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AWS Penetration Testing

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a leading cloud services provider and offers an extensive collection of services that appeal to businesses, hobbyists, professionals, and students due to its scalability, costs, availability, flexibility, and much more. In recent times, the breaches on AWS have been reported to expose several different types of vulnerabilities like S3 bucket, misconfiguration, and compromised AWS environments. There are specific methods for investigating the vulnerabilities and attack strategies relevant to AWS Cloud, requiring specialised knowledge and skills. In this section, we will explain the dire need for AWS pen testing among organisations that are seeking to improve their security and reduce the likelihood of breaches.
AWS Penetration Testing Service

Why is AWS penetration testing important?

Several organisations have publicly adopted AWS services, but not everyone understands the technical flexibility inherent in AWS implementation. This often results in misconfiguration of user permissions and identity management in enterprise environments. Organisations are finding it increasingly important to challenge existing AWS security measures to immediately identify and remediate potential issues. The subsequent scenarios explain the importance of penetration testing in AWS environments to ensure security
Why is AWS penetration testing important?
  • Failures across security checks of AWS including open-wide security groups and excessive permissions.
  • A false understanding of the ‘shared responsibility model’ which leads to organisations underestimating their risk exposure.
  • Failures in implementation, operation, and requirements for multi-factor authentication. It is extremely important to consider how damaging social engineering attacks and attacks on personal identification information are today.
  • Retaining compliance that impacts the network and data centres. Specifically, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, etc. are a few of the required regulatory compliances that organisations must follow. Per regulatory authorities, pen testing enables recovering and eliminating security gaps.
  • Identifying and remediating zero-day vulnerabilities which enables to maintain good security posture in the cloud environment.

Validating the AWS security implementation in the cloud forms a comprehensive and flexible security plan. Due to the nature of AWS environment, AWS themselves encourage organisations to conduct penetration test of their applications, instances, and the underlying operating systems. Hence, organisations should partner with businesses that are familiar with the program and the rules that govern it. This is a critical success factor for the organisation when considering an engagement.

What is the difference between traditional infrastructure and AWS pen testing?

AWS offers a plethora of services, and requires skilled professionals to successfully design, develop and implement in both a functional and secure manner, and the same goes for assessing the security of an AWS hosted platform. Conducting penetration testing in traditional security infrastructure is significantly different to that of an AWS environment. The primary difference is system ownership. Amazon owns the core infrastructure of AWS. Hence, the methodologies used in AWS environment vary from those of traditional infrastructure penetration testing.

Top 5 vulnerabilities to test in AWS environment

  • S3 bucket permission flaws and configuration
  • Covering tracks by obscuring Cloudtail logs
  • Targeting and compromising AWS IAM keys
  • Applying Lambda backdoor functionality and establishing access to private clouds
  • EC2 instance and application exploitation

Prior to partnering with a penetration testing provider, ensure their understanding of your business deliverables and operations is clear. Also, make sure their approach to identify risks directly correlates to your business.

Traditional Infrastructure vs AWS Pen Testing

Preparing for an AWS Pentest

As of March 2019, Amazon altered their penetration testing policy. Previously any testing of AWS required formal approval; but now, most AWS security assessments can be performed without formal permissions. Amazon provides a set of guidelines to follow when performing security assessments. The approach detailed below could be followed before starting a testing engagement
Preparing for an AWS Pentest
  • Define your scope, including a detailed inventory of AWS environment, IPs, and target systems
  • Determine the types of testing you would like, for e.g. black box, grey box, white box
  • Define time frames, expectations, and requirements
  • In case of special requirements, review AWS testing policy to determine if any permission is required

Schedule your AWS Penetration Testing

AWS environment is quite complex and securing data in the cloud can be challenging. Penetration testing is an essential step for maintaining compliance and reducing your attack footprint. As part of your overall cloud strategy, be sure to make penetration testing a priority and work with a partner that has the necessary skills and knowledge.