Using CVSS for Pentest Reports

Using CVSS for Pentest Reports

Mark January 24, 2021


I have been working on a PenTest document which uses a Common Vulnerability Scoring System from (Forum of Incident Response and Security Team) and is an open framework for communicating the characteristics and severity of software vulnerabilities.

For the pentests document I have used the “Common Vulnerability Scoring System” (CVSS) version 3.1, at present (October 2020) the documentation will only cover the CVSS Base score.

All of the content below can be found here … Source –

Below is a summary of how to score vulnerabilities found as part of a penetration test, there is a course available on FIRST website which has examples and goes into more depth (

For more information, visit – belows summary is from this website.

Attack Vector (AV)

Table 1: Attack Vector

Metric ValueDescription
Network (N)The vulnerable component is bound to the network stack and the set of possible attackers extends beyond the other options listed below, up to and including the entire Internet. Such a vulnerability is often termed “remotely exploitable” and can be thought of as an attack being exploitable at the protocol level one or more network hops away (e.g., across one or more routers). An example of a network attack is an attacker causing a denial of service (DoS) by sending a specially crafted TCP packet across a wide area network (e.g., CVE‑2004‑0230).
Adjacent (A)The vulnerable component is bound to the network stack, but the attack is limited at the protocol level to a logically adjacent topology. This can mean an attack must be launched from the same shared physical (e.g., Bluetooth or IEEE 802.11) or logical (e.g., local IP subnet) network, or from within a secure or otherwise limited administrative domain (e.g., MPLS, secure VPN to an administrative network zone). One example of an Adjacent attack would be an ARP (IPv4) or neighbor discovery (IPv6) flood leading to a denial of service on the local LAN segment (e.g., CVE‑2013‑6014).
Local (L)The vulnerable component is not bound to the network stack and the attacker’s path is via read/write/execute capabilities. Either:the attacker exploits the vulnerability by accessing the target system locally (e.g., keyboard, console), or remotely (e.g., SSH); orthe attacker relies on User Interaction by another person to perform actions required to exploit the vulnerability (e.g., using social engineering techniques to trick a legitimate user into opening a malicious document).
Physical (P)The attack requires the attacker to physically touch or manipulate the vulnerable component. Physical interaction may be brief (e.g., evil maid attack[^1]) or persistent. An example of such an attack is a cold boot attack in which an attacker gains access to disk encryption keys after physically accessing the target system. Other examples include peripheral attacks via FireWire/USB Direct Memory Access (DMA).

Scoring Guidance: When deciding between Network and Adjacent, if an attack can be launched over a wide area network or from outside the logically adjacent administrative network domain, use Network. Network should be used even if the attacker is required to be on the same intranet to exploit the vulnerable system (e.g., the attacker can only exploit the vulnerability from inside a corporate network).

Attack Complexity (AC)

Table 2: Attack Complexity

Metric ValueDescription
Low (L)Specialized access conditions or extenuating circumstances do not exist. An attacker can expect repeatable success when attacking the vulnerable component.
High (H)A successful attack depends on conditions beyond the attacker’s control. That is, a successful attack cannot be accomplished at will, but requires the attacker to invest in some measurable amount of effort in preparation or execution against the vulnerable component before a successful attack can be expected.[^2] For example, a successful attack may depend on an attacker overcoming any of the following conditions:The attacker must gather knowledge about the environment in which the vulnerable target/component exists. For example, a requirement to collect details on target configuration settings, sequence numbers, or shared secrets.The attacker must prepare the target environment to improve exploit reliability. For example, repeated exploitation to win a race condition, or overcoming advanced exploit mitigation techniques.The attacker must inject themselves into the logical network path between the target and the resource requested by the victim in order to read and/or modify network communications (e.g., a man in the middle attack).

As described in Section 2.1, detailed knowledge of the vulnerable component is outside the scope of Attack Complexity. Refer to that section for additional guidance when scoring Attack Complexity when target-specific attack mitigation is present.

Privileges Required (PR)

Table 3: Privileges Required

Metric ValueDescription
None (N)The attacker is unauthorized prior to attack, and therefore does not require any access to settings or files of the the vulnerable system to carry out an attack.
Low (L)The attacker requires privileges that provide basic user capabilities that could normally affect only settings and files owned by a user. Alternatively, an attacker with Low privileges has the ability to access only non-sensitive resources.
High (H)The attacker requires privileges that provide significant (e.g., administrative) control over the vulnerable component allowing access to component-wide settings and files.

Scoring Guidance: Privileges Required is usually None for hard-coded credential vulnerabilities or vulnerabilities requiring social engineering (e.g., reflected cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, or file parsing vulnerability in a PDF reader).

User Interaction (UI)

Table 4: User Interaction

Metric ValueDescription
None (N)The vulnerable system can be exploited without interaction from any user.
Required (R)Successful exploitation of this vulnerability requires a user to take some action before the vulnerability can be exploited. For example, a successful exploit may only be possible during the installation of an application by a system administrator.

Scope (S)

Table 5: Scope

Metric ValueDescription
Unchanged (U)An exploited vulnerability can only affect resources managed by the same security authority. In this case, the vulnerable component and the impacted component are either the same, or both are managed by the same security authority.
Changed (C)An exploited vulnerability can affect resources beyond the security scope managed by the security authority of the vulnerable component. In this case, the vulnerable component and the impacted component are different and managed by different security authorities.

Example ….

Karen works on the computer security incident response team (CSIRT) for an international bank. She gets an email from a constituent showing that the bank’s website is vulnerable to reflected cross-site scripting (XSS). A successful attack requires an attacker to trick a legitimate bank user into browsing to a specific URL. This URL points to the bank’s website, but it contains malicious URL parameters that trigger the vulnerability.

The malicious code is only able to access information associated with the bank’s vulnerable web site due to Same Origin Policy (SOP) restrictions in web browsers. The vulnerable component is the web server vulnerable to cross-site scripting, and the impacted component is the victim’s browser, so the Scope is Changed. The vulnerable component and the impacted component are not the same thing, so the Scope cannot be Unchanged. Low and High are values assigned to another type of CVSS metric.

Impact Metrics

The Impact metrics capture the effects of a successfully exploited vulnerability on the component that suffers the worst outcome that is most directly and predictably associated with the attack. Analysts should constrain impacts to a reasonable, final outcome which they are confident an attacker is able to achieve.

Only the increase in access, privileges gained, or other negative outcome as a result of successful exploitation should be considered when scoring the Impact metrics of a vulnerability. For example, consider a vulnerability that requires read-only permissions prior to being able to exploit the vulnerability. After successful exploitation, the attacker maintains the same level of read access, and gains write access. In this case, only the Integrity impact metric should be scored, and the Confidentiality and Availability Impact metrics should be set as None.

Note that when scoring a delta change in impact, the final impact should be used. For example, if an attacker starts with partial access to restricted information (Confidentiality Low) and successful exploitation of the vulnerability results in complete loss in confidentiality (Confidentiality High), then the resultant CVSS Base Score should reference the “end game” Impact metric value (Confidentiality High).

Confidentiality ( c)

Table 6: Confidentiality

Metric ValueDescription
High (H)There is a total loss of confidentiality, resulting in all resources within the impacted component being divulged to the attacker. Alternatively, access to only some restricted information is obtained, but the disclosed information presents a direct, serious impact. For example, an attacker steals the administrator’s password, or private encryption keys of a web server.
Low (L)There is some loss of confidentiality. Access to some restricted information is obtained, but the attacker does not have control over what information is obtained, or the amount or kind of loss is limited. The information disclosure does not cause a direct, serious loss to the impacted component.
None (N)There is no loss of confidentiality within the impacted component.

Integrity (I)

Table 7: Integrity

Metric ValueDescription
High (H)There is a total loss of integrity, or a complete loss of protection. For example, the attacker is able to modify any/all files protected by the impacted component. Alternatively, only some files can be modified, but malicious modification would present a direct, serious consequence to the impacted component.
Low (L)Modification of data is possible, but the attacker does not have control over the consequence of a modification, or the amount of modification is limited. The data modification does not have a direct, serious impact on the impacted component.
None (N)There is no loss of integrity within the impacted component.

Availability (A)

Table 8: Availability

Metric ValueDescription
High (H)There is a total loss of availability, resulting in the attacker being able to fully deny access to resources in the impacted component; this loss is either sustained (while the attacker continues to deliver the attack) or persistent (the condition persists even after the attack has completed). Alternatively, the attacker has the ability to deny some availability, but the loss of availability presents a direct, serious consequence to the impacted component (e.g., the attacker cannot disrupt existing connections, but can prevent new connections; the attacker can repeatedly exploit a vulnerability that, in each instance of a successful attack, leaks a only small amount of memory, but after repeated exploitation causes a service to become completely unavailable).
Low (L)Performance is reduced or there are interruptions in resource availability. Even if repeated exploitation of the vulnerability is possible, the attacker does not have the ability to completely deny service to legitimate users. The resources in the impacted component are either partially available all of the time, or fully available only some of the time, but overall there is no direct, serious consequence to the impacted component.
None (N)There is no impact to availability within the impacted component.

Qualitative Severity Rating Scale

For some purposes it is useful to have a textual representation of the numeric Base, Temporal and Environmental scores. All scores can be mapped to the qualitative ratings defined in Table 14.[^3]

Table 14: Qualitative severity rating scale

RatingCVSS Score
Low0.1 – 3.9
Medium4.0 – 6.9
High7.0 – 8.9
Critical9.0 – 10.0

As an example, a CVSS Base Score of 4.0 has an associated severity rating of Medium. The use of these qualitative severity ratings is optional, and there is no requirement to include them when publishing CVSS scores. They are intended to help organizations properly assess and prioritize their vulnerability management processes.