Red Team vs. Blue Team Cybersecurity
In red team cybersecurity exercises, red teams are comprised of cybersecurity experts who have critical offensive cybersecurity skills. These experts use their skills to attack your business’s security defenses, while the blue team’s role is to defend against the red team attacks as well as launch an effective response. Together, these exercises help your business prepare for the diverse cyberattacks you may encounter from increasingly sophisticated adversaries.
Red and blue team activities are modeled on military training exercises by creating a scenario where the red team uses real-world tactics to try to compromise the environment. Those tactics include finding and using weaknesses in people, processes, and technology to gain access to critical assets. The blue team, made up of incident responders, often works concurrently to identify, evaluate, and respond rapidly to an attacker’s intrusion. Following the red team exercises, red teams make recommendations for how to strengthen the security posture of the organization.
What Is Red Team Cybersecurity?
The goal of red team cybersecurity drills is to mimic the types of attacks that are occurring in the wild to test both your organization’s cybersecurity capabilities and how your employees react and respond to an attack. For this reason, most organizations bring in a third party, either a vendor or a consultant, to simulate an attack on their own network. Red team members are both adept with technology and creative thinkers, leveraging those skills to exploit system and human weaknesses alike.
A few red team exercises include:
- Compromising business assets — red teams use a variety of tools to gather information about the target environment, such as the internal domain, intellectual property, client data, operating system types, networks, cloud service providers, and other technologies in place.
- Penetration testing — a pen tester attempts to gain access to a system using a variety of tools and techniques.
- Social engineering — red team members mislead staff members into disclosing credentials or allowing unauthorized access into restricted areas by manipulating your team’s processes, habits/tendencies, and even emotions. Phishing is a type of social engineering that uses text, email, or a messaging app to gather personal information by pretending to be a trustworthy entity, such as a financial institution or an employee at your company.
The red team must be up to date on new penetration techniques currently in use by hackers and stay current on threat intelligence.
What Is Blue Team Cybersecurity?
Blue teams are security professionals whose role is to protect your organization’s critical assets against cyber threats. Members of the blue team understand both your organization’s security strategy and business objectives. Blue teams begin by gathering data and carrying out a risk assessment to identify the critical business assets most likely to be breached and prioritize the protection of those assets.
While the red team is carrying out research to attack your business, the blue team must work to strengthen your defenses and prepare to respond to those attacks. The blue team uses security tools, systems, processes, and additional resources to protect your organization and identify gaps in your detection capabilities. There are many activities and tools a blue team cybersecurity team may undertake to detect suspicious activity and defend against it, including:
- Creating a baseline of network activity to make it easier to detect suspicious activity
- Distributed denial of service (DDoS) testing to determine how resilient your network is to DDoS attacks
- Reviewing, configuring, reconfiguring, and monitoring security software in the environment
- Implementing, configuring, and updating security tools, such as firewalls and antivirus software
- Implementing a least-privilege access model to ensure that each user has as little access as possible, which limits the ability for an attacker to gain access initially and/or move laterally across the network
The blue team needs to stay current on the latest technologies that can help improve security in your organization. This is a significant challenge as technologies continue to evolve and adversaries update their tactics.
How Is Red Team Cybersecurity Different from Blue Team Cybersecurity?
Red team and blue team cybersecurity efforts approach the challenge of protecting your business from attackers differently. Red teams focus on acting as an attacker to discover cybersecurity vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, while blue teams prioritize ongoing monitoring and deploying tools that will help them protect your environment.
“Even if a company has carried out thorough security testing and prioritized all of its assets in relation to overall business risk from cyberattacks, but still doesn’t fully understand the most likely enemies or potential attackers–and respond accordingly– it will not only still suffer defeat many times, but will be unprepared in case an attack does happen.”
Shmulik Yehezkel, Chief Critical Cyber Operations Officer at CYE
How Do Red and Blue Teams Work Together?
Red team and blue team cybersecurity exercises work together to increase your cyber resilience and help you stay current on evolving threats. Blue teams use the information that red teams uncover during attacks to improve your organization’s cybersecurity posture. If you are running red team and blue team cybersecurity exercises, it is critical that these teams work together to share information and fully debrief stakeholders after every engagement. The exercises must include a detailed report of the activities in the project, such as testing techniques, vulnerabilities, access points, and any additional information that can help your organization understand and close security gaps. This knowledge sharing will help you strengthen your defenses and help your security team respond to threats better.
How Can You Apply Red Team and Blue Team Cybersecurity at Your Business?
In your business, you need to consider the potential impacts of a cyberattack, the severity of any threats, and the total cost of mitigating an attack. Red team and blue team exercises can help you understand those risks and how to improve your overall resilience to attack.
It is also critical to understand which technical risks are also business risks — which you can do by correlating the value of an asset, the severity of a given vulnerability, and the activity of threat actors. You must assess and quantify your cyber risk to make informed security decisions that help you prioritize remediation to maximize effectiveness. Together with the insights gleaned from red and blue team cybersecurity exercises, you can prioritize remediation and reduce your cyber exposure.
Want to learn how red teaming can help your organization’s cybersecurity? Contact CYE to learn more.