AWS Penetration Testing – What You Need to Know

If you’ve just come across the services and utilities offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), you are probably still exploring the multiple ways in which it helps you to store data, form content, and collectively use all these features to smoothly operate your business. However, it is equally important to ensure that this cloud-based storage service is also virtually protected to its full extent, at least in order to protect the sensitivity of your information and business procedures.

A tiny flaw or a misconfiguration could leave the entire system vulnerable to outside hacking attacks, data leakage, and strike the infrastructure with severe security threats and business outages.

Why AWS penetration testing?

The reasons above, and many more, are exactly the reason as to why frequent AWS penetration testing, along with ensuring that your business is adherent to compliance with industry standards, such as PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, etc. The next step to conducting such steps is to make yourself aware of the procedure of execution, the comprehensiveness, and how detailed they are.

Types of AWS Penetration Testing

  1. Testing on the Cloud – for example, a system that is virtually shifted from being on-premise to the cloud.
  2. Testing in the Cloud – This includes testing any systems within the cloud that are not always visible publicly, such as testing the server that hosts the application.
  3. Testing the Cloud Console – This is a configuration test, such as looking at user accounts, a list of people who have permissions, the configured access-control lists, among other factors.

Once these tests are completed, business owners become aware of the risk factor faced by their systems and their configuration, including detailed reports on how to deal with any urgent security issues and their solutions.

How are AWS penetration tests different from the traditional testing methods?

For traditional forms of IT security audit tests revolve around assets like web, mobile, API, etc, and the systems or infrastructure used for their running process such as the OS, possible network misconfigurations, etc. The AWS testing procedure will also provide you a picture of the entire security detail of the cloud environment. Here, all components are subjected to the testing process, like S3, Cloudtrail, RDS, ELB, etc for any flaws that could increase your risk factor.

Also, traditional pentesting procedures also found their stumbling blocks in ownership of the systems; since Amazon owns the core infrastructure, the traditional ‘ethical hacking’ procedure might rub the AWS policies a bit wrong. Instead, more user-owned assets are preferred testing samples, with the help of AWS APIs that are available within the ecosystem.

The AWS Pentesting Procedure

The first step is always groundwork, since you need to make sure that all associated Amazon programs and services are sufficiently tested, and all goals are met, such as the evaluation of the entire Amazon cloud infrastructure and its possible security issues.

So, here are some factors you need to ponder upon before proceeding forward:

  • Decide which pentest you would like to conduct, according to the kind of business and type of services from AWS that require security detail to protect all deployed & integrated components.
  • Understanding the scope of the test i.e., what all needs to be tested, which systems are used for the functioning of the cloud service, testing goals and objectives, etc.
  • Figuring out a testing timeline to meet the organization’s deadline and needs. This also places a deadline on the formal reports submission, potential remediation strategies, and follow-up testing to ensure that all errors, risk factors, and misconfigurations have been successfully dealt with.
    It will also help in studying the protocol and establishing the rules of engagement.
  • Put a plan in place for ensuring that the testing process goes smoothly, and for situations such as finding a security breach or any other risks that need to be remedied quickly.
  • You can also conduct preliminary tests to be prepared for all possible situations. This helps in identifying the expectations of all stakeholders.
  • Approval and consent from all parties involved – Amazon, other third parties, etc.
    The approval process of Amazon has changed from February 2019 – while it required permissions for conducting such pentests before, it has since then announced that security companies can conduct their preferred tests, so long as they were using their core services such as EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing), RDS databases, as well as the AWS Lambda serverless service.

However, there are still situations in which they insist on permissions, so it is better to have a pentesting company with a credible reputation by your side to side-step this obstacle.

The entire penetration testing process can be quite time-consuming and detail-oriented for the average business owner to keep up with, while bogged down with other, more important responsibilities. This is often why they choose to outsource this procedure, along with making sure that the company is well-reputed enough to be knowledgeable about the strict Amazon protocols regarding such testing.