Cloud Penetration Testing

What is cloud penetration testing? This cloud security assessment explains the purpose, best practices, and potential benefits.

What is the difference between cloud penetration testing and standard penetration testing?

Traditional methods for penetration testing are not cloud-native. They only focus on processes that are relevant to on-premise environments. Cloud penetration testing requires specialized expertise, which is not available in standard penetration testing. Cloud penetration testing, for example, would look at the security of cloud-specific configurations and cloud passwords. It also examines cloud applications and encryption. APIs, databases, storage access, and other aspects. The Shared Responsibility Model is also used to influence cloud penetration testing. This model identifies who is responsible for which components of a cloud platform, software, or infrastructure.

What’s the purpose of Cloud Penetration Testing

Cloud penetration test is used to evaluate the security of a cloud system and to make recommendations to improve it. Cloud penetration testing is useful for:

  • Identify gaps, vulnerabilities, risks
  • Impact of exploitable weaknesses
  • How to make the most of any access you get through exploitation
  • Provide clear and concrete information for remediation
  • Provide best practices in maintaining visibility

What are the Benefits of Cloud Penetration Testing?

Cloud penetration testing can help organizations improve their cloud security, prevent breaches, and attain compliance. Additionally, organizations will gain a better understanding of their cloud assets, including how resilient they are to attacks and whether there are vulnerabilities.

Cloud Penetration Testing and The Shared Responsibility Model

Cloud penetration testing in the context of the shared responsability model examines security in the cloud and not the security of cloud. The figure below shows that the cloud service provider (CSP) is responsible for the security of some components of the cloud, while the customer is responsible for the security of all other components. The “service level agreement” (SLA), which is a customer’s contract, defines what type of cloud penetration testing is permitted and how often it can be performed.

Cloud Penetration Testing in the Shared Responsibility Model

Infrastructure as an Service (IaaS)Platform as a Service (PaaS).Software as a Service
User Access/IdentityUser Access/IdentityUser Access/Identity
Operating SystemsOperating SystemOperating System
Client/Client Security Responsibility
Cloud Service Provider Security Responsibilities

Types & Methods of Cloud Penetration Testing

Cloud penetration testing is used to test for vulnerabilities, attack, operability, and recovery in a cloud environment. There are many types of cloud penetration testing:

  • Black Box Penetrating Testing–An attack simulation where the cloud penetration testers do not have access to or knowledge about your cloud systems.
  • Grey Box Penetration Test–Cloud penetration testers have limited knowledge of users, systems, and may be granted limited administrative privileges.
  • Whitebox Penetration Testing – Cloud penetration testers have root or grated admin access to cloud systems.

Cloud pentesting may also include a Cloud Configuration Review.

Testing AWS and Azure Cloud Penetration

AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Microsoft Azure (Microsoft Azure) are two common cloud-based services organizations use to support cloud business activities. As long as the tests are within the permitted services list, both AWS and Azure allow penetration testing of any infrastructure hosted on AWS or Azure. These links provide the “rules for engagement” for penetration testing in AWS and Azure.

Cloud Penetration Testing Scope

Cloud penetration testing involves security professionals who examine the cloud perimeter, internal clouds environments, and on-premise cloud management and administration.

Cloud penetration testing is often done in three phases: evaluation, exploitation and remediation.

  • Stage 1: Evaluation–Cloud penetration testers engage in cloud security discovery activities such as cloud security requirements, cloud SLAs, risks and potential vulnerability exposures.
  • Stage 2: Exploitation – Using information from stage 1, testing experts combine the information with relevant penetration testing methodologies to identify exploitable vulnerabilities. This will evaluate the resilience of your cloud environment to attacks, your security monitoring coverage, and your detection abilities’ effectiveness.
  • Stage 3: Rem Eediation Verification-Cloud penetration testers conduct a follow up assessment to verify that mitigation and remediation steps for the exploitation phase have been properly implemented. The testers can also confirm that the customer’s security measures are in line with industry best practices.

The Most Common Cloud Security Threats

These are the most common cloud security threats that can be prevented by cloud penetration testing

  • Misconfigurations
  • Data Breach
  • Malware/Ransomware
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Advanced Persistent Threats
  • Supply Chain Compromises
  • Insider Threats
  • Weak Credentials and Identities
  • Weak Access Management
  • Insecure APIs and Interfaces
  • Inappropriate use or abuse of cloud services
  • Technology Concerns/Shared Services

Cloud Penetration Testing Best Practices

These tips will help you ensure that your cloud penetration testing results are the most secure possible.

  • Get expert cloud penetration testing – While many of the methods used in cloud penetration testing are very similar to standard penetration testing, you will need different knowledge and experience.
  • Understanding the Shared Responsibility Model-Cloud systems are governed under the Shared Reputation Model, which outlines the areas of responsibility that each customer and cloud service provider (CSP) share.
  • Understanding any CSP Service Level Agreements or “Rules of Engagement”.–Your cloud provider’s SLA will detail the “rules of Engagement” for any type of penetration testing that involves their cloud services.
  • Define your cloud. Understand the components of your cloud assets. This will help you determine the full scope for cloud penetration testing.
  • Choose the type of testing–Know what type of cloud penetration testing you need (e.g. Your business may prefer to have cloud penetration testing done in a white, grey, or black box.
  • Set expectations and timelines for your security team as well as an external cloud penetration testing company–Know the responsibilities of your business and that of the external cloud penetration testing firm, including receiving reports and following-up testing.
  • Create a protocol to prevent a breach or live attack – Have a plan in case the cloud penetration testing company finds that your company is being breached, or that they discover that an ongoing attack has occurred.

Next steps

It is crucial to understand the scope and shared responsibility of your cloud assets and services, as well as how cloud penetration testing can be done within your organization’s obligations and risks before you start the process. Cloud penetration testing is a complex task that requires unique knowledge and experience. Consider working with a cloud security provider who has expertise in this area. To determine your needs in cloud penetration testing, schedule a security consultation with an EcomServicesSummit Security expert.

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