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What is a Red Team

How Secure Are Your Defenses?
Red Teaming, Pen Testing & Social Engineering

In military jargon, the term Red Team is traditionally used to identify highly skilled and organized groups acting as fictitious rivals and/or enemies to the “regular” forces, the Blue Team.
Whenever we discuss Information Security from a defensive point of view, we are inclined to think about protection, damage control, and reaction.

However, adopting an attacker’s mindset can effectively help businesses enhance their chances of securing themselves against ever-changing threats.

In military jargon, the term Red Team is traditionally used to identify highly skilled and organized groups acting as fictitious rivals and/or enemies to the “regular” forces, the Blue Team.

 

 

Basically, the Red Team relied on its own expertise to explore any possible way to plan and carry out an attack – thus trying to espouse the standpoint, the attitude of potential assailants.

Such simulations aimed at both reproducing a real emergency and improving the troops’ ability to fend off an aggression.

At the same time, Blue Team members were trained and expected to detect, to oppose and to weaken the Red Team’s efforts.

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All of these concepts have been given a peculiar status in the Cybersecurity field, as well: in this case, the Red Team’s hostile activities take the form of sophisticated penetration tests, whose results constitute a reliable assessment of a business/organization’s defensive capabilities and its safety status.

Generally speaking, the Red Team is given a very specific task – for example, evaluating the possibility of accessing sensitive data stored in a database.

In such a scenario, the group would have to act as an external threat actor, by recognizing any opportunity to exploit bugs and weaknesses of the infrastructure, the target being the extraction of the required pieces of information.

Meanwhile, the Blue Team would be in charge of any defensive step.

The Red Team is supposed to both identify any vulnerability in the PPT (People, Process and Technology) defensive system and help the organization improve its own defensive abilities.

While the Red Team’s role is usually well-defined, the Blue Team’s (and hence, the SOC analysts and response handlers‘) task is mutable, it is not known a priori: therefore, the former’s simulated assaults are expected to test and enhance the latter’s skills, igniting a virtuous circle.

The Blue Team’s work routine includes accessing log data, using a SIEM, garnering threat intelligence information, performing traffic and data flow analysis; we may compare their mission to finding the well-known needle in the haystack…

On the other hand, Red Team members have to be aware of any potential opponent’s TTP (Tactics, Techniques, Procedures), which the Blue Team is expected to detect and counter.

While automation can prove to be useful at this stage, the Blue Team shouldn’t rely on technology alone: on both sides, human intuition, expertise and cleverness cannot be replaced (yet) – social engineering techniques (i.e. Spear phishing) being a strong reminder of this.