What Is an AWS Penetration Test?

An AWS penetration test is a simulated cyber-attack against your cloud infrastructure to identify security vulnerabilities.

Unlike other penetration tests, which are typically performed on-premises, an AWS penetration test is conducted in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud environment.

In this article, we will discuss an AWS penetration test. We will also outline what pen-testing activities are allowed in the AWS environment and those that are off-limits.

Understanding the AWS Cloud

AWS is the leading public cloud provider, with a market share of over 40 percent. AWS offers a comprehensive suite of cloud services, including compute, storage, database, networking, and security services.

Organizations are migrating to the AWS cloud for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The ability to rapidly deploy applications and scale capacity as needed
  • The ability to pay for only the resources used, making it more cost-effective than traditional hosting models
  • The ability to leverage AWS’s massive infrastructure and its wide array of services

AWS is a secure cloud platform. However, as with any public cloud platform, security vulnerabilities can exist. That’s why it’s important to perform an AWS penetration test to identify and mitigate any security risks.

AWS vs. Traditional Pentesting

Organizations that are new to the cloud may be wondering how an AWS penetration test differs from a traditional pentesting engagement. The main difference is that a traditional pentesting engagement is conducted on-premises, whereas an AWS penetration test is conducted in the public cloud.

Another key difference is that a traditional AWS vs. Traditional Pentesting pentesting engagement is typically focused on identifying vulnerabilities in the organization’s physical infrastructure, such as servers and networks.

An AWS penetration test is focused on identifying vulnerabilities in the organization’s cloud infrastructure, including its AWS accounts, resources, and applications.

What Pen-Testing can be performed in AWS?

Organizations when migrating to the AWS cloud often ask: “What is the difference between a traditional pentest and an AWS pentest?”

A traditional pentest is typically performed on-premises, in a company’s data center. The goal of a traditional pentest is to identify vulnerabilities in the company’s IT infrastructure that could be exploited by cyber-attackers.

An AWS pentest, on the other hand, is conducted in the AWS public cloud environment. The goal of an AWS pentest is to identify security vulnerabilities in the company’s cloud infrastructure that could be exploited

AWS Pentesting vs Traditional Pentesting

The traditional pentesting methodology is often performed in a company’s on-premises data center. In this scenario, the pentester is typically given access to a limited number of systems within the network that are considered “low-hanging fruit” – systems that are easy to penetrate and provide a high-value return on investment (ROI) are compromised.

In contrast, an AWS penetration test is conducted in the public cloud environment and gives the pentester access to a wide range of systems, including those that are not typically accessible in a traditional pentesting scenario.

This allows the pentester to identify potential security vulnerabilities in your cloud infrastructure that may not be exposed in a traditional pentesting scenario.

What Pen-Testing can be performed in AWS?

An AWS penetration test can be used to identify security vulnerabilities in the following areas:

  • Security groups and network ACLs
  •  CloudTrail logs
  • IAM policies and roles
  • SNS and SQS queues
  • EC² instances and other compute resources
  • RDS databases
  • DynamoDB tables

As you can see, the AWS environment provides a wealth of potential targets for pen-testing. However, not all pen-testing activities are allowed in AWS. 

Off-limits for AWS penetration testing

There are several activities that are off-limits for AWS penetration testing, including the following:

  •  Accessing or manipulating data stored in SNS or SQS queues
  •  Accessing or manipulating data stored in DynamoDB tables
  • Tampering with EC² instances or other compute resources
  •  Modifying or deleting security groups or network ACLs
  • Deleting CloudTrail logs
  • Deleting IAM policies and roles
  • Tampering with SNS or SQS queues
  • Tampering with DynamoDB tables

As you can see, many activities are off-limits for AWS penetration testing. For example, you can test the security of your SNS and SQS queues by sending fake data to them and verifying that it is properly.

AWS pentest can be used to identify security vulnerabilities in your cloud infrastructure that may not be exposed in a traditional pentesting scenario. The activities that can be performed during an AWS pentest include identifying security vulnerabilities in the following areas: security groups and network ACLs, CloudTrail logs, IAM policies and roles, SNS and SQS queues, and EC² instances and other compute resources, RDS databases, DynamoDB tables.

However, several activities are off-limits for AWS pentesting, including accessing or manipulating data stored in SNS or SQS queues, accessing or manipulating data stored in DynamoDB tables, tampering with EC² instances or other computing resources, modifying or deleting security groups or network ACLs, deleting CloudTrail logs, deleting IAM policies and roles.

As you can see, the AWS environment provides a wealth of potential targets for pentesting.

Conclusion

However, not all pen-testing activities are allowed in AWS. When you’re looking to identify potential security vulnerabilities in your cloud infrastructure, an AWS pentest is a good place to start. The pentester has access to a wide range of systems, including those that are not typically accessible in a traditional pentesting scenario.

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