Penetration testing refers to the process of testing systems and or networks to determine, understand and remediate their security vulnerabilities. There are many ways for hackers to get into your system, and a vulnerable cloud environment becomes an easy entry point. Therefore, to discover and fix security weaknesses in the cloud environment, the cloud penetration testing is required. In this blog post, we will only talk about a CSP that has the largest market share in the industry – Amazon Web Services. We’ll see how to secure an AWS environment with AWS penetration testing.

So, let’s dig into this in detail and discover all there is to know about AWS penetration testing!

AWS Penetration Testing- What Is It?

The goal of AWS penetration testing is to find vulnerabilities in your Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment. Pen testers use a variety of tools and techniques to find these vulnerabilities, which may include scanning for open ports, fingerprinting systems, and exploiting known vulnerabilities.

The two types of AWS penetration testing are:

  • External pen testing – Refers to the process of attacking a system from the outside. Pen testers simulate an attack by attempting to access your systems using the public internet.
  • Internal pen testing – This is the process of attacking a system from the inside. Pen testers attempt to gain access to your systems by exploiting vulnerabilities within your network.

You should always perform AWS penetration testing before you host any critical data. The pen testers will find vulnerabilities in your systems and networks that can be exploited by hackers, which could put your sensitive information at risk. If the pen tester finds a vulnerability within an Amazon ECU or security group, it is recommended to update them immediately. And herein lies the importance of AWS penetration testing.

What Is AWS Penetration Testing Report and Its Importance?

Once the pen test is complete, a report is generated with detailed findings. These reports should include:

  • The environment that was tested.
  • The tools that were used.
  • The techniques that were employed.
  • A list of discovered vulnerabilities.
  • A description of each vulnerability found.
  • The impact of each vulnerability (How bad would it be if someone exploited this?).
  • A description of the exploitability (How easy is it to exploit this vulnerability?).
  • Suggested remediation steps.

The importance of the AWS Penetration Testing Report lies in the fact that it acts as a guide for your organization to identify the weaknesses in AWS. Once these weaknesses are identified, your organization can work on fixing them and make your AWS environment more secure.

AWS Penetration Testing Checklist

AWS penetration testing never has a one size fits all approach to finding and solving issues. Every company and every security team is different, and each environment presents a unique set of challenges. However, here we mention some of the best practices that are recommended to follow when performing an assessment:

  • Network mapping and analysis
  • System scanning
  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Exploitation techniques
  • Tools for AWS Penetration Testing
  • Do not use your production systems for the pen test.
  • Use only cloud infrastructure to test other clouds (Cloud providers are always a high-value target).
  • Use the best penetration testing tools and techniques (Many exploits can be automated with scripts).

AWS Penetration Testing – What Are The Tools For It?

There are a variety of tools that pen testers or top pentesting companies can use when performing an assessment. Some of these tools are openly sourced while some of them might require a license to use. The following list mentions the most commonly used tools in AWS penetration testing:

  • Astra Pentest is a comprehensive toolkit that includes the ability to scan for vulnerabilities, exploit them, and generate reports.
  • The OWASP zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) is an open-source web application security scanner that may be used to detect a variety of threats.
  • Burp Suite is a well cohesive platform for carrying out dynamic application security testing for web apps. Containing a variety of tools with numerous interfaces between them, it is designed to facilitate and speed up the process of attacking web applications.
  • nMapping is a free and open-source network discovery and security auditing software.
  • Metasploit provides information about existing vulnerabilities in your AWS environment, allowing pen testers to quickly identify targets that can be exploited through known exploits. In addition, you’ll need metasploitable – A VM specifically designed for penetration testers to hack on includes multiple vulnerable services including Apache Tomcat, MySQL, and PostgreSQL.
  • Wireshark is a network protocol analyzer that allows you to monitor and analyze packets as they move across a network. This may be valuable in detecting flaws in your networking infrastructure.
  • OWASP ZAP is an open-source web application security scanner that can be used to find vulnerabilities in web applications.
  • CloudSploit provides security scanning and compliance checking on cloud infrastructure, with an easy-to-use web interface. It’s designed to keep best practices in mind so you don’t have to worry about forgetting something. 
  • Acunetix WVS is a cross-platform automated scanner that detects SQL injection, file inclusion vulnerabilities, and many more application vulnerabilities within minutes. OpenVAS- An open-source vulnerability scanner that was initially based on the Nessus framework. It’s currently maintained by a community of security professionals and is free for personal use.
  • Dradis was designed to help penetration testers report their findings in an organized manner, using a flexible plugin system that allows you to choose from many different data sources. This tool has been used in over 700 organizations across 60 countries worldwide including NASA, Cisco Systems, and Sony Europe.

Also read: 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Tools for Your Startup


AWS penetration testing can be a complex process, but following best practices and using the right tools will help you to identify any vulnerabilities in your environment. Remember that no two assessments are alike, so tailor your approach to fit the specific needs of your company!

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