What Is Cloud Pentesting?

What Is Cloud Pentesting?

What Is Cloud Pentesting? – Cloud penetration testing is the security testing methodology for cloud systems. It involes an active analysis of the cloud system for potential vulnerabilities that may result from hardware or software flaws, sharing resources, system misconfiguration, operational weaknesses, and others.

Black box pen testing (i.e testing the cloud infrastructure without prior knowledge of the cloud administrators) is a most effective way of assessing the security posture of a cloud service provider.

This section deals with cloud pen testing, key considerations for pentesting in the cloud, the scope of cloud pen testing, cloud pen-testing methodology, and recommendations for cloud testing.

What is Cloud Pen Testing?

Cloud pen testing is a method of actively evaluating the security of a cloud system by simulating an attack from a malicious source. Security posture of the cloud should regularly be monitored to determine the presence of vulnerabilities and the risks they pose. Cloud security is based on the shared responisibility of both cloud provider and the client.

Pentesting a cloud ensures confidentiality, integrity, and security of the data it hosts. Any organizations, regardless of its size, needs to ensure that all its information assets are auditable, comply with industry regulations and do not jeopardize the organization’s data and programs.

Carry out cloud pen testing either manually, using industry standard techniques or using automated software applications such as Qualys Cloud Platform, Core CloudInspect, Cloud Passage Halo, Alert Logic, and SecludIT.

Pentesting Cloud involves three phases:-

  • Preparation:- it consists in signing formal agreements to ensure the protection of both parties (Cloud Service Provider (CSP) and client). It defines the policy and course of action the CSP and client should take in finding potential vulnerabilities and their mitigation. Pen testing also considers other users who might be using the same infrastructure under testing.
  • Execution:– It involves executing the cloud pen-testing plan to find out potential vulneabilities if any, existing in the cloud.
  • Delivery :- Once cloud pen testing is complete, document all the exploits/vulnerabilities, and hand over the document to the provider to take necessary action.

Scope Of Cloud Pen Testing

Because a cloud is a multi-talent enviorment, it is essential to determine the scope of pen testing before executing it in a CSP’s network. The scope defines what to test, how to test, and the extent of testing. As resourses such as Dynamic IP Addresses change in the enviornment, as a penetration tester, one need to be very cautions during testing, to prevent accidental testing of resources that the client does not own, as it may lead to a violation of legal terms and services. The scope of cloud pen testing depends on the type of cloud service by the client.

  • IaaS – virtualization security, solution stack, application layer, APIs etc.
  • PaaS – application and API layers
  • SaaS – Usually thrid-party pen testing is not allowed by SaaS vendors untill unless it is mentioned explicity in the Service Level Agreement (SLA)
  • Pentesting web applications should include mobile applications as well
  • Pen Testing network or host comprises systems, firewalls, IDS, Databases ,etc. That are available in cloud
  • Pen testing web services should consist of mobile back-end services.

Key Considerations For Pen Testing In The Cloud

Most orgaizations around the world-small and large– are adopting cloud service to handle business-criticla data. Robust cloud technology offers many benefits such as improved efficiency, reduced costs, improved accesibility, and flexibility.

There also exist many security risks such as issues with encryption, risk factors associated with virtual machines, vulnerabilities arising from shared resources, and so on. Thus orgnizations depending on cloud computing technology need to perform pen testing of their critical assets present in the cloud, which makes it possible to address vulnerabilities and the associated risks beforehand, preventing attackers from exploting them

Following are some of the critical considerations for pen testing cloud:

  • Determine the type of cloud; PaaS, IaaS or SaaS as well as the type of cloud provider determines if pen testing is allowed or not
    • If it is SaaS, pen testing is not permitted by providers as it might impact their infrastructure
    • if it is PaaS or IaaS, pen testing is permitted, but coordiantion is required
    • The contract and SLA made with cloud provider states if pen testing is permitted ,if so what kinds of tests are allowed and how frequently can it be performed.
  • Obtain written consents for performing pen testing
  • Ensure every aspect of the Infrastructure (IaaS), Platform (PaaS), or Software (SaaS) are included in the scope of testing and generated reports.
  • Determine what kind of testing is permitted by CSP and how often
  • Prepare legal and contractual documents.
  • Perform both internal and external pentesting
  • Perform pentests on the web app/services in the cloud without web application firewall (WAF) or reverse proxy.
  • Perform vulnerability scans on host available in the cloud
  • Determine how to coordinated with the CSP for scheduling and performing the test.

What Is Cloud Pentesting?

Cloud Penetration Testing

Discussed below are the steps involved in the cloud pen-testing process;

Step1; Check for Lock-In Problems

Lock-in refers to a situation in which a subscriber cannot switch to another CSP. Check the service-level agreement (SLA) between subscriber and cloud service, and determine the provisions to switch over to other CSPs.

Step 2 : Check For Governance Issues

Check the SLA document, and track the record of the CSP to determine:

  • Roles and responsibilities of CSP and subscribers in managing the cloud resources (network bandwidth, storage, computing power, memory management, virtual machines, etc)
  • Any discrepancy in SLA clauses and their implementation
  • Visibility of CSPs audit or certification to customers.
  • Hidden dependency on resources outside the cloud.
  • Source escrow agreement and vulnerability assessment process.
  • Certification schemes adapted to cloud infrastructures.
  • Jurisdictions over CSP for SLA related issues.
  • Completeness and transparency regarding use
  • Cloud asset ownership

Step 3 : Check for compliance Issues

Cloud compliance issues arise from the use of cloud storage or backup services. recommendations to check for compliance issues include:

  • Compliance with PCI, SOX and other acts is a major concern for shifting to cloud computing.
  • Check the SLA for whether the CSP is regularly audited and certified for compliance issues.
  • Determine the regulations that the CSP complies with
  • Check the responsibilities of the CSP and subscribers in maintaining compliance, and check if the SLA provides transparency on this issue.

Step 4: Check Cloud For Resource Isolation

Recommendations to check cloud for resource isolation:

  • Check if activity of one subscriber affects the other.
  • Check the CSPs client feedback and expert reviews
  • Check the track record and any security of CSP’s services.

Step 5 : Check if Anti-Malware Applications are Installed and Updated on Every Device

  • Check whether each component of the cloud infrastructure ( i.e data center, access points, devices, and suppliers) is protected using appropriate security controls
  • Check for updates, outbreak alers, and automatic scans.

What Is Cloud Pentesting?

Step 6 : Check if CSP has installed Firewalls at Every Network Entry Points

  • Check whether the firewalls are installed at every network entry point.
  • Unused ports, protocols, and services should be blocked.

Step 7 : Check if the Provider has Deployed Strong Authentication for Every Remote User

  • All The remote users should use an eight-character password which is aplhanumeric
  • Two-Factor authentication should be used to validate those using OTP (One-Time-Password) for accessing the network to ensure security.

Step 8 : Check Whether the Provider Encypts Files Transferred To/ From Cloud Servers

  • Check The cloud service for SSL encryption in the access URL, Security certificates from reputed vendors, and security padlocks.
  • Check if VPN and Secure email services are used for communication
  • Check Security and Privacy policies of the cloud service.

Step 9 : Check Whether Files Stored on Cloud Servers Are Encrypted

  • Check if default encrypts data stored in cloud servers and determine the encrytion algorithms used to encrypt the data.
  • Check Whether cloud service providers or service users hold the algorithmic keys for the encryption.

Step 10 : Check Data Retention Policy of Service Providers

  • Determine if service providers are bound by the law of the land to disclose the data to third parties.
  • Check the duration of the data retention in the cloud and procedures to delete the data from the cloud.
  • Check how data retention will be handled in case the service provider is acquired by another service provider or ceases to exist due to any other reasons.

Step 11 : Check Whether All Users Follow Safe Internet Practices

  • Check if a documented computer and Internet usuage policy exists and is implemented properly
  • Check if firewalls, IDS/IPS systems, and anti-malware applications are configured properly.
  • Check if the staff is regularly educated not to engage in and how to respond to risks such as sharing passwords, responding to phishing emails, and downloading files without verifying the source.

Step 12 : Perform a Detailed Vulnerability Assessment

  • Perform pen testing of each component as for the normal physical machines (check previous modules for more details)

Step 13 : Check Audit and Evidence-Gathering Features in the Cloud Services

  • Check if the clloud service provider offers features for cloning of virtual machines when required
  • Cloning of virtual machines helps minimize the downtime as affected machines and evidence can be analyzed offline, facillitating ivestigation of a suspected security breach.
  • Multiple clones can also save investigation time and improve chances of tracing perpetrators.

Step 14 :Perform Automated Cloud Security Testing

Automated cloud security testing solutions can proactively verify the security of cloud deployments against real, current attack techniques

Tool used to perform Automated Cloud Security Testing:

  • Qualys Cloud Platform
  • CloudPassage Halo
  • Core CloudInspect

Step 15 : Document all the Findings

Once cloud pen testing is complete, collect and document all information you obtained at every stage. You can use this document to study, understand, and analyze the security posture of the client’s cloud enviorment. Address vulnerabilities and resultant risks and suggest mitigation techniques to apply to reduce the risk of security compromise to an acceptable level.

What Is Cloud Pentesting?

Recommendations for Cloud Testing

  1. Find out whether the cloud provider will accommodate your own security policies or not.
  2. Compare the provider’s security precautions to the present levels of security to ensure the provider is achieving better security levels for the user.
  3. Ensure that the cloud computing partners suggest risk assessment techniques and informtion on how to reduce the uncovered security risks.
  4. Make sure that a cloud service provider is capable of providing their policies and procedures for any security agreement that an agency faces.
  5. Pay Attention to the service provider’s agreement so that the coding policies can be secured.
  6. Authenticate users with a usename and password.
  7. Ensure that all crendentials such as accounts and passwords assigned to the cloud provider should be changed regularly by the organization
  8. Strong Password of policies must be advised and employed by the cloud pen testing agencies.
  9. Ensure that the existing business IT security protocols are up-to-date and flexible enough to handle the risks involved in cloud computing.
  10. Make sure that IT support can be offered and use more stringent layers of security to prevent potential data breaches.
  11. Make sure that the access to virtual enviorment management interfaces is highly restricted.
  12. Password encryption is advisable.
  13. Protect the information which is uncovered during the penetration testing.
  14. Pay special attention to cloud hyperviors, the servers that run multiple operating systems.
  15. Use a centralized authentication or single sign on for the firms that use SaaS applications.
  16. Make sure that the workers are provided with the best training possible to comply with these security prarameters

What Is Cloud Pentesting?

Conclusion

  • Cloud Computing is an on-demand delivery of IT capabilities where IT infrastructure and applications are provided to subscribers as a metered service ove a network.
  • Cloud Services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platfrom-as-a-service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-service (SaaS).
  • Virtualization is the ability to run multiple operating systems on a single physical system and share the underlying resources such as a server, a storage device or a network.
  • Attackers create anonymous access to cloud services and perpetrate various attacks such as password an key craking, bulding rainbow tables, CAPTCHA-solving farms, launching dynamic attack points, etc.
  • Cloud service providers should provide higher multi-tenancy which enables optimum utilization of the cloud resources and to secure data and applications
  • Cloud Pen testing is a method of actively evaluating the security of a cloud system simulating an attack from a malicious source.

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