What is cloud penetration testing, what types of cloud penetration testing services are there and what are the benefits for your business?
The adoption of cloud computing and cloud environments has accelerated in recent years, with a marked increase in digital transformation programs so businesses can adapt to hybrid working practices.
As cloud environment use increases, so does the increase in attacks against these services. The implementation of cloud environments within IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), most commonly from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), also means that the threat landscape is constantly evolving. This is creating a bigger attack surface for malicious threat actors who are constantly looking for new ways to infiltrate a company’s networks, systems and applications.
Any company utilising cloud environments should follow all cloud security best practices during implementation to significantly reduce the impact of, and potentially prevent, any data breaches.
Organisations are conducting regular cloud penetration testing to ensure that no weaknesses have been created during implementation, interconnection, or subsequent upgrades.
Essentially, cloud penetration testing is an authorised, simulated and controlled cyberattack against a system that is hosted on a cloud provider, for example AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform, or cloud penetration tests on the configured cloud environment itself.
Cloud penetration testing is rooted in the shared responsibility model with the cloud service providers. This model defines who is responsible for each of the cloud components, security being one of the most important.
There are strict guidelines from each cloud service provider as to what can be included in a cloud pen testing scope.
The main goal of cloud penetration tests is to find any weaknesses in the cloud hosted web application or cloud environment before hackers can exploit them or any misconfigurations within the environment.
The overall purpose of cloud penetration testing services is that any issues discovered during cloud penetration tests can be addressed to improve overall security and stop breaches before they happen.
The most common security threats that are identified during penetration testing cloud environments include:
- Insecure APIs and interconnection
- Weak Identity Access Management (IAM) and exposed credentials
- Supply chain vulnerabilities
- Malware and ransomware detection
- Security risks, vulnerabilities and data breaches
How does cloud penetration testing differ from penetration testing?
Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking or pen testing, is described as a simulated cyberattack against your network environments, web applications and systems. Penetration Testing will find any weaknesses or potential security vulnerabilities.
The main differences between cloud penetration testing services and penetration testing are that cloud penetration testing is only concerned with cloud-native environments and cloud hosted applications.
Penetration testing cloud environments is different from traditional penetration testing and therefore requires a specific set of skills.
When you combine the security provisions that the cloud providers ensure are in place, plus regular cloud penetration testing to understand any weaknesses in cloud configuration from the organisation’s side, you have a far better security posture and protection against attack.
There are 3 perspectives to look at when considering cloud penetration testing:
- Testing on the cloud
- Testing in the cloud
- Testing the cloud
No type of cloud penetration testing service is necessarily better than another. It depends entirely on your business objectives as to which type of testing is required.
If you are testing your externally facing web application that is hosted on the cloud, you may want to consider testing the cloud configuration in the mix for completeness.
Organisations often mistakenly have misplaced confidence in the security of the cloud platform. There’s an assumption that this is being looked after by the cloud service provider, however in the cloud shared security model, the provider isn’t responsible for set up and configuration.
One of the most common security vulnerabilities found during cloud penetration testing is in the configuration of the cloud environment itself. This will impact even the most secure web application.
Testing in the cloud is similar to traditional internal infrastructure testing. The cloud penetration testing equivalent when testing in the cloud will potentially look within the Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) if there’s concern around an application breach or compromise. In this cloud penetration testing method, the penetration tester is using tools to see how far an attacker could go once inside of the network.
This is common for organisations with mixed on-premise and cloud infrastructure environments.
Being responsible for your own cloud environments means the slightest misconfiguration could create a critical vulnerability, that if discovered by a malicious attacker could result in sensitive data exposure and breach of many security regulations.
Issues also arise from how cloud environments are interconnected with other cloud or on-premise systems which can open vulnerability to attack.
As mentioned, organisations shouldn’t rely on the easy set up and defaults set by the cloud providers, especially where organisations are becoming more complex or moving to become more cloud native.
Cloud penetration testing services and cloud security reviews are the only way to look at how the cloud environments were architected to ensure that no security vulnerabilities have been created during the implementation process.
Cloud penetration testing of the cloud configuration will analyse the organisation’s defence in depth strategy, to understand if Identity Access Management (IAM) and privilege escalation is possible within the cloud environment should an attacker manage to exploit code execution through a web application or if Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) hasn’t been enabled.
Cloud penetration testing will consider some common factors:
Exposed user credentials
Financial resource consumption
Authentication on API endpoints
Lack of MFA enablement
Lack of DDoS protection
Lack of encryption
Black box cloud penetration testing
The cloud penetration testers will have no knowledge of the cloud environment or web application that they are about to attempt to hack
Grey box cloud penetration testing
The cloud testers will have some prior knowledge of the system or environment and may have access to some level of privilege within the system
White box cloud penetration testing
The cloud penetration tester has full disclosure of the cloud system workings and may have been granted admin access privileges before performing the cloud penetration test
Cloud service providers operate on a shared responsibility model. This means that Microsoft Azure, for example, is responsible solely for the underlying infrastructure of Azure and that of O365.
Alongside this, the model dictates that the customer is responsible for configuring the cloud environment or application and is also responsible for all access and data control.
The scope of any cloud penetration testing is defined by this shared model and only on what the customer is responsible for.
By conducting regular cloud penetration testing, organisations can realise benefits such as:
- Optimising cloud security
- Improving incident response playbooks
- Safeguarding of business operations
- Protecting brand reputation
- Customer trust and loyalty
- Understanding and visibility of security risk and remediation
Cloud penetration testing services will identify any potential weaknesses or security gaps in cloud environments which could be exploited by threat actors.
By remediating these gaps, businesses can improve overall cloud security and any related areas of cybersecurity. They gain a greater understanding of their cloud environments and can stop cyberattacks before they happen.
Cloud penetration testing can help to identify these most common causes of cloud security threats:
- Cloud implementation misconfigurations
- Data Breaches or existing malware or ransomware
- Any existing security vulnerabilities in the cloud environment
- Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
- Supply chain issues
- Weak Identity Access Management (IAM) and exposed credentials
- Insecure Interfaces and APIs
- Inappropriate use of the cloud service
So, what is the methodology followed to conduct cloud penetration testing?
Steps involved in cloud penetration testing
In general, when penetration testing cloud environments, the test is conducted on an informed basis (known as white box testing) with penetration testing experts being given information about the cloud environment before testing begins.
The scoping phase of the cloud penetration test is important in identifying what is included in the cloud pen test and what remit the penetration testers have within the strict rules set out by the cloud service provider.
Starting off with limited knowledge, cloud penetration testing experts will assemble key information from the public domain using passive information gathering techniques.
Using the information gathered during the reconnaissance stage, cloud penetrations testers will assess any vulnerabilities and risks to the organisation.
Cloud penetration testers perform a thorough investigation to attempt to exploit any business risks within the company’s cloud environments or web applications.
By escalating privileges and simulating stealing data, the cloud penetration tester can fully understand the damage that a hacker could cause.
Cloud penetration testing experts will securely deliver a bespoke report of their findings, giving the organisation a clear and complete understanding of any weaknesses in the cloud environment itself or any cloud hosted web applications included in the penetration test scope.
DigitalXRAID’s Cloud Penetration Testing Services
DigitalXRAID is driven by the mission to keep customers a step ahead of cybercriminals. We also constantly strive to prove that we are a company of trust. That’s why we are in the top 1% globally, as one of the first providers to have achieved government backed CREST and CHECK certifications.
This means that our cloud penetration testers will use state-of-the-art penetration testing tools and methodologies to test your cloud environments and web applications. If there’s a vulnerability, they will find it.
You get total peace of mind that your cloud environments are secure with our market leading cloud penetration testing service. Our cloud penetration testers will analyse your data and highlight any vulnerabilities before they are exploited to protect the resources you have stored online from leakage, theft, or data loss.
If you’re interested in learning more about how our cloud penetration testing services can protect your business, get in contact to scope your project today.
Cloud Penetration Testing Service
We understand that no two companies are the same, and our dedicated cloud penetration testing team will work closely with you to identify the risks and vulnerabilities unique to your business. We deliver tailored cloud penetration testing solutions that tackle challenges unique to your sector and according to your specific cloud environments.
- Enjoy peace of mind knowing your cloud platforms are safe from data breaches
- Avoid the financial implications of a fine for allowing a security breach to occur
- Our experienced, highly skilled and certified team will detect vulnerabilities or potential threats to your organisation
Find out more about our cloud penetration testing service.Talk to the Team
- Detect misconfigurations
- Check for vulnerabilities
- Check users and permissions
- Check for suspicious network traffic
- Properly configure any add-ons
- These are often overlooked when first setting up
- Eliminate any threats or issues
- Security policies on virtual machines
- Identify and access management
- Securely configured storage accounts
- SQL services on any SQL databases or servers
- Networking security groups
- Review of virtual machines
- Detect misconfigurations and review:
- Account and authentication policies
- Application permissions
- Data management policies
- Email security configurations
- Exchange online configurations
- Storage policies
- Auditing policies
- Mobile device management policies
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As with all cyber protection, cloud security should form part of an ongoing program to mitigate existing and emerging cybersecurity threats. We’ll work with you to identify and remedy weaknesses in your cloud security before a malicious party does.
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