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What is FedRAMP Penetration Testing?


Routine security checks play a critical role in protecting an organization's assets from insider and outsider threats. These checks, also called penetration tests, assess the security strength of various enterprise assets, networks, web services, and applications and suggest additional ways to secure them.

According to the Markets and Markets report, the global penetration testing market size will expand from 1.6 billion USD in 2021 to 3.0 billion USD by 2026. Penetration testing assumes greater significance, particularly in the US, amid an uptick in cyberattacks. This is why Cloud providers must adhere to the stringent FedRAMP guidelines before tendering their offerings to the US government. 

What is FedRAMP?

Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a US government-wide program providing a standardized approach for security assessments, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. The idea behind the program is to promote public-private partnerships to augment the security of the IT domain. This Cloud-First Policy was put forward by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 2011. 

Under this policy, all Cloud service providers must consistently maintain FedRAMP authorization for their offerings intended for the US government. As it is a government-wide program, the FedRAMP policy leverages the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines to pursue a uniform strategy to mitigate different risks and cyber threats. Cloud service providers in pursuit of the FedRAMP authentication can seek the help of cybersecurity service companies like Packetlabs to align themselves with the stringent compliance policies through FedRAMP penetration testing.

What is FedRAMP penetration testing?

FedRAMP penetration testing is a specially-scoped penetration testing methodology designed keeping in mind the US government’s stringent requirements concerning risk and security related to authentication management. Such penetration testing covers select technologies like:

  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)

  • Web Applications

  • Networking and Network Architectures

  • Mobile Applications

  • Physical Attacks and Social Engineering

  • Simulated Internal Threats

The FedRAMP Program Management Office (PMO) has set guidelines for Cloud providers & third-party assessment organizations to conduct penetration testing. The methods for performing the testing and reporting the findings are outlined in the guidelines. The FedRAMP penetration testing has five phases:

  1. Scoping phase

  2. Discovery/information-gathering phase

  3. Exploitation phase

  4. Post-exploitation phase

  5. Reporting phase

Technical verticals that require FedRAMP penetration testing

The FedRAMP penetration tests cover different domains and technical scopes on the various aspects of risk assessment and authorization management. The following is a detailed summary of the domains and their associated requirements.

  1. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)

    • Identifying the target middleware associated with the technology

    • Ensure the connection to and from the API is secure for data in transit

  2. Web Application

    • Check for publicly available information on all repositories and sites about the target web app

    • Identify all overall architecture of the web app and various databases, servers, APIs, languages, ports & technologies associated with it

    • Determine the user account(s), associated roles, authorization mechanisms, entry points (authentication techniques enabled), etc.

    • Check all the functionalities, libraries, dependencies, and modules associated with the web app

    • Perform checks on Cloud-based and server-based configurations

  3. Network and Network Architecture

    • Conduct open-source intelligence (OSINT) gathering exercise

    • Perform enumeration and fingerprinting techniques on network services, endpoints, different hardware, and operating systems

    • Use penetration testing tools and techniques to conduct vulnerability scans

  4. Mobile Application

    • Check for publicly available information about the mobile app

    • Check all the functionalities, libraries, dependencies, and modules associated with the mobile app

    • Identify all the different permissions required for security purposes

  5. Physical Attacks and Social Engineering

    • Search for additional information about the particular individual(s) responsible for managing the target system

    • Look for physical security setups and prospects around physical security breaches

  6. Simulated Internal Threats

    • Conduct a scope-finding exercise with Cloud service providers to look for potential threats and attack vectors

    • Use tools and techniques to conduct vulnerability scans

    • Simulate internal attacks like privilege escalation, phishing drills, and educate employees about how to avoid them

    • Educate employees on the security policies and implementations


The FedRAMP program is a stringent compliance framework that helps agencies securely adopt cloud technologies. The penetration testing guidelines are essential to ensure the safety and security of government data. By aligning themselves with Packetlabs, organizations can benefit from the rigorous FedRAMP penetration testing methodology.