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How To Conduct AWS Penetration Testing & Vulnerability Scanning

If you use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to store your data, deliver content, or perform any of your business operations, it's important to to ensure that your cloud-based estate is secure.

If you use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to store your data, deliver content, or perform any of your business operations, it’s important to ensure that your cloud-based estate is secure; otherwise, any flaw or misconfiguration could potentially lead to data leakage or expose your overall infrastructure to serious security threats. You might be wondering: how secure is AWS?

Let's first take a look at the AWS platform and understand the basics.

What is AWS pentesting?

Performing regular AWS pentests can also help your company achieve and maintain compliance with industry best practices, government policies and regulations, like SOC2, ISO 27001, NIS, PCI-DSS, etc. However, in order to successfully safeguard your business, you need to be sure that the types of AWS security assessments you are conducting are well scoped, comprehensive, and executed correctly.

A comprehensive AWS security assessment is one of the most valuable ways to gauge the safety of your Amazon Web Services environment and address any AWS security concerns. When it comes to AWS pentesting, there are three main types: testing on the cloud, testing in the cloud, and testing the cloud console.

Three Main Types of AWS Testing

1. Testing on the Cloud

An example of this type of test would be a virtualized system that has been moved from on premise to the cloud.

2. Testing in the Cloud

Testing systems within the cloud that are not exposed publicly. An example would be testing the server hosting an application.

3. Testing the Cloud Console

A configuration test of the cloud console. Examples would be looking at user accounts, their permissions, access mangement which have been configured.

Performing these types of Amazon cloud security tests gives business owners clear, definitive answers to how their systems and environment components are performing risk-wise and whether or not there are any urgent remedial actions that should be urgently prioritized.

But before investing the time and manpower required to complete an AWS pentest, it’s imperative that business owners have a full understanding of what these AWS cloud security tests entail, and how they are different from other forms of penetration testing.

AWS Pentesting vs Traditional Pentesting

In traditional pentesting, you are usually assessing assets (web, mobile, api etc.) along with the underlying systems/infrastructure that the applications are running on (OS, containers, network misconfigurations, etc.).

During AWS testing, on top of that you also assess the security posture of your overall cloud environment setup. This exercise includes testing all of the components (S3, RDS, Cloudtrail, SG, CloudWatch, ELB etc.) that might contain security misconfiguration which can significantly increase your risk exposure.

How to Prepare for AWS Penetration Testing

Performing a complete AWS pentest requires a significant amount of groundwork and know-how. Otherwise, certain aspects of your Amazon programs and services may go untested, or your test may not meet all of your objectives, and you may accidentally overlook underlying Amazon cloud security issues.

Before getting started, here are some of the preliminary steps that must be finalized:

  1. Deciding which type of pentest you want to conduct

  2. Determining the scope of your test (Which AWS systems are being used, what your company’s testing objectives are, etc.)

  3. Establishing a testing timeline that meets your organization needs, while also accommodating your pentest company’s schedule.

  4. Putting a documented plan in place that can be followed in the event a breach or security risk is found.

  5. Obtaining proper approvals and consents from AWS and any applicable third parties.

AWS’s Approval Process

Up until recently, Amazon Web Services required businesses to request permission before engaging in any pentest. This changed in February 2019, when they announced that security companies would be able to conduct tests without permission, as long as they were using core services such as EC2, RDS databases, and the AWS Lambda serverless service.

However, there are still certain programs and services that Amazon Web Services requires companies request permission for, and AWS security can be complicated, so it is highly advisable to have a reputable pen test company on your side. These professionals are well-versed in Amazon Web Services pentesting, and are your best bet for ensuring you follow all the proper protocols.

Choosing the Best AWS Pentest Company for your Business

The entire AWS penetration testing process is intensive and time-consuming. For these reasons, business owners often opt to outsource these AWS cloud security tests to companies who specialize in performing them.

Not only does selecting a credible AWS pentesting company come with added peace of mind for business owners, but it also guarantees that your tests are being completed by experts who understand how to conduct proper AWS pentesting.

How Cobalt Can Help with your AWS Security

Empowered by a global network of highly vetted, high-quality pentesters, each of whom is supported by our handpicked Core Team. Cobalt offers security and compliance best practices assurance on the Amazon Web Services, helping you prioritize risks and make your AWS cloud security posture more proactive. Our actionable remediation reports give your DevOps teams a leg up in fixing Amazon cloud security vulnerabilities, helping you serve your customers better without hassles or disruptions.

Explore the benefits of conducting agile AWS pentests with our innovative Pentest as a Service (PtaaS) Platform that provides:

  • A detailed description and proof of concept for each finding

  • Fast and actionable compliance and remediation reports for your AWS assets and real-time feedback

  • Risk severity mappings on the cloud and insight into the level of effort needed to secure your Amazon web services and apps

  • Seamless integration to your software development lifecycle

  • Descriptions, screenshots, and suggested fixes for vulnerabilities

Ready to get started with AWS pentesting? Talk with someone from the Cobalt team today and learn more about Amazon Web Services security.

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About Cobalt
Cobalt provides a Pentest as a Service (PtaaS) platform that is modernizing the traditional, static penetration testing model by providing streamlined processes, developer integrations, and on-demand pentesters. Our blog is where we provide industry best practices, showcase some of our top-tier talent, and share information that's of interest to the cybersecurity community. More By Cobalt