Red team vs. blue team in cybersecurity

Red team vs. blue team in cybersecurity

October 8, 2023 privacy 0
Red and blue teams are groups of professionals who imitate cyberattacks to reveal vulnerabilities in an organization’s security system and try to find solutions to make the company’s network more resilient to hackers’ attempts. By working together, these teams reveal how well companies are prepared against cyber threats. Read on to find out how both teams work, how they defer, and what they do to achieve their goal.

Contents What is a red team? What is a blue team? Red team vs. blue team: Differences Red team vs. blue team vs. purple team: What is the purple team? Benefits of the red team and blue team exercises
What is a red team?

The red team is a group of security experts that acts as hackers and takes offensive actions against a company’s cybersecurity defenses. By using elaborate techniques, red teams try to pin down and exploit vulnerabilities in the company’s security systems. They simulate various cybersecurity attacks, which can include anything from phishing and social engineering campaigns to actual malware deployment. The red team’s campaigns can last weeks and extend to even longer periods of time and are usually conducted without explicit warning – only the highest level officials of the company would know it’s a drill. Typically, the red team consists of high-level cybersecurity professionals, independent ethical hackers, cyber locksmiths, programmers, and social engineers. These experts use their explicit knowledge of cyber threats, new hacking techniques, and malicious tools to simulate real-world attack scenarios. Red team activities: How does a red team work? The red teams work by conducting penetration testing, which typically consists of three stages: Searching for vulnerabilities. The red team’s initial step is to gather as much information as possible about the company, its processes, technologies, and employees. Before hacking the systems, red teams typically use packet sniffers and protocol analyzers to scan the networks, or conduct extensive research on the company’s structure to perform elaborate phishing campaigns. Typically, red teams spend more time planning an attack than running it. Gaining access. When the red teams gain enough knowledge about the organization, its underlying technology and its people, they develop a plan to target the identified vulnerabilities. A successful attempt gains them access to the system. Escalating privileges. Once these ethical hackers are inside the organization’s network, they use privilege escalation techniques to enter the company’s network at the deepest level possible. Red teams are striving to steal the credentials of high-level employees to access critical information and exfiltrate sensitive data while remaining unnoticed. Typically, after successful penetration testing, the red team would make recommendations to the company on how it can improve its security. Red team skill set Each member of the red team should be aware of and skilled in threat actor tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), creative when planning elaborate cyberattacks, and perceptive when exploiting the possibilities of human error. When it comes to a specific skill set that a red team member should have, these would be: Vast knowledge of operating systems and protocols and the security measures that usually safeguard them. Superb software development skills to create tools to help outwit security mechanisms at work. Deep understanding of the most common software vulnerabilities and insight into the novelties of the cybercrime scene. Good social engineering skills to lure possible victims into sharing sensitive data or their credentials. What is red teaming and why does your security team need it? Red teaming is the process of searching for vulnerabilities in the organization’s security systems and executing a potential real-world cyberattack to pinpoint the gaps in the company’s security defenses. This act helps companies test their cybersecurity tools beyond the theoretical level and continuously search for ways to improve them. In addition, red teaming is indispensable when assessing how organizations respond to crises and their capabilities to neutralize them and restore regular processes.

What is a blue team?

A blue team is a group of security professionals that maintains the company’s internal security systems and responds to cyberattacks, including the ones conducted by the red team. Blue teams simulate daily security operations, monitor systems for signs of suspicious activity, identify security flaws, and work to respond to any security incidents. The main objective of a blue team is to protect the company’s most critical assets from data exfiltration. The members of blue teams must have inside-out knowledge of the company and be aware of its targets and security strategy. Blue teams typically consist of security analysts, incident response specialists, system administrators, and network engineers. They are also larger in number than the red teams because they need to cover many different aspects of the organization’s network security and prevent all possible attacks. Blue team activities: How does a blue team work? Blue teams work by providing suggestions for organizations on how they can improve their security systems to be more resilient to cyberattacks. In a way, blue teams work can be divided into four stages: Gathering data. First, blue teams collect information about the company’s security systems, assess possible risks, and note the critical assets that need to be protected. Monitoring security systems. Once the blue team evaluates the state of the organization’s security, it implements monitoring tools to scan systems for unusual activity. The group regularly runs domain name system (DNS) audits, network traffic, and vulnerability scans. Safeguarding key assets. In combination with system monitoring, blue teams work to identify the key assets of the company so that they could build a defensive mechanism and robust security measures around them. At this stage, blue teams implement various security controls to lower the likelihood of a successful cyberattack. Responding to cyber attacks. Prevention against online intrusions is key to maintaining organizations’ cybersecurity, but it’s equally important to respond to cyberattacks quickly and efficiently. As a result, blue teams also work with remediation, intending to restore crippled systems in the shortest time possible. Blue team skill set Blue team members are highly skilled cybersecurity professionals who can determine security risks specific to each case, build robust defenses around critical assets of the organization, and are proficient in tackling intrusions to the company’s systems and restoring them in case of a cyberattack. Blue teams are focused on the prevention, detection, and remediation of cyber threats, with each member skilled in: Grasping the organization’s security strategy and implementing various malware detection tools. Analyzing and identifying the most prevalent dangers to the organization’s security and choosing adequate responses. Patching system vulnerabilities and removing nonessential features to prevent phishing and other web-based attacks, such as a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. Proactively answering hackers’ attempts to breach the company’s systems and choosing the right means to stop the breach in its tracks.

Red team vs. blue team: Differences

The main difference between a blue and a red team is on which side of a simulated cyberattack they stand. The red team acts as an adversary and tries to infect the targeted organization’s system with methods like malware and steal sensitive data. The blue team tries to minimize the chances of cyber intrusion and acts in defense when the red team tries to intrude into the security system. The drill that the red and blue teams perform helps to test how effective are the company’s network and security systems that protect critical resources.

Red team vs. blue team vs. purple team: What is the purple team?

A purple team is a combination of a red and blue team, and is meant to share information about the organization’s security vulnerabilities and the most effective ways to fix them and improve overall security. The purple team may also be an entity that works as a communication bridge between the red and blue teams. It is not uncommon for companies to employ red and blue teams outside of their organization. However, hired red teams may not necessarily share their findings about the security system’s condition with the blue teams. This leaves a possibility that some security gaps may not be detected and fully amended by the company’s security professionals. The purple team usually consists of security engineers and incident response specialists. The main purpose of the purple team is to share their findings about the company’s security condition, help identify vulnerable areas within the organization’s security system, and provide recommendations for a better defense mechanism. {SHORTCODES.blogRelatedArticles}

Benefits of the red team and blue team exercises

The main benefit of a red and blue team exercise is that it helps to evaluate the company’s security defenses by simulating cyberattacks in a safe environment. This drill helps to identify vulnerable points in an organization’s security and establish an effective incident response and remediation strategy. In addition, it also helps to raise awareness about the latest cybercrimes among the employees. Red and blue team exercises are irreplaceable when building well-rounded threat intelligence within the company. Red team exercise examples Red teams use various techniques to assess the company’s security posture and exploit its gaps. Here are the most common actions that red teams take: Penetration testing. Red team members try to access the safeguarded systems of a company using various real-world hacking techniques. Exploiting known vulnerabilities. The red team doesn’t shy away from using well-known security gaps within the company to gain access to critical resources. Attacking file servers and endpoints. A red team member will likely search for vulnerabilities within the file systems or endpoints to gain access to the whole network via them. Using social engineering and phishing schemes. Red teams use various phishing techniques to access the company’s network by tricking employees into clicking on malicious links on unsolicited websites or asking them to share their credentials with the hacker in disguise. Intercepting communications. By capturing various types of communications, such as company chats, emails, or data packets, the red team can map the company’s network and gain more insight into the organization’s system. Breaching physical security. This includes white hackers gaining physical access to the company’s premises by cloning employees’ cards. Red teams will take any means necessary to cripple the enterprise’s security posture and break into the system. Blue team exercise examples To defend the company’s assets, blue teams try to patch the existing security features and prepare a response mechanism with the tools the company has. Blue teams are experts in both the organization’s security capabilities and vulnerabilities, thanks to the exercises it runs. These typically include: DNS audits. Blue teams try to prevent phishing and web attacks by examining the company’s DNS security state and avoiding stale DNS issues. Digital analysis. Analyzing the company’s digital footprint helps blue teams monitor network activity and spot any unusual behavior. Monitoring perimeter security measures. Blue teams try to ensure that firewalls and antivirus software are up-to-date and properly configured. Ensuring endpoint security. Blue teams take the initiative to secure the company’s external devices, such as laptops and smartphones, with special security software. Access segmentation. Blue teams work towards limiting access so that each employee would have the lowest possible access level. This measure helps to restrict hacker’s movements in the event of a breach. Security teams also use micro-segmentation that divides network perimeters into small zones to create separate entry points to each part of the network. Incident response. One of the most important tasks of the blue team is a quick and effective response to security incidents and system restoration, trying to experience as little damage as possible. How do a red team and a blue team work together? Red and blue teams work to establish a robust defense mechanism against real-life cyberattacks by representing two opposing sides during simulated cybersecurity exercises. While the red team acts as an adversary, the blue team plays the defense, trying to patch the gaps within the organization’s security system. The security drill starts with the red team attacking the company’s network with real-life hackers’ tactics. The blue team establishes a response scenario and tries to stop adversaries at the earliest stage possible. Once the simulated attack is stopped, both teams usually gather to discuss their findings. The red team informs the blue team about the vulnerabilities within the system it was able to exploit and advises on how the blue team can stop this particular type of malicious advances in the future. Meanwhile, the blue team lets the red team know how their monitoring tools have detected the red team’s attack. To keep these security exercises effective, the red team should stay ahead of the latest trends in cybercrimes and penetration techniques and guide the blue team on which corresponding security measures they could implement. On the other hand, the blue team should stay ahead of advancing security technologies and continuously search for ways to bring security to the next level.

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