

In addition to applying mitigations, the authoring agencies recommend exercising, testing, and validating your organization's security program against the threat behaviors mapped to the MITRE ATT&CK for Enterprise framework in this advisory. The authoring agencies recommend testing your existing security controls inventory to assess how they perform against the ATT&CK techniques described in this advisory.

To get started:

  • Select an ATT&CK technique described in this advisory (see Table 5 through Table 17).
  • Align your security technologies against the technique.
  • Test your technologies against the technique.
  • Analyze your detection and prevention technologies’ performance.
  • Repeat the process for all security technologies to obtain a set of comprehensive performance data.
  • Tune your security program, including people, processes, and technologies, based on the data generated by this process.

The authoring agencies recommend continually testing your security program, at scale, in a production environment to ensure optimal performance against the MITRE ATT&CK techniques identified in this advisory.

[1] fofa [2] Microsoft: Volt Typhoon targets US critical infrastructure with living-off-the-land techniques [3] GitHub - fatedier/frp: A fast reverse proxy to help you expose a local server behind a NAT or firewall to the internet [4] GitHub - sandialabs/gait: Zeek Extension to Collect Metadata for Profiling of Endpoints and Proxies [5] The Zeek Network Security Monitor

Microsoft: Volt Typhoon targets US critical infrastructure with living-off-the-land techniques Secureworks: Chinese Cyberespionage Group BRONZE SILHOUETTE Targets U.S. Government and Defense Organizations

The information in this report is being provided “as is” for informational purposes only. The authoring agencies do not endorse any commercial entity, product, company, or service, including any entities, products, or services linked within this document. Any reference to specific commercial entities, products, processes, or services by service mark, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the authoring agencies.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Fortinet and Microsoft contributed to this advisory.

VERSION HISTORY

February 7, 2024: Initial Version.

APPENDIX A: VOLT TYPHOON OBSERVED COMMANDS / LOTL ACTIVITY

See Table 2 and Table 3 for Volt Typhoon commands and PowerShell scripts observed by the U.S. authoring agencies during incident response activities. For additional commands used by Volt Typhoon, see joint advisory People's Republic of China State-Sponsored Cyber Actor Living off the Land to Evade Detection .

APPENDIX B: INDICATORS OF COMPROMISE

See Table 4 for Volt Typhoon IOCs obtained by the U.S. authoring agencies during incident response activities.

Note: See MAR-10448362-1.v1 for more information on this malware.

APPENDIX C: MITRE ATT&CK TACTICS AND TECHNIQUES

See Table 5 through Table 17 for all referenced threat actor tactics and techniques in this advisory.

This product is provided subject to this  Notification  and this  Privacy & Use  policy.

Please share your thoughts

We recently updated our anonymous product survey ; we’d welcome your feedback.

Related Advisories

Threat actor leverages compromised account of former employee to access state government organization, known indicators of compromise associated with androxgh0st malware, #stopransomware: alphv blackcat, #stopransomware: play ransomware.

Generate SSRS Report On Demand with PowerShell and a Web Service

By: Jeffrey Yao   |   Updated: 2024-02-14   |   Comments   |   Related: > Reporting Services Development

There are times when we need to generate the same SSRS report over and over again but using different parameters for each run. We may also need to generate a report in a specific format, such as PDF or Excel, and then send it to different users.

For example, let's assume I am a teacher with an SSRS report that can generate a student's test score report based on the student ID, and I want to send each student their score report by email. How can I accomplish this without having to manually run the report over and over again using different parameters for each run?

SSRS provides functionality through an XML web service with a SOAP API. As such, if we can make a program send a correct web service request with the right parameter values, we should be able to get the SSRS to render a report with the needed format.

Fortunately, in PowerShell, we have a cmdlet called invoke-webrequest that can make a request to a web service. As long as we compose the right request, i.e., with proper parameter values for the SSRS service, SSRS will generate the right report with the correct format (PDF of a CSV or HTML, etc.).

Let's demonstrate how this works. First, we need to create a demo package composed of a simple SSRS report on three simple tables plus one PS script:

Create a Simple SSRS Report

As shown below, it is a straightforward report, so I won't explain how to create it. However, I will provide the key information about what data the report will use (all screenshots are from SSRS Report Builder ).

ScoreReport Layout

I created a data source named [dsScore], which is defined as the following:

data source [dsStore]

Based on this data source, two datasets were created:

  • [dsetStudentID] with the following setup. This dataset is to provide values for the report parameter, i.e., [StudentID].

dataset [dsetStudentID]

  • [dsetScore]

dataset [dsetScore]

We also created an SSRS parameter [StudentID].

report parameter [StudentID]

This parameter's available values are from the dataset [dsetStudentID]

parameter values

After the report is published to the SSRS server, we run it. If we chose, for example, StudentID = 2, we will get the following report:

ScoreReport manual rendering

This report can be saved as a PDF file by clicking the save button and choosing "PDF." This score_report.pdf file will automatically save to your computer's [Download] folder.

Manully_saved_report

To do this for each student is very manual. First, we must choose a Student ID and then save the generated report to a PDF file. If we need to generate a score report for each student in a class, operating manually can be very tedious.

Create PowerShell Script to Run SSRS Report with Parameter

To automate this via programming, we can use the following PowerShell script to do the work. I will assume you have installed the latest PowerShell SQL Server module .

The report rendering command, i.e., rs:Format, can have one of the following common formats: PDF, CSV, XML, Word, Excel, or IMAGE. For details, please see the links in the Next Steps section of this tip.

One special note here is that the parameter name in the Uri link is case-sensitive and should be exactly the same as the parameter name used in the SSRS report. In my case, it is StudentID (see Fig_Parameter above). If I use studentid instead of StudentID, it will not work.

uri_param_case_sensititive

To run the script quickly, we can copy and paste it into a PS ISE window and run it, and we will find three PDF files generated:

Three_ScoreReport_Files

If I open ScoreReport_2.pdf with Acrobat Reader, I can see the following:

ScoreReport_2.pdf

Report Delivery via Email

With all reports generated, we can easily create a T-SQL script to send out each report to individual students.

Assuming we already have SQL Server database mail set up, we can use the following T-SQL script to do the work:

If I set @debug = 1 and run the T-SQL script in an SSMS query window, I will get the following printed T-SQL commands:

Generated_Delivery_code

We can examine the code generated and see whether it is logically correct. We can even copy and paste a few lines to run manually. Or we can set @debug = 0 so the whole delivery script can be executed. Of course, SQL Server database mail needs to be set up before any email can be sent out.

This tip uses PowerShell to generate an SSRS report via a web service request. Once the files are generated, we may further handle them for other purposes, such as sending them to end users.

We can generate SSRS reports in many other formats, such as Word, Excel, CSV, or XML formats, and these types of files may be consumed by other downstream applications. It extends the presentation of the data inside SQL Server databases.

We may also modify the PS script in this tip to be a function and package it into a customized module so we can use it more conveniently.

The following links provide more information about SSRS URL access details, which are the technical foundation of this tip. Also, at MSSQLTips, we have other tips about performing similar work within an SSIS package.

  • SSRS URL Access
  • SSRS Web Service URI Parameter .
  • Execute a SQL Server Reporting Services report from Integration Services Package

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About the author

MSSQLTips author Jeffrey Yao

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Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

In Word, you can create a form that others can fill out and save or print.  To do this, you will start with baseline content in a document, potentially via a form template.  Then you can add content controls for elements such as check boxes, text boxes, date pickers, and drop-down lists. Optionally, these content controls can be linked to database information.  Following are the recommended action steps in sequence.  

Show the Developer tab

In Word, be sure you have the Developer tab displayed in the ribbon.  (See how here:  Show the developer tab .)

Open a template or a blank document on which to base the form

You can start with a template or just start from scratch with a blank document.

Start with a form template

Go to File > New .

In the  Search for online templates  field, type  Forms or the kind of form you want. Then press Enter .

In the displayed results, right-click any item, then select  Create. 

Start with a blank document 

Select Blank document .

Add content to the form

Go to the  Developer  tab Controls section where you can choose controls to add to your document or form. Hover over any icon therein to see what control type it represents. The various control types are described below. You can set properties on a control once it has been inserted.

To delete a content control, right-click it, then select Remove content control  in the pop-up menu. 

Note:  You can print a form that was created via content controls. However, the boxes around the content controls will not print.

Insert a text control

The rich text content control enables users to format text (e.g., bold, italic) and type multiple paragraphs. To limit these capabilities, use the plain text content control . 

Click or tap where you want to insert the control.

Rich text control button

To learn about setting specific properties on these controls, see Set or change properties for content controls .

Insert a picture control

A picture control is most often used for templates, but you can also add a picture control to a form.

Picture control button

Insert a building block control

Use a building block control  when you want users to choose a specific block of text. These are helpful when you need to add different boilerplate text depending on the document's specific purpose. You can create rich text content controls for each version of the boilerplate text, and then use a building block control as the container for the rich text content controls.

building block gallery control

Select Developer and content controls for the building block.

Developer tab showing content controls

Insert a combo box or a drop-down list

In a combo box, users can select from a list of choices that you provide or they can type in their own information. In a drop-down list, users can only select from the list of choices.

combo box button

Select the content control, and then select Properties .

To create a list of choices, select Add under Drop-Down List Properties .

Type a choice in Display Name , such as Yes , No , or Maybe .

Repeat this step until all of the choices are in the drop-down list.

Fill in any other properties that you want.

Note:  If you select the Contents cannot be edited check box, users won’t be able to click a choice.

Insert a date picker

Click or tap where you want to insert the date picker control.

Date picker button

Insert a check box

Click or tap where you want to insert the check box control.

Check box button

Use the legacy form controls

Legacy form controls are for compatibility with older versions of Word and consist of legacy form and Active X controls.

Click or tap where you want to insert a legacy control.

Legacy control button

Select the Legacy Form control or Active X Control that you want to include.

Set or change properties for content controls

Each content control has properties that you can set or change. For example, the Date Picker control offers options for the format you want to use to display the date.

Select the content control that you want to change.

Go to Developer > Properties .

Controls Properties  button

Change the properties that you want.

Add protection to a form

If you want to limit how much others can edit or format a form, use the Restrict Editing command:

Open the form that you want to lock or protect.

Select Developer > Restrict Editing .

Restrict editing button

After selecting restrictions, select Yes, Start Enforcing Protection .

Restrict editing panel

Advanced Tip:

If you want to protect only parts of the document, separate the document into sections and only protect the sections you want.

To do this, choose Select Sections in the Restrict Editing panel. For more info on sections, see Insert a section break .

Sections selector on Resrict sections panel

If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab .

Open a template or use a blank document

To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls. Content controls include things like check boxes, text boxes, and drop-down lists. If you’re familiar with databases, these content controls can even be linked to data.

Go to File > New from Template .

New from template option

In Search, type form .

Double-click the template you want to use.

Select File > Save As , and pick a location to save the form.

In Save As , type a file name and then select Save .

Start with a blank document

Go to File > New Document .

New document option

Go to File > Save As .

Go to Developer , and then choose the controls that you want to add to the document or form. To remove a content control, select the control and press Delete. You can set Options on controls once inserted. From Options, you can add entry and exit macros to run when users interact with the controls, as well as list items for combo boxes, .

Adding content controls to your form

In the document, click or tap where you want to add a content control.

On Developer , select Text Box , Check Box , or Combo Box .

Developer tab with content controls

To set specific properties for the control, select Options , and set .

Repeat steps 1 through 3 for each control that you want to add.

Set options

Options let you set common settings, as well as control specific settings. Select a control and then select Options to set up or make changes.

Set common properties.

Select Macro to Run on lets you choose a recorded or custom macro to run on Entry or Exit from the field.

Bookmark Set a unique name or bookmark for each control.

Calculate on exit This forces Word to run or refresh any calculations, such as total price when the user exits the field.

Add Help Text Give hints or instructions for each field.

OK Saves settings and exits the panel.

Cancel Forgets changes and exits the panel.

Set specific properties for a Text box

Type Select form Regular text, Number, Date, Current Date, Current Time, or Calculation.

Default text sets optional instructional text that's displayed in the text box before the user types in the field. Set Text box enabled to allow the user to enter text into the field.

Maximum length sets the length of text that a user can enter. The default is Unlimited .

Text format can set whether text automatically formats to Uppercase , Lowercase , First capital, or Title case .

Text box enabled Lets the user enter text into a field. If there is default text, user text replaces it.

Set specific properties for a Check box .

Default Value Choose between Not checked or checked as default.

Checkbox size Set a size Exactly or Auto to change size as needed.

Check box enabled Lets the user check or clear the text box.

Set specific properties for a Combo box

Drop-down item Type in strings for the list box items. Press + or Enter to add an item to the list.

Items in drop-down list Shows your current list. Select an item and use the up or down arrows to change the order, Press - to remove a selected item.

Drop-down enabled Lets the user open the combo box and make selections.

Protect the form

Go to Developer > Protect Form .

Protect form button on the Developer tab

Note:  To unprotect the form and continue editing, select Protect Form again.

Save and close the form.

Test the form (optional)

If you want, you can test the form before you distribute it.

Protect the form.

Reopen the form, fill it out as the user would, and then save a copy.

Creating fillable forms isn’t available in Word for the web.

You can create the form with the desktop version of Word with the instructions in Create a fillable form .

When you save the document and reopen it in Word for the web, you’ll see the changes you made.

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2024 Recalls of Food Products Associated with Dairy Products from Rizo Lopez Foods, Inc. due to the Potential Risk of Listeria monocytogenes

The FDA and CDC, in collaboration with state and local partners, are investigating illnesses in a multi-year, multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to queso fresco and cotija cheeses manufactured by Rizo Lopez Foods, Inc., of Modesto, California. A sample of Rizo Bros Aged Cotija tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes during sampling conducted by the Hawaii State Department of Health’s Food and Drug Branch in January 2024. In response to that finding, Rizo Lopez Foods, Inc. voluntarily recalled one batch of Rizo Bros Aged Cotija Mexican Grating Cheese (8oz) on January 11, 2024. CDC and FDA reopened the investigation in January 2024 after new illnesses were reported in December 2023 and whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis of the cotija cheese sample showed that it is the same strain of Listeria that is causing illnesses in this outbreak. In response to this investigation, Rizo Lopez Foods, Inc. has voluntarily recalled all sell by dates of its dairy products. The recalled products include cheese, yogurt, and sour cream sold under the brand names Tio Francisco, Don Francisco, Rizo Bros, Rio Grande, Food City, El Huache, La Ordena, San Carlos, Campesino, Santa Maria, Dos Ranchitos, Casa Cardenas, and 365 Whole Foods Market.

More information including advice for consumers, restaurants, and retailers is available at FDA's Outbreak Investigation of Listeria monocytogenes : Queso Fresco and Cotija Cheese (February 2024)

The table below lists recalls conducted by companies that further processed the dairy products by using them as ingredients in new products or by repackaging them. 

Public Notifications

Companies have issued public notifications for products linked to the Rizo-López Foods, Inc. dairy products recall that were sold at retail locations. Some of the public notifications are listed here:

  • Costco Member Letter for  Southwest Wrap (Item #29433)
  • Costco Member Letter for  Chicken Street Taco Kit (Item #11545) BA, LA and Select NW & SD Locations
  • Costco Member Letter for  Maverick Foods Chipotle Chicken and Rice Bowl (Item #1704074) TE Locations

OpenAI Develops Web Search Product in Challenge to Google

OpenAI has been developing a web search product that would bring the Microsoft-backed startup into more direct competition with Google, according to someone with knowledge of OpenAI’s plans.

The search service would be partly powered by Bing, this person said.

web pentesting report

Alphabet Drops After Report OpenAI Developing Search Product

  • The Google parent’s shares fall as much as 3.8% on Thursday
  • Alphabet has faced concerns about risks to search from rivals

Alphabet Inc. sank after a report that ChatGPT owner OpenAI is developing a web search product that would compete with Google.

OpenAI’s service would be partly powered by Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine, the Information reported Bloomberg Terminal , citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter. Alphabet fell as much as 3.8% on Thursday, far underperforming the Nasdaq 100, which dipped 0.3%.

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    July 22, 2023. By Content Research. A pentesting report, short for penetration testing report, is a comprehensive document that provides an in-depth analysis of the findings and results of a penetration test. Penetration testing, often referred to as "pentesting", is a controlled and simulated cyber attack on a system, network, application ...

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    Whilst it is beyond scope of this checklist to prescribe a penetration testing methodology (this will be covered in OWASP Testing Part Two), we have included a model testing workflow below. Below is a flow diagram that the tester may find useful when using the testing techniques described in this document.

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    Web Application Penetration Test Report Web Application Security Testing Rhino Security Labs' Web Application Report demonstrates the security risks in a given application by exploiting its flaws. Every web app pentest is structured by our assessment methodology. Structured and repeatable, this process uses the following: Reconnaissance

  18. A Complete Guide to Web Pentesting

    To make sure you're pentesting your website effectively, here's a checklist of things to keep in mind: Understand the web application architecture. Identify the most important assets on the site ...

  19. PDF Cyber Security Services Provider

    UnderDefense is a cyber security services provider that offers security consulting, security as a service, managed SIEM, and more. In this anonymized web application penetration testing report, you can learn how they performed a comprehensive assessment of a client's web application and identified various vulnerabilities and risks.

  20. PDF s4e

    Methodology. The test methodology is a 5-step process that starts with determining the scope of the test and finishes with preparing a report for the customer. The steps in this methodology can be used to understand the penetration testing process. According to the agreement, some steps may not be included in the test.

  21. PDF Sample Penetration Test Report

    1.1 Overview Example Institute (CLIENT) engaged PurpleSec, LLC to conduct penetration testing against the security controls within their information environment to provide a practical demonstration of those controls' effectiveness as well as to provide an estimate of their susceptibility to exploitation and/or data breaches.

  22. h0tPlug1n/Web-Penetration-Testing-Report-Sample

    GitHub - h0tPlug1n/Web-Penetration-Testing-Report-Sample: This is Web Application Penetration Testing Report made for everybody who wanted a glance of how to make a professional report for pentetring purpose. The penetration testing has been done in a sample testable website. Username or email address Password Forgot password? New to GitHub? Terms

  23. Public pentest reports

    Public pentest reports Follow the links to see more details and a PDF for each one of the penetration test reports. astra - Astra-Security-Sample-VAPT-Report BishopFox - Beast - Hybrid Application Assessment 2017 - Assessment Report - 20171114 BishopFox - Bishop Fox Assessment Report - Winston Privacy

  24. PRC State-Sponsored Actors Compromise and Maintain Persistent ...

    SUMMARY. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency (NSA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assess that People's Republic of China (PRC) state-sponsored cyber actors are seeking to pre-position themselves on IT networks for disruptive or destructive cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure in the event of a major crisis or conflict ...

  25. Generate SSRS Report On Demand with PowerShell and a Web Service

    This tip uses PowerShell to generate an SSRS report via a web service request. Once the files are generated, we may further handle them for other purposes, such as sending them to end users. We can generate SSRS reports in many other formats, such as Word, Excel, CSV, or XML formats, and these types of files may be consumed by other downstream ...

  26. Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

    Show the Developer tab. If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab.. Open a template or use a blank document. To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls.

  27. 2024 Recalls of Food Products Associated with Rizo Lopez Foods Inc

    FDA Enforcement Report (where available) 02/07/2024. Trader Joe's. Chicken Enchiladas Verde, Cilantro Salad Dressing, Elote Chopped Salad Kit, Southwest Salad. Trader Joe's Company 02/07/2024 ...

  28. OpenAI Develops Web Search Product in Challenge to Google

    OpenAI has been developing a web search product that would bring the Microsoft-backed startup into more direct competition with Google, according to someone with knowledge of OpenAI's plans. The search service would be partly powered by Bing, this person said.

  29. Alphabet Drops After Report OpenAI Developing Search Product

    Alphabet Inc. sank after a report that ChatGPT owner OpenAI is developing a web search product that would compete with Google. OpenAI's service would be partly powered by Microsoft Corp.'s ...