• Home
  • /Learn
  • /The Difference Between Red Team Pentest and an Objective-Based Pentest
background image


The Difference Between Red Team Pentest and an Objective-Based Pentest


When it comes to ethical hacking and penetration testing, there are many types of tests that organizations can choose from to help strengthen their security posture. Red Team Pentesting and Objective-based Pentesting are two of the ways to assess and augment your security. Though used interchangeably, these two vary both in methodology and scope. Both tests have their own unique benefits that can help an organization determine its vulnerability to attack.

Red Team Pentest

A Red Team Pentest is a comprehensive, simulated attack on your organization’s IT infrastructure from the viewpoint of a hacker. The primary goal of a Red Team Pentest is to test an organization’s ability to detect and respond to a coordinated attack from a team of skilled attackers.

In order to do that, ethical hackers use black-box techniques to gain domain access. They rely mainly on inputs and outputs to gain access to the application or network without an inkling of their internal workings. Organizations seeking to prepare for a potential breach prefer the red team pentest over an objective-based pentest as in the former, an ethical hacker emulates the behaviour of an attacker. By doing so, the hacker attempts to breach the system by exploiting weaknesses in the security configurations by stealth.

The term 'red team' was derived from military simulations where a red team poses as the enemy and tries to breach a security perimeter. In cybersecurity, the red team attempts to breach the security of an enterprise through various means, including:

  • sending phishing emails or using social engineering tactics

  • exploiting an unpatched network service, which opens the doors to otherwise inaccessible networks

  • exploiting web application vulnerabilities

Red teaming relies on stealth to exploit the network weaknesses undetected.

The main benefit of conducting a red team pentest is that it allows organizations to assess their defences against a real attack and identify the gaps in their security. The testing methodology also helps organizations to improve their security posture by giving them insights into how hackers think and respond to attacks.

Objective-Based Pentest

An objective-based pentest is more focused than a red team pentest. This type of pentest seeks to assess specific objectives. The tester is given access to the enterprise environment and the list of objectives. These objectives could include accessing high-security networks, accessing sensitive data, or manipulating that data. Objective-based penetration testing is an in-the-environment attack simulation that offers a high-level assessment of the organization’s overall security, along with recommendations on improving the system. 

The main benefit of conducting an objective-based pentest is that it allows organizations to focus on specific objectives and get a tailored report with recommendations.

Which type of test should I choose?

Both red teaming and objective-based penetration testing have their benefits and challenges. While a red team pentest is more comprehensive, it can be more costly and time-consuming. On the other hand, objective-based penetration testing is tailored to specific objectives and therefore requires less time, resources, and investment. Ultimately, it comes down to the organization’s requirements and budget when deciding which type of pentest to opt for.


Organizations across the world accept penetration testing as a primary security assessment measure. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to penetration testing, and different organizations may benefit from either red teaming or objective-based pentesting depending on their specific needs and goals.

Contact the Packetlabs team today to set up a consultation to get an expert opinion on the best type of pentest for your organization, goals and budget.