The red team vs. the blue team… This isn’t your typical high school gym class. A red team/blue team evaluation is a form of assessing the company’s IT and cybersecurity defences. And when it comes to IT defence, you’re talking big bucks. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), cybercrime cost more than $3.5 billion in 2019. With figures like this, it’s easy to see why Gartner predicts that businesses will spend nearly $4 trillion on IT by 2020.

That’s a large amount of money. Bear in mind that we haven’t even considered the long-term consequences of reputational harm and confidence loss when your organisation has a public cybersecurity incident… When the stakes are this high, you want to make sure you’ve covered every possible angle. This is where understanding the differences between red and blue teams — and how they can help — is crucial.

We’ll look at the red team vs blue team simulation phase in this report. We’ll look at what each team is all about and how running a red team/blue team exercise will help the company achieve cybersecurity goals.

Red Team vs. Blue Team’s Ultimate Goal

A shot of two soccer teams (football for those of you outside the United States) that portrays the idea of red team vs blue team. The red team is attempting to score on the blue team, while the blue team is attempting to defend their goal.

Through a simulated multi-layered attack, the primary objective of pitting red team vs blue team is to improve and enhance the organization’s overall cybersecurity capabilities. In sports terminology, the red team represents the offence, while the blue team represents the defence. The former is there to keep you on your toes by looking for vulnerabilities to exploit, while the latter is there to keep the other team at bay and discourage them from scoring any goals.

Despite being on different “teams,” this is a case where iron sharpens iron. The red team keeps up with the new malware, social engineering, and exploitation techniques. To keep the network (and other IT systems) safe, the blue team must stay current on the latest prevention strategies, cybersecurity protection software, and general attack techniques.

Your organization’s protection will be ready for any IT security scenario if all of these teams are operating at maximum capacity. But, first, let’s take a look at what each of these teams does to achieve this.

What Is a Red Team?

A red team is a community of IT security experts (also known as “ethical hackers”) who are either employed as a group vendor, independent contractors, or assembled internally by your company. Their task is to assess the strength and efficacy of your cybersecurity defences by looking for flaws and vulnerabilities in your technology, physical defences, and “human firewall” (i.e., your employees’ cybersecurity awareness and knowledge).

So, if you think a red team is a hired group of hackers who simulate or carry out cyber attacks on the company that hired them, you’re right.

However, as you can see, red teaming is done for a positive reason rather than with malice in mind. These attacks are one of the most successful ways to find bugs that could result in your business losing revenue, people losing their jobs, and a slew of other problems. The red team and your company will improve their security by recognising these vulnerabilities.

How Does a Red Team Function?

The red team, like any good criminal, spends a significant amount of time researching and preparing. A home burglar can observe a home and its residents to learn the “ins and outs” of it, such as who lives there, when they are at home or at work, whether and where they have cameras, and which alarm device (if any) they use.

When it comes to organisational security, red teams approach their work in the same way. Their plans may include:

  • Network mapping — i.e., being able to visualise the physical relationships between the numerous systems and computers in your network. This aids red team members in identifying flaws in these links.
  • Discovering what cybersecurity technologies are being used and the complexities of the protection tools and applications that your company uses (for example, if your organisation uses a firewall, determining if you upgraded it with your own set of rules or simply used what was given, etc.).
  • Finding ways to penetrate the network by mapping out the physical buildings where your company is housed, such as surveillance camera blind spots, entry points, and where hardware is stored (such as server rooms).

The red team can obtain a better understanding of where to attack by placing these puzzle pieces together. The red team would then use this knowledge to search for flaws in hardware and software. These techniques can include:

  • Using a device like a packet sniffer to intercept communications.
  • Using applications or IT systems that haven’t been patched or upgraded as a means of attack.
  • Launching brute force attacks with password-cracking techniques.
  • To learn passwords, keylogging applications are used.
  • Weaknesses in incident management systems are being identified.

Red teams aren’t just searching for flaws in hardware and applications. They’ll even try to take advantage of human error as well as any security flaws in your physical location. This may involve phishing scams or luring workers into allowing red team members access to safe areas like your server space.

Red Teaming vs Pentesting vs Vulnerability Scanning

Red teaming is often confused with penetration testing and even vulnerability scanning. They are not the same thing, even though they are connected. The following are the differences:

  • Vulnerability Scanning — This involves finding vulnerabilities, making a list of them, and reporting those weaknesses to your organisation. Automated tools can be used as part of this procedure.
  • Penetration Testing — This task also involves finding vulnerabilities, but pentesting takes this process a step further. The IT security expert will investigate possible exploits for the vulnerability but would not go any further.
  • Red Teaming — We are going another step further. A red team member tries to exploit the vulnerabilities to gain access to the system to see what they can get away with once the vulnerabilities and ways to exploit them have been identified. This may involve initiating a denial-of-service attack.

What Is a Blue Team?

Your IT security defence team is known as the blue team. In terms of what they do, they are the polar opposite of the red squad. Their job is to research, evaluate, strategize, and put in place a solid cybersecurity protection plan for your company. This IT security team, like the red team, could be made up of your internal staff, a third-party service provider, or a group of independent contractors.

How Does a Blue Team Function?

Once again, the easiest way to explain the blue team is to compare it to the red team. If a red team is simulating what hackers and other cybercriminals are trying to do in the real world, the blue team is fighting back. The biggest difference is that the blue team’s job isn’t just a game; they face real threats on a regular basis. This form of training provides them with hands-on experience that they can apply in their everyday combat.

The blue squad, like the red team, preys on the staff in order to get them to make a mistake.

  • Providing the staff with security awareness training.
  • Ensure that all applications, hardware, and other devices are up to date, and that all bugs are addressed.
  • Keeping the organization’s cybersecurity tools and services up to date, checked, applied, and enhanced (they would be the ones updating their WAF rules in hopes of staying one step ahead of the red team).
    Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) are being installed in the business network.
  • Endpoint protection is being implemented at employee workstations.
  • Being on the front lines when it comes to dealing with any IT security problems that might occur.
  • Assisting the business in strengthening its incident management capabilities and processes.

You may believe that the blue team’s sole purpose is to evaluate and develop your company’s overall cybersecurity capabilities at all costs. That isn’t the case at all. They have been given the challenge of enhancing overall cybersecurity, but not at all costs. Managing goals, time, and budget is a big challenge for a blue team. What counts as critical? What are the resources required? What can be done by hand and what must be automated? These are only a few of the issues that a blue team must deal with.

Usually, blue teams approach this challenge by conducting a risk evaluation. Blue teams may determine what is considered “important” by identifying the higher risks and weakest points in your network and organisation. The blue team will then use a cost-benefit analysis to assess which of the vulnerabilities will cause the most long-term financial harm and which will require the least mitigation.

It’s a difficult balancing act. To put it another way, the blue team is juggling a lot of balls. Some of the balls are plastic, while others are made of glass. They must first determine which are made of plastic and which are made of glass. When they know this, they’ll know the balls they can drop (the plastic ones) and which they’ll have to keep juggling when they’re short on bandwidth or money (the glass ones).

What Is a Purple Team?

What’s up, purple team? This article was intended to be about red team/blue team exercises, right? Don’t worry, it is. While the whole red team vs blue team strategy is intended to help the company — and they really need to work together to optimise the process — you don’t want them to work too closely together in most situations.

Movie directors and sports coaches have a tactic that includes pitting some of their best performers against one another. For example, legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson famously pitted his two superstar stars, the late Kobe Bryant and Shaq O’Neal, against each other to get the most out of them. The rivalry between the two players kept the players (and the rest of the team) on their toes, and the competitive atmosphere translated into top-notch results.

In a similar way, the red team vs. blue team method needs some tension. The blue team will be put to the ultimate test, while the red team will need to bring their A-game if they are to succeed in breaching the network and other goals. This is where a “purple squad” steps in to keep the bit of distance.

The purple team serves as a kind of middleman between the red and blue teams. To help synchronise each team’s plan and practises, they collect data, hold meetings, and distribute reports. The purple team acts as a liaison, ensuring that the red and blue teams accomplish their goals of improving your organization’s IT security. However, they do so in a way that maintains a degree of separation in order to optimise the competitive natures of the teams.

Red Team vs Blue Team – Conclusion

We’ve reached the conclusion of our inquiry into the importance of the red team vs. blue team attack simulation. As you can see, each of these teams — the red team, blue team, and even the purple team — plays an important role in the security of your business.

Holding red team/blue team drills is a surefire way to improve the organization’s overall IT and cybersecurity defences. It can be a delicate balancing act, but there might be no better way to simulate the risks that companies face on a daily basis. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” as Benjamin Franklin famously said.

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