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A Detailed AWS Penetration Testing Checklist

Regular AWS penetration testing is required to protect your cloud infrastructure and the assets deployed, especially if the firm is dependent on these assets for its daily operations. This will also ensure that your sensitive data remains secure and an entire risk assessment of the AWS environment is done.

Since AWS security is a shared responsibility between the AWS environment and the user, it’s important to keep in mind that traditional hacking tactics may encroach on the ‘acceptable use’ policies. Therefore, the firm will need to focus on the protection of user-owned assets the most.

Why is AWS Penetration Testing Important?

Businesses throughout the world have started to adopt the AWS services which have led to the rising complexity of enterprise environments. AWS security is the next question to be answered, for which all potential security issues need to be identified. Here are some examples as to why AWS penetration testing at periodic intervals is an absolute necessity:

  • Failures in regular AWS security checks leads to open security groups and excessive permissions
  • Lack of proper understanding of the ‘shared responsibility’ model causes organizations to underestimate the risk they face from inadequate protection
  • Ineffective multi-factor authentication measures, implementation, or operation of proper authorization. This consequently leads to social engineering attacks, credential sharing, and privilege escalation attacks.
  • Meeting compliance requirements, documentation of security issues, and visibility within the cloud. Efforts at meeting compliance standards such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and SOC2 will impact the data centre and firms must take the right steps to detect and resolve all discovered vulnerabilities. Compliance gaps should be filled so that they don’t affect the infrastructure, operating systems, or web applications.
  • Immediate detection and resolution of zero-day threats are essential to maintaining the overall security posture of the firm.

The implementation of AWS security should be a crucial part of the security audit plan. The AWS team also recognizes the importance of maintaining security across the user-owned assets within the environment and actively promotes the same. They send out frequent reminders for firms to pentest their applications, instances, operating systems, etc. There is also an established program for promoting the penetration testing exercise as well.

9 Steps in the AWS Penetration Testing Checklist

There are some important steps that every tester must keep in mind when proceeding with the AWS penetration testing procedure.

  1. Look into the customer agreement – This is to understand the client expectations and which penetration testing methods are not preferred or prohibited. This will help in defining the scope of the test and understanding the goals of the testing process.
  1. Identify the AWS services being tested – The tester should have a list of the AWS services being used so as to select the kind of pentesting method to be used. Each AWS service serves a different purpose which means the vulnerabilities can be varied and the attack methods need to be suitably designed.
  1. Select your testing tools – A lot of the testing can be automated which means the ethical hacker needs to identify the purpose of testing and choose the best penetration testing tool.
  1. Gather information – This stage will involve conducting reconnaissance, learning about the AWS environment, and the services to design the right attack methods for uncovering vulnerabilities. You can also use this step to find out which devices and services may be exposed in the cloud to potential hacking attempts and/or backdoors.
  1. Scanning for vulnerabilities – There are several automated tools available such as the CloudMapper and Astra Security Scan that can be used to scan the system for vulnerabilities.
  1. Manual testing – Complete reliance on automated testing tools leaves the risk of turning out false positives since they aren’t tuned to the context of the environment. Manual testing, on the other hand, can be done after understanding the appropriate business logic and suitably testing for vulnerabilities. Certain misconfigurations and coding flaws are usually detected at this stage.
  1. AWS penetration testing tools – Several automated tools such as AWS PWN and CloudSploit are used during this phase for properly conducting the process.
  1. Retesting – After the vulnerabilities are discovered and resolved, pentesters should retest the environment to ensure that they don’t pop up again and the security measures are effective. Keep supervising the environment for any new or changed vulnerabilities that may come up using the appropriate tools.
  1. Documentation – Proper reporting is key to the success of the entire procedure. All of the discovered vulnerabilities, security issues, and potential recommendations should be noted down in the final report for both technical and non-technical stakeholders to keep informed.

The importance of this knowledge should be reflected in the firm’s selection of a partner organization for gaining its AWS penetration testing services. The rules and regulations that make the procedure a success should be familiar to the testing organization so that they’re able to proceed with the engagement with minimal trouble and maximum success.

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