AWS penetration testing is a well-established and popular security technique performed by companies to assess the security strength of their AWS infrastructure.
AWS offers an enormous suite of services that can be leveraged to provide a variety of features for web development, data analytics, storage, and more. Penetration testing assures the security of this infrastructure by identifying vulnerabilities in the system before malicious actors do.
This blog post will discuss guidelines for AWS penetration testing, methodologies involved with AWS Penetration Testing as well as some common questions about the process such as how it should be carried out and what tools are typically used to carry out these tests effectively.
AWS Penetration Testing- Guidelines and Importance
There are a number of guidelines that should be followed before starting an AWS Penetration testing project. These include the following:
It is important to ensure that all servers have security patches applied correctly and do not have unnecessary services running on them.
Ensure each service is configured with the least privileges, i.e., no need for more privileges than they really need.
Ensure that access to services and ports is only allowed when it’s required for the service in question, e.g., don’t allow SSH or RDP on a web server where this won’t be necessary; rather use an access management system such as AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM).
Configure logging to capture as much information about activity on the systems as possible, including failed login attempts.
It is also important to have a solid understanding of the AWS services that will be tested in order to get the most out of the penetration testing process.
Phases And Methodologies for AWS Penetration Testing
The following methodologies are typically used when carrying out an AWS Penetration Test:
Configuration review/audit: This involves creating a baseline snapshot of how things should look before beginning any sort of activity on your systems where you can check changes and compare them with production.
Threat modeling: This involves identifying potential attack vectors from a threat actor’s perspective, e.g., what types of services are running on the system? What type of data is being stored there? Where in the network will they need to be compromised? How much access would this requirement for an attacker to carry out their objectives effectively?
Vulnerability scanning: A vulnerability scanner or an automated pen testing looks at multiple aspects of configuration settings across your environment looking for gaps that might present opportunities for attackers by defaulting insecure configurations or misconfigurations which could lead to security vulnerabilities. With AWS Security Audit, it may involve a combination of manual source code review combined with penetration tests against open ports that have been identified by the vulnerability scanner.
Penetration testing: This is where you perform an attack on your network to identify if there are any vulnerabilities in the environment that would allow access to attackers once they have reached a certain point within your infrastructure. These tests typically involve carrying out both automated and manual attacks against different systems in order to identify ways into them or gain unauthorized privileged access. As well as looking for misconfigurations, it also entails using other techniques such as performing social engineering activities, e.g., sending emails with malicious attachments or links in order to compromise hosts by exploiting software vulnerabilities that expand their control over compromised systems. It includes monitoring events occurring on target networks/systems while penetration tools are being used so that security administrators can be alerted to any malicious or unauthorized activity.
Reporting: After the pen test has been completed, a comprehensive report is compiled which documents all findings from the assessment in addition to remediation steps that need to be taken in order to address any vulnerabilities identified.
Relevance of AWS Penetration Testing Certificate
The relevance of an AWS Penetration Testing Certificate will depend on the role that you are playing in your organization with respect to information security. If you are a system administrator, then it is likely that having this certification would be beneficial as it demonstrates your understanding of how to protect systems from unauthorized access and identify vulnerabilities. Alternatively, if you are a security engineer, then having this certification would demonstrate your ability to assess and protect systems from potential attacks.
The following is a list of some common vulnerabilities that can be exploited in an AWS environment:
Insecurely configured services, e.g., allowing unauthenticated access to web servers or running services without proper firewalling.
Misconfigured IAM policies, e.g., granting users too much access or failing to properly restrict access to certain resources.
Insufficient security controls, e.g., not using multi-factor authentication or allowing root user access.
Vulnerable software, e.g., unpatched operating systems or applications with known vulnerabilities.
Improperly secured networks, e.g., insecure routing or weak passwords.
Data exposure, e.g., unencrypted database backups or PII that can be accessed publicly.
These are the potential threats that can be verified by AWS penetration testing. An AWS penetration tested certification increases the security and thereby the reputation of your organization.
AWS Penetration Testing Cheat Sheet
The “penetration test” process can be divided into five primary phases: pre-engagement interactions, scoping the engagement, performing external network scanning of target environments, internal scanning and reporting of findings, and finally productionizing documentation for customer-facing use.
The first phase of any penetration test is to develop an understanding of the systems and networks being tested. This includes identifying all systems, mapping network topology, identifying services running on each system and their respective ports, etc.
Once a comprehensive understanding of the target environment is developed, the next step is to perform external scans against these targets in order to identify potential entry points into the environment. External scans can include vulnerability scanning, port scanning, and footprinting (the process of identifying information about a target system or organization that is not normally available).
Once external scan results are compiled, they should be analyzed to determine which systems and services represent the highest risk. At this point, the internal scan phase of the penetration test should be initiated.
Internal scans involve identifying vulnerabilities on systems that have been identified as high risk and attempting to exploit them in order to gain access to the target environment. This is where a detailed knowledge of AWS services and how they can be abused is critical in order to get the most value out of penetration testing.
This phase is also where the use of specialized tools to facilitate scanning, exploitation, and access comes into play. Penetration testers can leverage AWS services such as Amazon EC² or third-party products like Nmap in order to gather data about target environments for more effective assessments.
Penetration testing is an important part of maintaining the security of your AWS environment. By identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities, testers can provide a detailed report on potential threats that can be used to improve the security posture of an organization. In order to maximize the value of penetration testing, it is important to have a good understanding of both AWS services and security best practices.