Attackers, Defenders, and a Referee: Understanding Red and Blue Team exercises
In the realm of cybersecurity, a red team exercise serves as a comprehensive assessment of an organisation’s security defences. It involves an intensive effort to breach the organisation’s systems through various means, including physical breaches, computer networks, phone systems, RF systems, and manipulation of employees.
In this blog, we delve into the dynamics of a red team exercise, exploring the roles and objectives of the participating teams.
Derived from military simulation exercises, a red team exercise simulates a real-world attack scenario to expose vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and loopholes in an organisation’s security measures. By eliminating vagueness and unfounded assumptions, red and blue team exercises test the organisation’s readiness and capability to handle a genuine attack.
The simulation involves three distinct teams:
Attackers: the red team
The red team represents malicious hackers or other threat actors. Composed of skilled ethical hackers who are external to the target organisation, their objective is to mount a highly realistic attack. Utilising cutting-edge hacking techniques and tools, the red team aims to infiltrate the organisation’s defences discreetly. Unlike traditional penetration tests that employ detectable methods, the red team operates stealthily, searching for the weakest link to breach the organisation’s perimeter. Their mission allows them to employ any technique necessary to accomplish their goals, from social engineering to physical intrusion.
Defenders: the blue team
The blue team comprises the organisation’s in-house security personnel, often from the Security Operations Centre (SOC). Tasked with defending the organisation against the red team’s attacks, the blue team’s objective is to detect, counter, and weaken the attackers. They augment automated security tools, such as endpoint security products and threat detection systems, with human intelligence to proactively identify and neutralise advanced attacks. By monitoring and responding to identified and emerging threats, the blue team strengthens the organisation’s defences. Through red and blue team exercises, the blue team enhances their skills in handling real-world attack simulations.
Referees: the purple team
Acting as a referee, the purple team consists of security analysts or senior security personnel. Their role involves overseeing the exercise, analysing the collaboration between the red and blue teams, and recommending adjustments or improvements. Ideally, if the red and blue teams synergise effectively, the purple team becomes redundant. However, the purple team assumes the mindset of both teams and facilitates coordination between them. They ensure fair play, review results of the exercise, and coordinate necessary remedial actions, such as patching vulnerabilities and conducting employee awareness training. Ultimately, the purple team helps the organisation derive maximum benefit from the exercise and implements lessons learned to strengthen defences.
Red and blue team exercises offer organisations a valuable shift in perspective regarding their security procedures. By challenging the organisation’s assumptions and thinking patterns, the independent red team provides an unbiased assessment of strengths and weaknesses. This assessment aids in decision-making and prevents unpleasant surprises in the future. Participating in red team exercises allows organisations to gain insights and fortify their defences against evolving threats.
To discover more about Perspective Risk’s red team and enhance your organisation’s security, get in touch with our experts today.