Penetration Testing In Azure: How It Works, Steps To Follow, And Tools

By   Kanishk Tagade
, Astra Security | Oct 14, 2021 03:35 am PST

Penetration testing is a process of identifying and exploiting security vulnerabilities in network infrastructure for the purpose of evaluating the level of risk. Azure penetration testing, as its name suggests, focuses on vulnerabilities that can be exploited through Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform. This post will help you understand what azure penetration testing is and how it works. We’ll also cover some important steps to conduct azure penetration testing and tools that are used by practitioners during the assessment phase.

Why Azure Penetration Testing is Important?

Azure penetration testing is important because the Azure cloud has become one of the most popular platforms for enterprises to deploy applications and store their data. SaaS providers are also using the Azure platform extensively by providing on-demand access to Azure infrastructure over an Internet connection. As Azure architecture consists of multiple components like virtual networks, web apps, database services etc., it becomes crucial that these Azure components should be secured against potential attacks in order to avoid unwanted circumstances such as unauthorized access, system downtime or leakage of sensitive information about your business operations.

How does Azure Penetration Testing work?

To understand how azure penetration testing works let us consider a simple scenario where an IT security administrator wants to conduct a penetration test on Microsoft Exchange servers running in an Azure environment. The first step involves scanning available Azure infrastructure for Azure virtual machines that are running Exchange servers. Once Azure VMs hosting Exchange services have been identified, the administrator can utilize a suite of tools to identify vulnerabilities in those Azure components and exploit them as deemed necessary.

In order to conduct azure penetration testing successfully, IT security administrators need access to both offensive as well defensive tool sets or even consider redteaming. Offensive toolset enables administrators to discover potential loopholes or exploits while conducting Azure penetration tests whereas at the same time it is important that administrative staff should be aware of how these attacks work so they can take appropriate steps to defend their organization against such threats.

When you know what azure penetration testing is as well as how it works, it becomes evident why this type of test is important for organizations who are considering deployment in Azure platform infrastructure. IT administrators should not only have expertise on offensive methods used during Azure penetration testing but they must also understand defensive techniques so they can apply them while defending against these attacks. You may use some powerful tool sets available for Azure penetration testing to launch an attack against Azure infrastructure components.

Steps to follow while conducting Azure Pentest

The process of Azure penetration testing involves identifying potential vulnerabilities in Azure infrastructure, assessing them to determine the impact they can have on your business and recommending appropriate mitigation strategies.

The following are some steps that should be followed while conducting an Azure penetration test:

1) Identifying attack surfaces

2) Data collection for security reviews (using Azure Security Center)

3) Vulnerability scanning through automated tools like Nessus, OpenVAS or Nexpose etc. Using these tools you will get a list of all possible weaknesses along with suggestions to fix them. 

4) Thereafter run manual vulnerability analysis using traditional methods such as fuzzing or web application vulnerability scanners like Astra Pentest or Acunetix WP scan respectively if required depending upon the criticality of identified issues.

5) Perform external pentesting for your Azure environment.

Tools you can use for Azure Penetration Testing?

Microsoft’s cloud-based platform offers multiple options when it comes down to choosing an attack vector during Azure penetration testing. Azure penetration testers can take advantage of the Azure management portal, Azure virtual networks and Azure web apps to gain unauthorized access or disrupt ongoing business operations by manipulating the data flow through different components. Microsoft also provides a free trial version of its Azure assessment tools that include security risk assessment tool (SecRAT) and cloud assessment proxy (CAP).

Further, you can use a number of tools depending upon the criticality and nature of issues identified during the assessment phase. Some of these include CloudInspect from BitSight that audits cloud infrastructure for misconfigurations or vulnerabilities; Azure Site24xNetworks security scan tool that scans all ports on Azure VMs and reports any open TCP/UDP ports along with possible threats associated with them; Acunetix WVS which provides web application scanning capabilities as well as DNS enumeration test etc. Nessus is a good choice for vulnerability scanning while OpenVAS focuses more on network scanners like Nmap, SSLyze among others. Azure Security Center that was introduced by Microsoft is also a good choice for Azure penetration testing.

Google Hack (GH) is an automated tool developed to scan azure hosting services like web applications, SQL databases and more. GH uses the Azure API features to find vulnerabilities in web applications built on the Azure platform. GH allows users to do vulnerability scanning using either custom or out-of-the-box payloads as per requirement over RESTful APIs offered by Azure. This makes it easier for developers as well as testers with less knowledge about hacking techniques and tools required during pentest/red team exercises

Another option available at hand would be CloudInspect from BitSight which audits cloud infrastructure for misconfigurations or vulnerabilities. It provides information regarding Azure vulnerability assessment, Azure security scans and Azure penetration testing. It also manages Azure subscriptions of users including provisioning, de-provisioning etc. This tool talks with the API to gather information about Azure infrastructure components like VMs, virtual networks (VNets), hosting plans etc.

Summing Up…

So what is the takeaway from all of this? If you’re thinking about implementing a new cloud-based application, it’s best to be as prepared as possible for potential threats. In order to do so, try performing azure penetration testing. This will give your team more information on how vulnerable your organization may be and help provide secure solutions before any problems arise. By doing a little research beforehand and taking some other precautionary measures, you can avoid becoming one of those organizations that have been breached by hackers or data thieves in the past few years because they were too careless with their security practices.

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