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What is Purple Teaming?


What is purple teaming, and what can it do to strengthen your organization's security posture?

The InfoSec industry is flooded with new concepts promising safeguards against cyberattacks. Purple teaming is one of them.

Today, we explore what purple teaming is and what it can do for your cybersecurity.

Firstly, What Are Red and Blue Teams in Cybersecurity?

Before we dive into the value of purple teaming, we first have to provide an overview of what red and blue teams are.

Red Teams

A red team is composed of security professionals who put themselves in the shoes of cyber threat actors to test, in real time, the effectiveness of your organization's existing cybersecurity infrastructure. Although many assume that red teamers and pentesters have the same functionality, it's important to note that red team operations are not limited to penetration testing and have a more comprehensive role in any given company or organization.

When choosing a red team, we advise you to check off the following boxes:

1. Organizational Independence: Hackers aren't restricted to specific test scenarios... so why should your red team be? Although many organizations feel the need to limit the scope of their pentests and other red team activities, the best red teams are those with the organizational independence required to offer their own testing suggestions.

2. In-Depth Coordination: There should be in-depth coordination between the red team and blue team in order to communicate what aspects of the organization's defence is working, what aren't, and what their primary vulnerabilities are. Without this communication, organizations will know that they're under threat but not how to remedy the problem.

3. Steady Operation: Versus pentesters, who work in intense short periods of time, red teams have the flexibility to conduct long-form campaigns that can reach up to months.

4. Cyberthreat Mimicry: To adequately simulate real attackers and stay up-to-date with threats, red teams must be up-to-date with their tools and techniques to execute the best cyberthreat mimicry possible.

5. Tangible Measurements: Last but certainly not least, having key performance indicators (KPIs) clearly set is the only way to tangibly demonstrate how red teams can reduce or eliminate risks to your organization.

Blue Teams

A blue team is a team of security professionals that focuses on managing and improving the defensive capabilities of their assigned organization.

Oftentimes, blue team members belong to the Security Operations Center (SOC), which is responsible for the oversight of an organization's IT infrastructure.

Common blue team responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Responding to security incidents in a timely and effective manner

  • Flagging suspicious or unusual network activity

  • Identifying early indicators of compromise (IOCs)

  • Conducting forensic analysis of security incidents, such as analyzing log data or employee device usage

  • Proactively protecting against existing and future threats

  • Utilizing threat intelligence data to inform decisions

  • And managing security-related technology

When done right, cooperation between red teams can see the security posture of an organization skyrocket.

What is the Definition of Purple Teaming?

Now that we've cleared up the concept of red teams vs. blue teams, let's answer today's burning question: the definition of purple teaming.

"Purple teaming" is a collaborative approach that combines the attack posture of a red team with the in-depth analysis of a blue team. More specifically, it's a coordinated testing exercise where the red team works with your internal security operations team (otherwise known as your blue team) to bridge the gap between offensive techniques and response efforts.

It grants a hands-on understanding of the specific risks your organization is facing. You can then use this information to create a tailor-made plan to suit your organization's specific cybersecurity needs, thereby deepening your understanding of threat actors' tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) in a real-life context. 

The Benefits of Purple Teaming

Purple teaming goes beyond the checkbox by being comprehensive, effective, and in-depth regarding the findings it can report on.

While some organizations may perform purple teaming as one-off engagements in order to pinpoint short-term security goals, timelines, and KPIs, purple teaming can also be used as a longer-form methodology that evaluates lessons learned over the course of the exercise. Regardless of the length of time it is implemented, it's a cybersecurity approach that unveils both offensive and defensive shortcomings... and clearly underlines what future training, technical requirements, and system overhauls are needed to sufficiently protect against threats.

Some organizations may benefit from annual purple teaming, while others may yield the best results from more frequent exercises.

Purple Teaming FAQs

"What is purple teaming?"

Purple teaming is defined as a collaborative approach to cybersecurity that brings together red and blue teams to test and improve an organization's security posture.

Through a purple team methodology, your organization's cybersecurity, team dynamic, and culture of collaboration will be bettered in order to maximize each's contribution to the overall security well-being of your business.

"What is an example of a purple team activity?"

Purple team exercises can leverage internal and/or external teams (or both simultaneously.) This is especially helpful for organizations that may not have a cyberthreat intelligence team of their own and that outsource these responsibilities to a Managed Service Provider.

"What are the benefits of purple teaming?"

Purple teaming is a modern cybersecurity methodology wherein red and blue teams (which are, historically, kept separate) unite to effectively and efficiently improve an organization's security posture.

"What is the purple team Maturity Model?"

The Purple Maturity Model encourages using "purple team" as a noun to describe cybersecurity teams who share common goals and collaborate regularly. As a blended team, this version of purple teaming utilizes ethical hackers who work together to leverage threat understanding and detection for the good of the organization.

"What can't purple teaming do?"

A common misconception is that purple teaming is the same as penetration testing, which is untrue. Unlike pentests, purple teaming is not a service meant to deliver a list of vulnerabilities found in an application or service; rather, it is a method of broader vulnerability assessment.

"What is the difference between a red team and a purple team?"

Red teams act as the "offensive", while purple teaming is an approach that combines both red teams and blue teams. When purple teaming is implemented, both red and blue teams are encouraged to share insights regarding their resources, reporting, findings, and general cybersecurity knowledge.

"Where can I hire a purple team for my organization?"

Packetlabs' highly experienced red and blue teams deliver affordable, efficient purple teaming services to help your organization measure its detection and response capabilities, aligning them with real-world threats.

Get in touch today to learn more about what purple teaming can do for your organization's security posture.

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