How to Write the Executive Summary of a Cybersecurity Report

Edward Kost
Edward Kost
updated Sep 02, 2022

Let’s face it, information technology experts are usually not enthusiastic writers. So when it comes to creating an executive report, cybersecurity staff aren’t exactly pushing each other over to get this exciting writing task complete. Instead, it keeps getting delayed, day by day, until the night before its submission.

Many get stuck on the executive summary section, obsessing over its perfection. This is understandable since the executive summary is probably the most important component of the report. All stakeholders judge the value of a report by its executive summary, and some read nothing else but the summary.

So if you’re up late struggling to craft an effective cyber security summary, use this template to finish your work quickly so you can finally get some sleep!

Cybersecurity Executive Summary Example Template

The executive summary of your cybersecurity report is just that - a summary! Don’t bloat it with technical explanations; that’s what the body of the report is for (and even then, you should keep your technical ramblings restrained).

Your executive report should be tailored to the expectations of the leadership team, and most of them don’t want technical jargon.

The executive summary should succinctly summarize your security program efforts and address all of the high-level security concerns of the leadership team.

Learn about the main cybersecurity concerns of the executive team.

To tick all of these boxes, your executive summary should be comprised of the following headings:

  • Key findings
  • Security Risk Monitoring Summary
  • Cyber Incident Summary
  • Cyber Threat Summary
  • Remediation Recommendations

This set of headings is characteristic of a classical method of structuring an executive summary for a security report. 

While this classical structure is still acceptable, if you want to really impress the leadership team, consider using a more modern cybersecurity reporting style in your next reporting cycle (more details below).

Key Findings

The key findings section is a high-level summary of the major security risks encountered in the current reporting period. It should also summarize the remediation efforts that addressed these risks and their efficacy.

Some examples of security incidents worthy of inclusion in this section are:

  • Phishing Attacks - Especially the campaigns involving hackers posing as C-suite executives.
  • Critical Vulnerabilities - Including zero-day exploits, such as Log4Shell and Spring4Shell.
  • Malware injections - Including failed ransomware attacks and other cyber attacks attempts.
  • Access Control abuse - Such as privilege escalation attempts.
  • Data Breaches - The specific attack vectors that facilitated each security breach attempt.
  • Physical security threats - Including lost hard-drives
  • Critical service provider vulnerabilities - Software misconfigurations and data leaks in the third-party ecosystem, whether linked to poor security practices or insufficient security controls.

Some threat mitigation details worthy of mentioning:

  • Incident Response Plan protocols that were activated for each listed cyber risk.
  • Methodologies used to measure risk impact.
  • The lifecycle of each security event.
  • The impact on computer systems and information systems.

Security Risk Monitoring Summary

Summarize the range of security risks and cyber threats monitored in the current reporting cycle. It’s just as important to mention which regions of the IT ecosystem were not monitored and why.

Also, describe the risk monitoring methodology used, i.e., real-time attack surface monitoring.

Learn more about attack surface monitoring.

Security rating software is the most popular method of monitoring emerging security risks and security posture deviations. If your information security team uses such a tool, be sure to summarize the specific data security attack vectors influencing your security rating calculation.

Learn more about security ratings.

Cyber Incident Summary

The security-related incident section is a more detailed delineation of the major remediation efforts mentioned under key findings. Focus on the most critical security incidents - those of the potentially greatest detriment to your security posture.

Such events in the third-party threat landscape are easier to track and identify if you’re implementing a vendor tiering strategy.

Learn more about vendor tiering.

Demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement by benchmarking your risk management efforts against security policies and key metrics such as Mean Time to Contain (MTTC), Mean Time to Resolve (MTTR), etc.

Read about the 14 cybersecurity KPIs you should be tracking.

Also, mention any specific security controls that prevented cyber incidents, such as multi-factor authentication or specific cybersecurity framework controls.

Learn more about the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.

Because this section of the report offers a deeper explanation of encountered cyber incidents, there’s a risk of getting a little too technical with your wording. But don’t obsess over keeping to a set baseline of simplicity. You have a technical representative on the executive team who can offer further clarification if required - the CISO.

Cyber Threat Summary

The preceding section focused on the cyber incidents impacting your security posture, including those initiated by cybercriminals. This section should focus on emerging threats in your ecosystem, internally and throughout the third-party network.

Describe the mechanisms used to discover these threats, i.e., risk assessments.

Learn how to perform a cybersecurity risk assessment.

Cyber threats also include non-compliance with critical security regulations such as PCI DSS and HIPAA, especially for highly-regulated industries like healthcare.

Learn more about cyber threats.

Remediation Recommendations

This final section should summarize the necessary remediation processes for addressing the emerging risks mentioned in the preceding section. If these remediation initiatives require additional investment, include their approximate costs.

Justify the ROI of your investment requests by mapping them to the potential damage costs of the cyber risks they will address.

Learn how to approximate the financial impact of cyber risks.

Instantly Generate a Cybersecurity Executive Report with UpGuard

UpGuard offers a range of customizable cybersecurity report templates to suit a range of stakeholder requirements in detailed and summarized editions.

upguard's executive report template library
UpGuard's libray of executive report templates

Graphical elements and charts represent the cybersecurity KPIs that matter most to executives, with charts and visual elements making your security efforts easier to understand and appreciate.

UpGuard’s modern cybersecurity reports communicate your security efforts more efficiently than the classical executive summary structure outlined above. And they can be generated in just one click, so you don’t need to stay up late writing them.

See the video below for an overview of UpGuard's executive reporting feature.

For a closer look, click here to request a free trial.

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