Cyber is the new battleground, and for companies that need to make sure their security is up to the task of protecting their precious data, red team/blue team penetration testing can help them identify weak spots and possible vulnerabilities to address before they are breached by hackers. In these scenarios, the blue team is tasked with defending the network, whilst the red team try and find new attack vectors to breach the systems.
The idea of red team vs blue team is taken from military war games, and brings various theoretical attacks to life. It is one thing to create a network that you believe to be secure and well-planned, but you can only really rely on this security once it has been tested by real world hacking attempts. Without red teams trying to find vulnerabilities, the first time a network would be tested would be with a real live hack attempt, and that is not when you want to find out about a potential security hole!
What is a red team?
In a red/blue team cyber security simulation, the red team acts as an adversary, as hackers attempting to breach the company systems via any attack vector they can find and exploit. A red team generally consists of highly experienced security professionals or independent ethical “white hat” hackers, who have knowledge of real world attacks and will leverage that knowledge to find security vulnerabilities in an organisation’s network. However, these are not real hackers, in that whilst they will find and exploit vulnerabilities, they do so in order to help the organisation fix these vulnerabilities before they are exploited in the wild – they are on the same side.
Red teams will first attempt to steal user credentials via social engineering or similar techniques, before elevating their privileges within the network and move as deep into the systems as possible without being detected by the blue team.
What is a blue team?
While the red team is attacking the network, the blue team is working hard to detect their actions and block their access before they can compromise the network. Typically, a blue team is made up of security consultants who can provide guidance to the organisations own IT security team on how best to approach cyber threats. Preventing cyber attacks is central to the security of any organisation, but the reality is that with any complex system there will be breaches and it is critical that in these events the IT team is prepared so that they detect the intrusion as soon as possible and know what remedial actions to take to eject the adversary and resecure the network as soon as possible.
What are the benefits of red team/blue team exercises?
By running a red team/blue team scenario, organisations are able to actively test their defences and capabilities in an environment that has little real-world risks. The gaming can help organisations identify security gaps and misconfigurations in their software, raise awareness of the importance of digital hygiene amongst all staff members, and build up an organisations defences against any future real-world attack.