Understand Cloud Based Penetration Testing - All You Need to Know

When talking about cyber security, penetration testing is frequently mentioned. On going deeper, many talks start to be about cloud penetration testing. This blog gives a comprehensive picture of cloud based penetration testing 

What Is Cloud Penetration Testing?

Cloud pentesting is very similar to standard penetration testing. The only difference is in the target systems where the pen testing is conducted. In cloud penetration testing, you will target the testing on a cloud infrastructure. Businesses extensively rely on cloud services, these days as they are much more convenient, cost-effective, and scalable. To ensure maximum safety while using cloud solutions, it is imperative to have regular cloud based penetration testing done. The major benefits of cloud pentesting include:

Better understanding of risks prevalent in cloud spaces

Through cloud pen testing, it is possible to identify and comprehend potential security threats which are especially targeting the cloud environments. Consequently, clients can make informed decisions regarding what types of risk mitigation strategies should be chosen.

Unbiased validation of the current cloud security controls

Cloud pentesting serves as an unbiased validation of the effectiveness of existing security measures. Following the completion of pen testing, the clients or stakeholders get to know what areas of their systems need improvements. 

Clarity on future investment areas in security

Like any other pen testing, cloud penetration testing leaves with you comprehensive findings about the potential threats. Based on your assessment of these findings, you can prioritize areas for future security investments.

A Proactive approach to addressing vulnerabilities before they occur

Prevention is better than cure. Cloud pen testing puts clients in a better position to anticipate vulnerabilities before they start to exploit the systems. It allows them to ensure a more secure and defensive cloud infrastructure.

Ability to convince external stakeholders about security commitments

Conducting regular pen testing is a way to show your clients and stakeholders that you are committed to ensuring their data security. It helps build trust and confidence among your clients about your organization’s cloud security posture.

Better compliance with data security regulations

Cloud pen testing is a legal requirement in some places. In places where it is not, organizations are required to ensure that their customers’ data is protected. Through thorough pen testing, organizations can minimize the risks of data theft and avoid non-compliance penalties.

Types of Cloud Penetration Testing Services

Cloud security pentesting is performed by making use of diverse methods. Based on the use of these methods, the testing is classified into: 

cloud based penetration testing

White Box Cloud Security Pentesting

In the white box pen testing method, the penetration testers are given prior access to cloud infrastructure to evaluate it and gather information. They simulate attacks on the systems after identifying vulnerabilities in the systems in this evaluation. 

Black Box Cloud Security Pentesting

Black box pen testing is quite the opposite of white box pen testing. Here, the pen testers approach the cloud environment without any knowledge of its strengths or vulnerabilities. Here, the pen tester acts as a real-world attacker while simulating the attacks. Learn more 

Grey Box Cloud Security Pentesting

Grey box pen testing is a blend of both white box and black box pen testing. In this approach, the organizations provide the pen testers with some information about their cloud systems. For instance, details about the systems used, or sometimes user credentials, Based on this information, the pen testers have to figure out vulnerabilities and simulate attacks.

Limitations Of Cloud Based Penetration Testing

While there are so many benefits to cloud penetration testing, there are a few limitations or challenges that  one might face while performing it. Let’s explore some of the major ones. 

Complex nature of the cloud environments:

Cloud environments are not straightforward. They may consist of several interconnected platforms and services. Consequently, it is either impossible or extremely time-consuming for one to evaluate it fully. 

Evolving features of cloud services:

Cloud services are rapidly changing. Unless you hire testers, who keep themselves up-to-date and continuously adapt their methodologies, seeking their service won’t be that effective. 

Inadequate visibility and control:

In this focused AWS vulnerability testing, the pen tester examines the security levels of configurations and scripts deployed across the AWS infrastructure and ensures that IaC (Infrastructure as Code) practices are in alignment with the ideal practices.

Adherence to service provider policies:

Penetration testers need to ensure that they strictly comply with the cloud service provider’s terms and conditions or policies. Oftentimes, these policies might limit the testers’ freedom, especially with performing certain testing activities, as they don’t have permission for the same. 

Legal considerations and privacy concerns:

A typical cloud security penetration test involves accessing sensitive data stored in the cloud. There are both legal implications and privacy concerns as to whether a third-party pen tester can be given access to sensitive data.

Top Picks for Cloud Security Testing Tools

Cloud penetration testers use a variety of tools to assess vulnerabilities and perform simulated attacks on the systems. Here is a list showing the top picks for cloud security testing tools. 

Cloud Penetration Testing 2

OWASP ZAP:

OWASP ZAP is a versatile web app scanner that helps in identifying vulnerabilities. It comes with features like automation, APIs, and capabilities for active/passive scanning. 

Nmap:

Wireless Network Testing focuses on evaluating the security resilience of wireless networks and various resources part of the same. The tester tries to identify any potential points in the network that a hacker might have a chance to exploit.

SQLMap:

Pen testers extensively use SQLMap to discover SQL injection vulnerabilities in web applications and exploit them. It provides an easy-to-navigate database for conducting security assessments and initiating data retrieval.

Burp Suite:

Burp Suite is another web vulnerability scanner with comprehensive features such as proxy interception, a spider, and an  automated scanner. It helps in finding security flaws with the cloud structure and testing them.

Metasploit Framework:

The Metasploit Framework is a highly effective penetration testing platform. It offers a series of exploit modules, post-exploitation tools, and payloads for pensters to identify security vulnerabilities and address them efficiently. 

Aircrack-ng:

 Aircrack-ng is a wireless network assessment suite with advanced features like packet capturing capabilities and encryption cracking keys. Pen testers can use a variety of attack methods in collaboration with this tool to identify and exploit network security threats. 

Best Practices for Cloud Based Penetration Testing

Cloud security based penetration testing can go wrong if you are not using the right methods. Additionally, there are certain best practices that experts recommend following while conducting it. Let’s look at some of those best practices.

Identify the shared responsibility model:

Make sure that you have a clear knowledge of the responsibilities you have in securing the cloud assets as stipulated by the cloud service provider. It is very essential to ensure effective risk management.

Be prepared for the worst-case scenario:

 There is no guarantee that everything will work as planned. Be prepared to take proactive action in case of any critical incidents. It will help you be ready with swift responses and minimal interruptions to your operations via cloud services.

Get authorization and consent:

Check if there is a consensus among your users regarding the access controls. Restrict unauthorized users from interacting with the cloud resources or data that is being considered for the tests.

Inform the cloud service provider:

It is important to maintain  proper communication with your cloud service provider regarding the planned cloud security pen testing operation. In the context of identifying any vulnerabilities, pass the information promptly to help them take timely action.

Document every step:

Maintain detailed records of the steps you take for your assessments. It will help you later on, while you sit, to analyse the information and think about future security enhancements.

Use mock accounts and data sets:

Educate your employees and stakeholders about the potential threats and teach them the methods to identify any abnormal behaviour or signs. 

Define the scope and roadmap:

 Make sure that there are clear objectives and timelines for your testing initiatives. Additionally, ensure that the organizational goals are in alignment with the test objectives.

Delineate the scope of your Cloud:

Before giving the green light for  planned cloud penetration testing, set the boundaries as to the type of assets within your cloud environment that the testers can subject to the testing.

Collaborate with a reputed pentesting service:

Finally, verify that you are collaborating with trusted experts. Only an experienced team can leverage their specialized knowledge and tools to conduct cloud penetration effectively and efficiently.

Conclusion

Given the high degree of dependence individuals, businesses, and governments have on cloud resources, the significance of cloud pentesting is immense. However, one must approach it with an informed mind, knowing the challenges, best practices, and the right tools. Most importantly, hiring the right service provider for your cloud based penetration testing is inevitable. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Cloud based penetration testing is a type of penetration testing that assesses cloud systems for their vulnerabilities to allow unauthorized access. The test helps reveal the weaknesses and fortify the security measures.

The first step to getting started with cloud pentesting is to identify and choose an authorized service provider. Additionally, gather information regarding the legal compliance you need to follow. 

The type of methodology recommended for cloud pentesting varies depending on the nature and size of the cloud infrastructure you use or want to get tested. Typically, a comprehensive approach incorporating the NIST framework is a recommended choice.

Cloud security testing focuses on assessing, identifying, and addressing risks associated with cloud infrastructure. On the other hand, penetration testing covers all types of infrastructure, systems, and networks. Cloud based penetration testing  is just one aspect of penetration testing.

The cost of cloud based penetration testing varies based on scope, provider, and complexity. Typically, it would range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

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Jim Jacob

Jim Jacob is the founder of Cyberguard. He is an IT professional who has 21 years of professional experience in the tech field. Cybergurad is the product of his vision to share the knowledge gained from his career through the power of words. He is an expert at explaining complex tech concepts in simple language and has written numerous articles on IT and Cybersecurity.

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