Pen Testing of Cloud-based Apps: The Guide | By Daniel Wilson

Pen Testing of Cloud-based Apps: The Guide

Penetration Testing is a legal procedure of a deliberate attempt to cause a security breach. This precautionary measure is obligatory for all developers of applications that deal with any types of users’ data. According to the latest Statista research, the number of annual data breaches in the US has grown almost 4 times higher since 2005.

Such miserable statistics hint at the low quality of software protection. Cloud-based applications are under the highest risk as the vast majority of them perform multiple operations with user accounts. Every breach may lead to serious trust issues and even bankruptcy. Years of app testing for made me strongly convinced that developers mustn’t release apps without making a thorough pen test, so here is my step-by-step guide to it. Remember, it’s much cheaper to minimize all risks at the stage of development than to cover damages!

Study Providers’ Policies

Ownership of a cloud service is mostly a privilege of huge corporations like Google, Dropbox, etc. You are likely to apply for a service of 3rd party cloud storage providers to purchase public cloud space rather than a private. Know the difference. For example, Dropbox is a private cloud provider, while is a public-cloud-based service that may expose finance-related data in case of a breach. It offers a paid subscription to more than 300 TV channels, which means that hackers may encroach on transactions and their sources (bank accounts).

Pen testing requires certain cloud server power. It means that you must consider your cloud account capacity to hold a test without causing problems to neighbor cloud users. Overload may lead to complaints or, what is worse, to a prohibition.

All providers also have specific policies that are established to control customers. Some companies may contact you in case of suspicious activity on your account, but the majority will ban your account without asking. To avoid any problems you must study your provider’s policies to have a clear pen test. A perfect deal is to contact the company manager and arrange the time and conditions of a forthcoming test. Otherwise, it may look like a DDoS attack and lead to a strike. Read more about DDoS attacks on

Develop a Detailed Plan

This point doesn’t need a long introduction. Be patient to approve the plan with the responsible people and to follow it strictly. All deviations must be recorded as issues to be studied.

  1. Identify UIs and APIs of the app(s).
  2. Set rules for the data pen test. Will the test involve an application or attack the database directly?
  3. Network security – is the application and data in safety?
  4. Set virtual machines properly to control the workload.
  5. Check whether you comply with all necessary rules and legal regulations.
  6. List all tools that will be used for the pen test.
  7. Be sure to know responsible administrators. Pen testing is a good security drill for employees.

Choose Appropriate Tools

Fortunately, you are not obliged to purchase costly stationary pen testing tools as today’s market offers cheaper cloud-based solutions. A tool should simulate realistic attacks. Usually, hackers launch special automated algorithms that detect weak points to extract or generate passwords and analyze APIs for breaks.

The tools you choose must cover the widest range of potential problems. You are free to develop your tools, but expenses are too massive in a long-term perspective. It’s less costly to buy frequently updatable tools. Remember All Safe company from Mr. Robot series? Apply for such type of service, and make sure that it matches all your needs.

Examine Human And Automated Response

Pen testing must include an examination of both electronic and human resources because a system itself can’t resist all kinds of attacks.

Human response is a quality of administrators’ reaction to unexpected problems. That’s why it’s better to keep pen testing in secret to get the most veridical result. Such conditions tell you who of your employees is professional enough to get into the problem and try to resist it, and who simply shuts the whole system down leaving users offline.

The automated response is the reaction of the system. This indicator shows how does your application deal with attacks. It should analyze the threat to decide whether to resist it or to call administrators to shut the whole system down.

The result must be recorded in detail to provide the full picture of the response. Both automated tools and administrators must work in balance. It means that the system must alert the humans about any suspicious actions as well as do its best to win some time for finding the best solution. There’s a good post on about the proper security automation.

Minimize Vulnerabilities

Don’t hurry to celebrate if you didn’t detect any vulnerabilities after a couple of tests. It may point you at the wrong choice of tools. Humans develop applications, and they always make random mistakes. The better programmers are, the less obvious mistakes they make. That’s why we at advice you to take multiple pen tests to exclude the probability of a breach.

The list of vulnerabilities will vary depending on a layer of penetration testing. Start from testing the app, storages, networks, and cloud databases separately to avoid conflicts of layers and to conduct a clear joint test.

Always Go Into Details

To sum up, I’d like to advise beginner developers to consider all specific features of their applications to develop the most ramified plan, and to apply the most suitable tools. It would also be very wise to hire security hackers who are not familiar with your product. This approach will help you receive the most realistic results. Be sure to complete all stages to the fullest. You will have a chance to launch your app in if you do have critical mistakes, but the Apple App Store doesn’t forgive negligence.

Bio: Daniel is the founder of, a website about applications. As an enthusiast of mobile and internet technologies, he always goes deep into the roots of application development and all related web-issues.

May 9, 2019

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