When working in cybersecurity circles, the terms “Red team” and “Blue team” are bound to make an appearance. These military terms are used in the cybersecurity world to describe specific teams that utilize their security skills to simulate threats to the organization, and defend against them.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
“If you want to stop an attacker, you have to think like an attacker”—this oft repeated phrase essentially defines the meaning of a Red team. In other words, a Red team becomes the adversary, wherein the goal is to break through your organization’s security walls. Imitating real-world attacks, the Red team acts as a dedicated adversary—finding backdoors, and exploitable vulnerabilities—never limiting themselves to a single attack vector. Through the simulation of cyber attacks and network security threats, the team attempts to break through an organization’s defenses through any means possible; and they are not limited to ethical hacking.
Red teams help businesses remain competitive by leveraging social engineering; as well as physical, application, and network penetration testing to build up defenses. A strong Red team will reveal potential physical, hardware, software, and human vulnerabilities; including the identification of opportunities for bad actors and malicious insiders to compromise company networks and systems.
Note that a Red team can be made up of either internal personnel, or outside consultants. Often, outside resources are utilized since they are unaware of the organization’s security structure. This is thought to be a truer representation of an adversary as they will not have been provided the assets up front.
Go Red Team
You will find that more mature, large organizations employ Red teams as they will benefit the most from Red team drills. More mature organizations are generally ready to move beyond their reliance on security products and honestly test their ability to detect, prevent, and respond to an adversary. A smaller, or less mature organization may find themselves overwhelmed with Red team exercises, and should put their focus on penetration testing to identify and remediate certain vulnerabilities.
Defend Your Ground
If the Red team is tasked with breaking into your organization, the Blue team is tasked with keeping them out. The Blue team is your company’s defense—a fundamental cybersecurity operation. As the Red team is attempting to break in, the Blue team is attempting to find ways to defend against the Red team’s attacks.
Blue teams are often composed of internal employees, and their teamwork helps to strengthen your organization’s security posture by:
- Assessing network security and identify any vulnerabilities
- Making incident response stronger
- Strengthening security infrastructure
- Conducting malware analysis
- Protecting critical assets against all threats
Oftentimes, there can be a bit of a row between Red and Blue teams. Blame can be passed back and forth resulting in contention between teams. This is when many organizations are turning towards the development of a Purple team. Red and Blue teams collide and work together to improve an organization’s security posture, in a strong show of collaboration.
In a Purple team, the focus is no longer on attacking or defending—the team does both. No longer working to ‘test’ each other or outwit the other team, they now work together to come up with the most complex scenarios of attack and construct a ‘fix’ before that attack even happens. In the case of a Purple team, the methods of attack and defense are all predetermined, resulting in a testing shift from passive to active.
If you’re really looking for a way to test your security, and build your cybersecurity posture, adopting teams is the way to go. Although it may be difficult at first to bring vulnerabilities of your organization’s security to light, teaming gives incredible insight into much-needed strengths and pitfalls, as well as provides the tools to rethink the theories behind your organization’s security processes.