The rapid migration of businesses to cloud from physical data centers and services for on-demand delivery of IT services increases exponentially. Cloud agility and flexibility are indispensable as it reduces dependencies on cloud service providers.

With the ongoing trend of serverless computing, more enterprises are opting for cloud deployment models such as IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service).

These models have enabled enterprises to grow & innovate faster as they don’t have to rely on on-premise and remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data. It also offers rapid scalability, elasticity, and reduced costs as you pay for what you use.

When you leverage Cloud for all its advantages, its security becomes paramount - which means you must safeguard every cloud asset and know who is accessing the data and cloud services. Cloud vulnerabilities can be network, application of configuration vulnerabilities that can result in unwanted systems, credentials, and data.

Though you might have cloud security controls, penetration testing (or pen testing) must be considered imperative to get a thorough clarity into the existing cloud security posture. This form of security testing enables discovering security gaps to prevent breaches, improve security, and achieve compliance.

Common cloud security risks

  • Lock-in: Vendor lock-in is an issue when moving cloud assets/operations from one cloud service provider (CSP) to another.
  • Isolation failure: Platforms supporting multitenancy fail to maintain separation among tenants resulting in data integrity loss.
  • Insecure or incomplete data deletion: Inability to verify secure deletion of data and ensure data remnants are not available to attackers due to reduced visibility over CSP.
  • Management interface compromise: Management APIs accessible through Internet might get compromised.
  • Malicious insider: Insider attack of authorized access to cloud networks, systems, or data.
  • Loss of stored data: Permanent loss of customer data due to accidental deletion by the cloud service provider or a physical catastrophe.
  • Governance risks: Poor cloud security governance frameworks impacting effectiveness of security controls.
  • Compliance risks: Lack of compliance policies and regulations leading to increased cloud service risks.

How pen testing is done

Ethical hackers are responsible for initiating penetration tests. They begin these tests through reconnaissance missions where they gather the required data required to plan the attack. The information is collected through open-source intelligence methods to gather unclassified intelligence. An actionable threat profile is created by identifying business logic weakness in cross-scripting, SQL injection faults, and authentication vulnerabilities.

Automated and manual reviews are used to assess web applications to reveal flaws and loopholes in various assets. Black Box and Gray Box testing methods are used by these ethical hackers to test application security in different scenarios. Black Box testers leverage automated tools and manual penetration techniques to determine vulnerabilities outside an organization’s IT network. A Grey Box tester has extensive knowledge of internal working environments and has system privileges to assess network risks and simulate attacks like hackers having long term access.

An external connection to the network is established by leveraging the vulnerabilities observed in the reconnaissance phase. The stakeholders are informed before such a move is initiated. Planned and specific intrusions are undertaken to test the targeted system’s ability to mitigate real-time threats and protect sensitive information.

A report describing the risks, root cause, vulnerability descriptions, remediation steps, and links to vendor information on each vulnerability is generated, and remediation plans to fix network and application flaws are provided.

How pen testing can mitigate cloud security risks

To begin with, a cloud security assessment is done to evaluate cloud security posture. The assessment helps to manage risks, understand security gaps in cloud assets, define a robust cloud security strategy, and get recommendations to secure cloud environments.

The assessment clarifies the existing security status quo, enables proactive risk management, and improves operational security efficiencies. It also enables you to target security spend on specific controls needed to strengthen security posture.

The cloud security assessment covers four major areas to ensure the cloud platform under test has enough resilience to take on an attack. The assessment includes identifying security risks and vulnerabilities in the platform or weakening the platform hosted on cloud infrastructure.

  • Cloud Application Penetration Testing
  • Cloud Infrastructure Penetration Testing
  • Cloud Resources Security Review
  • Docker/Container Penetration Testing

Different types of activities are performed in each area. These activities follow a specific methodology and have particular outcomes that help in identifying security vulnerabilities.

Activities performed are as follows:

Activity Outcome
Penetration Testing on Cloud Applications Improves security assurance in Cloud hosted solutions, fix security gaps & mitigate malicious threats
Penetration Testing on Cloud Infrastructure Ensures the hosted infrastructure is secure and no known CVE’s are present
Cloud Resources Security Review Meet compliance & security standards to ensure security-in-depth. Secure every component of a Cloud environment (e.g., keyvault, virtual machines, vpc, etc.)
Docker/Container Penetration Testing Robust baseline image for spinning up infrastructure or hosted solution


The rapid proliferation of cloud deployment has expanded the digital attack surface, and penetration testing is ideal for strengthening the enterprise cloud security stance. Customized pen tests can safely simulate the most complex attacks to evaluate the risk status, classify threats, help meet compliance standards. Regular pen tests can prevent frequent attacks by viewing security through malicious actors’ eyes and allows enterprises to know their actual cloud security needs.

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