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Similar to its cousin penetration testing (which uses simulated cyberattacks against your systems to identify vulnerabilities), cloud penetration testing (pen testing) engages the same concept but is performed on cloud-native systems. This form of security testing is used to identify security risks and vulnerabilities, and provide actionable remediation advice. 

Penetration Testing: A Buyer's Guide

This guide details the benefits of pen testing, what to look for in a pen testing solution, and questions to ask potential vendors.

What are the benefits of cloud penetration testing?

Cloud penetration testing empowers organizations to bolster the security of their cloud environments, prevent avoidable breaches to their systems, and remain compliant with their industry’s regulations. It does this by helping to identify vulnerabilities, risks, and gaps in a security program. The actionable remediation advice it provides allows security teams to prioritize activities and attend to security issues in alignment with their greatest business risks.

Specifically, cloud pen testing

  • Helps improve an organization’s overall visibility into business risk
  • Helps identify vulnerabilities
  • Demonstrates the potential impact of identified vulnerabilities if they were exploited
  • Provides clear remediation advice to fix vulnerabilities and mitigate their associated risk

How does pen testing work in cloud computing environments?

Pen testing in a cloud environment usually narrows in on three main considerations.

  • Internal cloud environments
  • The cloud perimeter
  • The management of on-premises cloud infrastructure

The testing uses a three-step process.

  1. Evaluation: In the evaluation phase, testers perform initial discovery activities, identifying vulnerabilities, risks, gaps in the security program, and the overall needs and goals of the security team.
  2. Exploitation: In the exploitation phase, testers use the information they gathered during their evaluation to determine which pen testing methods to use. Appropriate testing methods are deployed, and testers monitor the cloud environment closely to see how it responds to the attacks, how well existing security tooling detects the attacks, and how comprehensive overall security programs and practices are. Remediation activities are performed, where appropriate, to resolve any identified security vulnerabilities.
  3. Verification: In the verification phase, testers review the remediation activities performed in the previous phase. This review is aimed at ensuring appropriate remedies have been applied accurately and that the overall security program and practices are in alignment with industry best practices. 

What are the cloud pen testing methods?

There are three types of cloud pen testing. Determining which type of testing to use depends on the specific needs and requirements of the system(s) under test. All three forms involve testers “poking and prodding” the system as an attacker would, in order to identify real and exploitable weaknesses in the system.

  • Transparent box testing: Testers have admin-level access to the cloud environment, allowing them the most complete access and knowledge about the system(s) they are attempting to compromise.
  • Semitransparent box testing: Testers have some knowledge about the system(s) they are attempting to hack.
  • Opaque box testing: Testers have no knowledge about or access to cloud systems before beginning their testing activities. 


Cloud Penetration Testing Process | Synopsys

How does cloud pen testing differ from traditional pen testing?

The primary difference between traditional and cloud penetration testing is the environment on which they are performed; cloud penetration testing is the same as traditional penetration testing but performed on cloud services.

Additionally, cloud environments come from cloud service providers, like AWS and GCP. These cloud providers have strict guidelines for how pen testing should be performed. The combination of security activities from cloud providers and your own pen testing make for a more complete security stance. In traditional environments (on premises), you alone are responsible for performing security activities. 

What are common threats in cloud computing?

Some of the most commonly identified threats in cloud environments include

  • Security vulnerabilities
  • Data breaches
  • Malware/ransomware
  • Supply chain vulnerabilities
  • Weak identities, credentials, or access management
  • Insecure interfaces and APIs
  • Inappropriate use of cloud services

How can Synopsys help?

Organizations are moving their application workloads to the cloud to become more agile, reduce time to market, and lower costs. Whether you’re developing a cloud-native application or migrating an existing application to the cloud, Synopsys can help you increase innovation, reliability, and efficiency without sacrificing security.

Synopsys on-demand penetration testing enables security teams to address exploratory risk analysis and business logic testing, helping you systematically find and eliminate business-critical vulnerabilities. 

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