In our earlier blogs, we wrote about the role of red and blue teams and the synergies of both teams coming together in the form of a purple team. The red team and blue team is a collaborative cybersecurity assessment technique. The blue team plays the defensive role while the red team plays a more offensive role, using simulated attacks to evaluate the organization’s existing security capabilities. The goal is to find vulnerabilities and then develop solutions in limiting gaps within the organization’s security posture through the evaluation.

Red Team vs. Blue Team Stance

The red team plans and simulates attacks, gains unauthorized access, exploits and targets vulnerabilities, and attempts to bypass the organization’s security parameters installed by the blue team. 

The blue team with the inside view of the organization’s security carries out the risk assessment. The blue team performs domain name system (DNS) audits and vulnerability scans, puts up additional firewalls, conducts regular checks, implements security awareness training programs, conducts digital footprint analysis, engages in reverse engineering, develops risk scenarios and constantly monitors them.

Red and Blue Teams: Major Differences 

There are some major differences between the red and blue teams:

Areas of difference

Red teams

Blue teams

Defensive vs. Offensive

The red team is the offensive expert that tests the defences of various applications and overall infrastructure. The red team attempts to circumvent the blue team’s cybersecurity measures and controls. The red team’s intent is to act like real-world threat actors without harming the infrastructure; the intent is to educate the organization about its security flaws.

The blue team is the defensive expert that puts up strong defences to withstand the attack.

Capabilities

Red team members are independent ethical hackers, and blue team members are IT, security professionals, including incident response consultants and IT security staff. The red team members know of: 

  • IT systems and protocols
  • Experience in software development
  • Knowledge in penetration testing and interception communications 
  • Knowledge of frameworks such as MITRE ATT&CK Framework
  • A globally accessible knowledge base of adversary tactics, techniques and methods based on real-world experience and events
  • Knowledge of black-box testing, Windows and Linux operating systems, networking protocols, and a variety of programming languages such as Python, C/C#/C++, Java, and Ruby

The skillset of blue team members includes: 

  • An in-depth understanding of the organization’s security strategy and infrastructure
  • Analytics skills 
  • Expertise in managing security detection tools and systems

Scope and objective

The red team is assigned a specific mission, and their role is well defined. 

The primary objective of the red team is to perform a real-life attack scenario to detect potential threats to an organization’s IT ecosystem. They are not restricted to a specific set of identified assets.

The blue team’s mission is subject to change based on the red team’s attack strategy. 

The blue team proactively defends the IT ecosystem against real attackers or attacks from the red team. 

Measures used

The red team employs methods and tools such as social engineering, phishing campaigns, password-cracking tools, keylogging program, etc. They are familiar with threat actors’ tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and cyberattack tools and frameworks.

The blue team is always on their toes with multiple activities. The blue team is busy providing security awareness training to employees, ensuring all software, hardware, and other systems are updated, and vulnerabilities are patched. It updates, tests, implements, and improves the organization’s cybersecurity tools and programs. The team also installs Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) in the organization’s network and implements endpoint security at employee workstations.

Success parameters

The objective of the red team is to penetrate the system.

For penetration testers and red team operators alike, the number of failed or bypassed controls is a measure of success.

The objective of the blue team is to defend the system.

If no controls are bypassed, and no vulnerabilities are discovered, that is considered rare but a success for the blue team. The success of the blue team lies in the red team revealing where vulnerabilities are so the blue team can then enhance their strategy to strengthen their security posture.

Conclusion

The blue team is responsible for vulnerability analysis, patch management, internal penetration testing, system hardening, configuration reviews & changes implementation, compliance reviews, log monitoring, incident analysis, and remediation planning & execution. 

The red team assists the organizations in identifying security vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and single points of failure across their systems. The red team’s recommendations are paramount to building the organization’s defences as they focus their efforts on breaking into systems by exploiting vulnerabilities. 

The objective of the red vs. blue team collaboration is to reinforce the security defences and strengthen the organization’s security posture.

Contact us for more information on our Purple Teaming services and how we can help you improve your security posture.