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red vs blue team security

Hackers and other cybercriminals are pulling out all the stops, mounting a stunning array of increasingly sophisticated attacks on businesses of all sizes and industries. Any enterprise that stores, transmits, or otherwise handles data of any kind, whether the information is theirs or belongs to a customer, must be on constant guard to secure their systems against these violent and disruptive intrusions.

The potential consequences of data loss or corruption, service interruption, and financial and reputational damage are too dire for a company to fail in this regard. Therefore, organizations are embracing hardcore tactics such as red team and blue team penetration testing to detect, prevent, and eliminate vulnerabilities.

What is the Red Team?

Think of a red team as a group of experts charged with the task of emulating the behaviors of real-life external attackers. In most cases, a team is a third-party group hired by the organization that has no advance information about the security protections that have been put in place.

Using techniques such as phishing, social engineering schemes, and hacks designed to gain administrator privileges, the red team uses every tool and piece of information at its disposal to simulate full-fledged network attacks. It then reports its findings back to the systems administrators via assessment tools.

The information that red teaming provides highlights areas of strength and weakness in the company’s security landscape that can be used in crafting a more robust defense against future attacks. Some of the most compelling skills used for red team cybersecurity include thorough knowledge of physical systems and the software, hardware, and applications they use; ability to analyze systems and think flexibly; knowledge and training in social engineering and penetration testing skills.

What is Blue Team Cyber Security?

Similar to red team security, the objective of a blue teaming engagement involves simulating the behavior of hackers in order to assess the security of a company’s network by identifying the vulnerabilities it possesses.

What, then is a red team vs blue team? Think of the red team security squad of experts as entering the fray first. Their job is to attempt to blast through a company’s security shields using all of the nefarious techniques available to them and exploiting any weaknesses or holes in their fortress. Once the red team has wreaked its havoc, the blue army is responsible for implementing all measures at its disposal to respond to and minimize the severity of the offensive mounted by the cyber red team.

In addition to working closely with red team security, blue teaming is also used as an ongoing strategy to strengthen a company’s digital safeguards. In order to accomplish this goal, blue teams use some or all of the following engagements:

  • DNS audits;
  • Analysis of login memory;
  • Digital footprint analysis;
  • Analysis of risk intelligence data;
  • Reverse engineering tactics;
  • Authorized distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on the company’s network.

The skillset employed by a blue team involves intense scrutiny and attention to detail; the ability to identify vulnerabilities and construct them into a threat profile; expertise in reducing the attack surface in the entire network; knowledge of firewalls and other systems that detect and repel threats; and security information and event management (SIEM) to conduct real-time analysis of security incidents.

When Should You Use Blue and Red Team Penetration Testing?

Employing blue and red team hacking has great value. It is one of the most effective core security support tools your business can use to protect itself. The last thing your enterprise wants is to find out about a particular threat or weakness only after a criminal has exploited it.

When blue and red teams are in place, they use their thorough knowledge of systems and attack vectors to predict, detect, reduce and altogether eliminate the threats before a genuine black hat hacker can do so. In particular, it makes sense to implement this type of penetration testing during the following circumstances:

  • When you have put new training procedures, practices, and programs in place
  • If you become aware of a new form of the breach and are uncertain of whether your infrastructure can withstand it
  • When you want to understand how your infrastructure safety systems will withstand a simulated breach even when personnel is not expecting that the penetration test is to be performed. In this case, conduct the assessment at unpredictable intervals.

Given the complementary roles that blue and red teaming play in ferreting out vulnerabilities and reducing the consequences of a network breach, there is no “us vs them” when it comes to these penetration testing tactics. In the best of both worlds, companies should employ a red team and a blue team to get the best results, a conclusion that has led to the formation of so-called purple teams. These combine the techniques employed in red team security operations with the defense and mitigation tactics that characterize the approach of blue teams.

The result is a winning amalgamation of information, detection, prediction, mitigation, and assessment that can ultimately lead an organization toward a dynamic, constantly evolving security posture that adjusts to changing times and mutating threats.