There were up to over 20 billion cyber attacks in 2021, with over 60% of all sites experiencing an attack at least once. This means that there is a high chance yours might get in trouble too. To ensure maximum security, it is important to let experts like Sapphire find any security gaps through cloud pen testing on sites including AWS cloud services, Microsoft Azure and more.

The cloud infrastructure in your organization needs to be strong and impenetrable to guard against your clients’ data breaches and follow regulations like GDPR to avoid any lawsuits.

So, what is cloud penetration testing?

What is Cloud Penetration Testing?

Also known as ethical hacking, cloud penetration testing is the examination used to identify vulnerabilities that could be used for malicious intent. The extent of cloud penetration testing depends on the cloud providers your company uses, as different providers have different policies on the tests.

A cloud penetration test further gives you the ability to know how to leverage any methods a hacker would use to attack your cloud applications.

There are different types of cloud pen testing methods that you can choose from.

Types of Cloud Pen Testing

There are three major types of penetration testing methods.

  1. Black box penetration testing
  2. Grey box penetration testing
  3. White box penetration testing

1) Black Box Penetration Testing

Black box penetration is a type of cloud pentest where the hacker is given limited information to work with. The information can be just the company name, and the hacker has to figure the rest out.

Black box penetration testing is done mainly by companies that have a security measure in place and are checking if it is robust enough to handle threats.

The downside with this method is how long it takes, which can be a couple of days to two weeks. This delay can be avoided by simply providing the hacker with more information.

2) Grey Box Pen Testing

This is a type of test where the hacker is given slightly more information than in the case of black box testing. The information can include which networks to target and which hosts to compromise.

The grey box pentest saves time and provides a more targeted attack simulation on the cloud technologies of a service provider.

In the case of grey box testing, the penetration testers do not have to spend too much time collecting information about the organization being targeted.

3) White Box Testing

White box testing is where the hacker has all the sensitive data of the internal cloud environments and their configuration plans. This type of access given to the hacker is called root-level access.

White box testing is best for testing security vulnerabilities of new features within cloud systems. The features can include new sections in networks or new applications.

Once you have settled on which of the three tests you want the penetration tester to use, there are phases that the test will undergo.

Cloud Pen Testing Phases

a) Reconnaissance

This is the stage where a hacker collects as much information as they can for security testing, especially for publicly exposed cloud services. This step is mandatory when doing grey or black box penetration testing on cloud systems.

The information collected at this stage can include user accounts, the operating system used, the topology of the cloud, applications, and more.

There are two types of recon; active and passive. Active reconnaissance is where the hacker interacts with the cloud-native systems to gather information. On the other hand, passive recon is where the hacker collects information from third parties like publicly available sources.

b) Scanning

Here, the hacker uses various tools to identify loopholes in the security posture of the target cloud system. Scans can reveal different security risks, such as open network ports that make cloud accounts vulnerable to malicious hackers.

Scanning involves the use of automated tools on the cloud-hosted infrastructure most of the time. However, to reach its full potential, scanning needs the intervention of a human penetration tester.

c) Vulnerability Assessment

This is the phase where the cloud penetration testers use the information collected during scanning and reconnaissance to come up with possible threats that could face a cloud provider.

d) Exploitation

Exploitation is the phase where the hacker tries to break into the cloud environment by simulating a real-life malicious threat that a cloud service provider could face.

e) Reporting

This is the phase where the hacker provides a detailed report about the cloud pentesting they just concluded, including recommendations to the cloud service providers on how best to protect their networks.

The security assessment also details the security issues for the service provider to fix vulnerabilities possibly facing the networks.

There are security vulnerabilities that are commonly documented during pentests.

Most Common Cloud Security Threats

  • Human negligence and accidental exposure of credentials
  • Misconfigured cloud services
  • API vulnerabilities
  • Data loss
  • Malware infection
  • Account hacking and hijacking
  • External data sharing
  • Malicious inside jobs
  • Cyber attacks and malicious hacking
  • Ransomware
  • Advanced persistent threats (APTs)
  • Weak credentials
  • Outdated software
  • Improper access control
  • Insecure coding practices
  • Reduced infrastructure visibility, etc.

Benefits of Cloud Penetration Testing

i) Compliance

There are laws like the GDPR or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard that require full compliance from any companies containing client information. One of the ways to ensure compliance is by creating robust security through cloud penetration testing.

ii) Saving Costs

Mitigating security threats once they have hacked into systems can be costly and some damages can be irreparable. Losing sensitive information can cost the company its license to operate and provide services. Jobs can be lost when certain information is lost or negligence is discovered.

iii) Preventing Cyber Attacks and Hacking

Preventing any imminent attacks on a company network through a controlled cyber attack is the primary purpose of a pentest. Once the loopholes are blocked and threats averted or prevented, the goal of penetration testing is achieved.

iv) Updated Systems

Penetration testing provides insight into ways of updating and improving the security of systems, creating more efficient and robust systems in return.

Common Penetration Testing Mistakes

Without knowing what exactly you are targeting during a pentest, you will be casting a net too wide to come up with any useful conclusions. If your tester does not know what your end goal is, they might miss important details.

When planning, it is important to know that traditional perimeter security and cloud penetration testing differ to avoid getting played by IT companies.

1) Overreliance on Automation

You need human intervention during a test to determine cloud vulnerabilities. While automation tools come in handy to make the process fast and more efficient, using the tools exclusively can be a mistake.

2) Hiring Non-Professionals

Sometimes doing penetration testing can be prompted by a legal requirement or a panic attack. In such cases, it is easy to go for companies that provide the service without probing their competence. Hiring a non-professional will cost you in many ways and waste a lot of your time.

3) Using the Wrong Tools

It is important to know the right penetration test tools to avoid mishaps during the process. Having no information about the tools and how the technology works makes you a potential victim of swindlers.

Final Thoughts

There are many cyber threats today, and you can not take chances with your cloud security. Cloud penetration testing is one of the many steps you can take to ensure your client information is safe.

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