The Cloud Penetration Testing Handbook : TestGrid

Cloud Penetration Testing

Cloud Penetration Testing: Definition, Types and Importance 

Cloud service providers must comply with several security rules and have many policies in place to protect the privacy of their data; however, more is needed to imply adequate protection. It is where cloud penetration testing comes into the picture. In this blog here we are discussing cloud penetration testing ,types and importance of it. So, let us see how!

What is Cloud Penetration Testing?

These days, cloud services are one of the most talked-about topics. However, as cloud services continue to pave the way for new technologies and experience tremendous acceptance, there is a pressing need to broaden the reach of penetration testing to include cloud systems and components. 

It sounds reasonable, given the tremendous transition of information assets to the cloud. Besides, there is a good chance that most third-party programs or plugins you utilize run off the cloud. 

real device testing

Cloud penetration testing, which is also known as ethical hacking, is a method that examines security and finds vulnerabilities by employing the tools and techniques usually associated with hackers. Testing for security, in general, is necessary to guarantee the safety of cloud-based environments, systems, and devices. 

In layman’s words, cloud pen testing is aimed at evaluating the capabilities of a cloud system to determine its strengths and weaknesses, with the end goal of improving the system’s overall security status.

Cloud penetration testing follows the stringent requirements from the cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform. It is also influenced by the Shared Responsibility Model, which outlines who is responsible for the components within a cloud infrastructure, platform, or software.

Standard Penetration Testing V/S Cloud Penetration Testing

Standard penetration testing is a particular type of evaluation that can be carried out on data systems as a whole or respective system components to locate vulnerabilities that foreign hackers could take advantage of. Further, it could be utilized to detect the degree of information management systems’ resistance to attackers within a specific set of boundaries.

When it comes to cloud penetration testing, however, all that is involved is acting out a mock cyberattack on your cloud services to evaluate their level of protection. For example, cloud penetration testing would check the security of cloud-specific setups, cloud system passwords, storage access, databases, cloud apps and encryption, and APIs. 

Types Of Cloud Environments That Can Be Tested

The Shared Responsibility Model also has an impact on cloud penetration testing. This model determines who is responsible for components inside a cloud infrastructure, system, or software. Within the basis of the shared responsibility paradigm, cloud penetration testing examines the level of security that is present within the cloud. 

According to the Service Level Agreement (SLA) established between the client and the cloud service provider, the cloud provider is responsible for controlling and managing certain parts of cloud security, while the client is in charge of managing the other aspects. For instance, the cloud service providers will not be accountable for any security mistakes related to the user’s name and identity.

In a similar vein, the customer does not have any responsibility for the actual safety of the data centers that the cloud service provider controls. This shared model will determine how extensive the cloud pen testing will be.

  • Infrastructure as a Service(IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service(PaaS)
  • Software as a Service(SaaS)

Therefore, we discuss the three types of cloud services within the Shared Responsibility Model:

1. Infrastructure as a Service(IaaS)

IaaS is an acronym that can also stand for “Hardware as a Service” (HaaS). Cloud computing platforms typically consist of multiple layers, and this is one of those layers. Customers can outsource their information technology infrastructures, including servers, networks, processing, storage, virtual machines, and other resources. 

Customers pay only for the help they use on the Internet when they access them through a pay-per-use approach. The outcome of this is that the necessity for any organization to manage its own IT infrastructure is eliminated, thanks to the IaaS cloud computing platform layer.

In the shared responsibility model, the security responsibilities of a cloud provider include virtualization, network, physical, and infrastructure. In contrast, the clients are responsible for the operating system, data, user access, and application.

2. Platform as a Service(PaaS)

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides a cloud-based design and deployment environment with the instruments necessary to create and distribute any cloud-based application, from the most basic to the most complex. 

To aid in the lifecycle of web applications, it is comprehensive. To use the cloud, you subscribe to a service, pay for the resources you use, and gain access to them over the Internet. In addition to the servers, storage, and networking that make up IaaS, PaaS also includes database management systems, BI services, and development tools.

In the shared responsibility model, the security responsibilities of a cloud provider include an operating system, virtualization, network, physical, and infrastructure. In contrast, the clients are responsible for the data, user access, and application.

3. Software as a Service(SaaS)

The SaaS model is based on the cloud. Users of software as a service (SaaS) pay a subscription to the application rather than buying and installing it locally. 

Users can access a SaaS application and operate it from any Internet-capable device by logging into it with their credentials. The actual application is hosted on cloud servers, which may be located in a place that is geographically far from the user.

In the shared responsibility model, the security responsibilities of a cloud provider include the operating system, virtualization, network, physical, application, and infrastructure. In contrast, the clients are responsible for the data and user access.

The Importance Of Cloud Penetration Testing

Even while cloud service providers are continuously improving the security protections they offer, it is ultimately up to you to ensure that your company’s data is kept safe when they are stored in the cloud. The most significant concerns regarding data loss and privacy are brought up in discussions on cloud security. 

Concerns about compliance come next, followed by worries about the unintentional disclosure of credentials. Lastly, there are security worries. Unauthorized access, malware, ransomware, and incorrect configuration of the cloud platform are a few additional risks.

Organizations may strengthen cloud security, prevent breaches, and meet regulatory requirements with cloud penetration testing. In addition, the business will better understand its cloud resources, including how secure its cloud infrastructure truly is.

Testing your cloud estate with cloud pen testing gives you a deeper understanding of your cloud estate. In addition, it offers a comprehensive report on any typical security misconfigurations as well as our suggestions for safeguarding your cloud configuration.

The greater certainty will originate from the fact that you will be aware of the security flaws of your cloud estate. You will be able to verify what cloud services and data are available to the public, what cloud security measures are currently in place, and how successfully these policies reduce the risk to your data security.

How Is Cloud Penetration Testing Conducted?

Steps Involved In The Cloud Penetration Testing Process

Here is a step-by-step guide to cloud penetration testing:

  1. Get Familiar With The Terms And Conditions Of The Cloud Service Provider:

It is essential to devise a testing strategy in accordance with the policy of the cloud service provider before getting started with the actual testing process. 

It is because every cloud service provider (CSP) has its policy about the kind of cloud pen tests that can be run, the endpoints that can be tested, and the permissions needed to run the tests.  

The cloud service provider can fine you if your testing plan does not comply with these requirements.

  1. Create A Cloud Penetration Testing Strategy Beforehand:

The next step is to devise a strategy for doing cloud penetration testing. No one method can be used to generate a plan because it differs from auditor to auditor. Here are a few things to keep in mind for the same:

  • Create a map of all the endpoints that need to be tested, including the user interface, APIs, and subnetworks, among other things.
  • Determine which endpoints are not allowed based on the constraints imposed by the policy and other factors.
  • Find out the rules and regulations to be adhered to when testing.
  • Last but not least, secure the client’s consent for your plan, and then let them know when you want to start the project.
  1. Carrying Out The Strategy

The time has come to put your strategy into action. You can run the tools however you like and then examine the results to check for vulnerabilities.

In addition to well-known tools like Nmap and OpenVAS, there are also CSP-specific tools that you can include in your strategy. These tools are discussed in greater length in the next section. 

  1. Discover flaws and correct them:

Some of the pen testing tools may produce true positives. Therefore, it is essential to verify again. It should be done for each testing layer.

Cloud penetration testers must present vulnerabilities to clients in an easy way. The client’s exposure level depends on the presentation’s quality. To that end, the reports must be appropriately categorized and filed away according to the nature and severity of the danger they represent. 

Finally, please contact your developers after discovering flaws so they can implement fixes.

Top Cloud Penetration Testing Tools

It would be best if you stocked up on the right tools to succeed in cloud penetration testing. So the question now is, what are the top cloud penetration testing tools?

  • Nmap
  • AWS Inspector
  • Nessus
  • Pacu
  1. Nmap

If you need to map or scan a network, Nmap is a great option. You will understand the significance of this tool for penetration testers if you are an experienced tester. To better understand the structure of a cloud network, penetration testers can use this application to create a system map. 

Nmap can be used during the scanning process to discover accessible ports and check for security holes. In addition, Nmap relies on community-created NSE scripts for each publicly published vulnerability in its vulnerability scanning mechanism.

  1. AWS Inspector

AWS provides users with a helpful tool that they call an AWS inspector. The tool aims to carry out a system scan on the AWS instances to determine whether or not those instances are running a vulnerable operating system or a vulnerable application. 

The tool is quite comparable to Nessus or Qualys in most respects. However, the only noticeable distinction is how you may deploy this tool compared to Nessus or any other tool. The deployment process for this tool is relatively simple because AWS offers it to its customers.

  1. Nessus

Nessus is a cloud-based security and testing technology that assists businesses in determining where vulnerabilities exist inside their security infrastructure. This vulnerability assessment tool offers point-in-time analyses, which facilitate the detection and remediation processes by making them significantly more straightforward and efficient. 

If a new vulnerability is discovered, it gives alerts and messages in real time. The vulnerability scans provide a great deal of configurability so that they can be tailored to the requirements of the target.

  1. Pacu

Pacu is among the most effective cloud penetration testing tools available at no cost. The source code for the application is freely available on GitHub. In addition, the tool assists the penetration tester in rapidly enumerating the environment and retrieving the user’s rights so that they can escalate their privileges. 

A better architecture was taken into consideration when developing the tool. As a result, community members can create modules that can carry out any attack against the AWS system.

Best Practices For Conducting Testing Safely And Ethically

You may help ensure that the outcomes of your cloud penetration testing operations provide the highest possible level of security by following these suggestions:

  1. Get In Touch With A Seasoned Cloud Penetration Testing Service

Many of the techniques used in cloud penetration testing are similar to those used in traditional penetration testing. Still, several key differences should be taken into account. An experienced penetration service can help you achieve that.

  1. Establish The Scope of Your Cloud

The cloud perimeter, internal cloud environments, and on-premise cloud management, administration, and development infrastructure are the three areas that are considered to be within the scope by experts of cloud penetration testing. Understand what elements are contained within your cloud assets to identify the scope of the cloud pen testing that will be conducted.

  1. Find Out What Needs to be Tested

The cloud penetration test will investigate potential attack points, operability, breaches, and recovery inside a cloud system. Determine the kind of cloud penetration testing (white box, gray box, or black box) your company would like to have carried out.

  1. Create a Procedure to Follow in Case of A Breach or Live Attack

Have a contingency plan available if the cloud penetration testing company discovers that your business has already been compromised or if they encounter an attack episode that is still active in progress.

Summing It Up

Many businesses are transferring their app workload to the cloud to become more adaptable. As it reduces the time required to bring new products to market and cuts overall expenses. 

Cloud penetration testing enables security teams to locate and eradicate vulnerabilities fundamental to your company’s operations.

Because cloud penetration testing necessitates a specific set of skills and experiences, you should consider collaborating with a cloud security provider geared toward cloud penetration testing.

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