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Enhancing Cloud Security with Penetration Testing Best Practices



The cyber threat landscape is constantly evolving and growing more complex. This has had a significant impact on cloud-based resources, both positive and negative. Advanced threats have aggressively targeted cloud environments as global organisations continue to migrate to them in increasing numbers. Account hijacking, where user credentials are jeopardised to gain access to systems, and data breaches, where confidential information is leaked as a result of unauthorised access, have both emerged as common cloud threats.

However, the rise of these new threats has also forced improvements in best practices and a tightening of processes to develop much more robust security systems. For organisations, adopting and adhering to these best practices can lessen the likelihood of an effective cyber attack. This can involve bringing in stricter access controls, developing and prioritising continuous education and training for your staff, and regularly monitoring and auditing all of your cloud environments to stay ahead of developing threats.

Understanding Cloud Pen Testing and Its Importance

Considering the continued migration to cloud-based systems and the associated rise in related cyber attacks, organisations must understand the services that are available to them to protect their data. Cloud penetration testing allows you to assess the security of cloud environments across various service models, including:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)
  • Platform-as-a-service (PaaS)
  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS)

Typical penetration testing involves calculating attacks within a defined scope to assess for weaknesses or vulnerabilities within particular elements of your security systems. Cloud pen testing differs slightly due to the unique architecture and security concerns of cloud environments. These environments are typically based on a dynamic, shared responsibility model.

Traditional penetration methods may not be appropriate for addressing issues such as misconfigured cloud settings or API vulnerabilities. Cloud pen testing can still address many of the more common issues that traditional penetration testing unearths, but it also identifies some of these more obscure vulnerabilities.

Cloud pen testing is built around developing a proactive approach — identifying vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. This not only strengthens your overall security posture but also develops a culture of proactivity and continual improvement that’s vital for a high-functioning cyber security framework.

Best Practices for Effective Cloud Security Pen Testing

Cloud pen testing, similar to traditional penetration testing, begins by clearly defining the scope of your test. The systems, networks and applications that are going to be tested need to be questioned and outlined. This is an extremely important step as it ensures that you still get the required value from your testing, without violating any of the terms of your cloud provider’s terms of service.

Your service provider should be actively involved in this step so that your team fully understands the boundaries and permissions for penetration testing. Communicating with them effectively and consistently will help ensure there are no inadvertent service violations.

It’s also vital that you consider what tools and techniques you use as part of your testing. Your tooling choices need to be specifically tailored to your cloud environment, they have to align with what’s allowable by your cloud service provider, and they need to be selected to be as up-to-date as possible with any emerging threats that have been identified.

One question that will undoubtedly arise when it comes to cloud penetration testing will be whether you select manual or automated testing methods. Both approaches have their advantages. Automated methods are highly efficient and more hands-off, but they lack the nuance and depth of testing provided by manual testing. DigitalXRAID can work with you to provide a suite of manual tests developed specifically for your organisation. We can help you uncover vulnerabilities that automated methods may end up missing, ensuring a thorough evaluation across all of your cloud security measures.

One final best practice that needs to be considered is the concept of regular and continuous pen testing. Cloud environments are dynamic — they’re constantly changing and being updated. By adopting a practice of continuous pen testing you can ensure that you keep pace with these changes. This helps further develop a culture of proactivity around preventing security breaches.

Common Pitfalls in Cloud Pen Testing and How to Avoid Them

Cloud pen testing, like any form of testing, can be done incorrectly if best practices are not strictly adhered to. These mistakes can lead to quite severe implications for security further down the line, so it’s important to know what the common pitfalls are and how you can avoid them.

The first common mistake is not fully understanding your cloud service provider’s policies around cloud pen testing. This needs to be known as you begin to plan your test and outline your scope. Knowing what limitations are in place can help you ensure that there are no issues with your testing. Failure to consult with your provider before testing could result in service interruptions or even legal issues if the violation is severe enough. To avoid this, review your provider’s terms of service with them before beginning any round of testing.

Another common mistake is having an overreliance on traditional penetration testing methodologies. While these are valuable, they can often fail to identify cloud-specific vulnerabilities, such as misconfigured storage containers. To avoid this, it’s important to embrace an environment of continuous education and improvement within your organisation. Cloud-based threats are constantly changing, so your strategy and approach have to always be improving to keep up.

Take Your Cloud Security to the Next Level with Expert Pen Testing

Cloud pen testing is a critical tool for anyone utilising cloud-based services within their digital stack. It’s important to remember that, despite their similarities, there are important differences between it and more traditional penetration testing.

If you’re utilising a cloud environment, make sure that you’re constantly taking stock of your cloud security measures. Strongly consider enlisting the help of professional cloud security pen testing services to identify and mitigate any potential vulnerabilities. At DigitalXRAID, we pride ourselves on offering a wide variety of penetration testing options, with the ability to build a plan that’s perfectly tailored to your needs.

Remember, the ever-changing nature of cloud services means that keeping up with best practices is vitally important to effectively safeguard your corporate assets and data. Don’t leave your security to chance — speak to one of our experts today to find out exactly how we can help protect what’s important to your business.

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