Organizations require a proactive approach and regularly assessed security controls to defend against the latest cybersecurity threats effectively. This blog sheds light on how Red teaming, an in-depth form of ethical hacking engagement, helps organizations better understand their cybersecurity risks, gaps in their defences, and the need for any future or urgent security investments.

What is a Red team exercise?

A red team/blue team exercise, also known as purple teaming, is a cybersecurity assessment technique that uses simulated attacks to gauge the strength of the organization’s existing security capabilities and identify areas of improvement in a low-risk environment. This assessment is a collaboration between two teams of highly trained cybersecurity professionals. The Red team uses real-world adversary tradecraft to compromise the environment. The blue team are incident responders, works within the IT security unit to identify, assess, and respond to the intrusion.

This kind of exercise includes testing for not just vulnerabilities within the technology but of the people within the organization as well.

Cybersecurity attacks happen without any warning. Therefore, penetration testing is a key tool in the armour of an organization that utilizes the skills of ethical hackers who will try to enter systems to find out the weaknesses. The blue team plays the defensive role in the Red team/blue team exercise, treating the attack as a real-life scenario, and the Red team plays the offensive role. The Red team uses all kinds of manoeuvres, including physical penetration, social engineering and other methods. A red-team assessment is like a penetration test but far more targeted and layered. The goal is to test the organization’s detection and response capabilities. The Red team will try to penetrate the network and access sensitive information in any way possible without raising any alarm.

What does the Red team set out to achieve?

The Red team’s mission is to increase the resilience of your organization against sophisticated attacks.

By commissioning someone to perform Red teaming or “Purple Teaming,” there are several objectives an organization will be able to accomplish, including:

• Determining company preparedness against security breaches

• Testing the effectiveness of security systems, networks, and technology

• Identifying an array of security risks

• Exposing weaknesses that other kinds of testing miss to detect

• Mitigating security vulnerabilities by chalking out a plan

• Obtaining direction on crucial future security investments

Other benefits of Red teaming

Red team engagements can also help organizations to:

• Map exploitable routes that could potentially provide access to IT systems and facilities

• Learn how easy it is for a hacker to access privileged client data

• Identify methods to disrupt business continuity

• Expose gaps in surveillance that allow criminals to evade detection

• Understand the effectiveness of your incident response plans

Red team approaches 

Red team testing typically follows an intelligence-driven, black-box methodology to rigorously examine organizations’ detection and response capabilities. This approach is likely to include:

Reconnaissance 

High-quality intelligence is critical to the success of any Red teaming engagement. This stage is crucial, and it could be very time-consuming if teams are not experienced. Ethical hackers use open-source intelligence tools, techniques and resources to collect all data and penetrate the IT system. Information could be collected that includes details about employees, infrastructure and deployed technologies.

Staging & Weaponization

Once vulnerabilities have been identified and a plan of attack has been formulated, the next stage of an engagement is staging – obtaining, configuring, and obfuscating the resources needed to conduct the attack. This practice could include setting up servers to perform Command & Control (C2) and social engineering activities or developing malicious code and custom malware.

Attack Phase and Internal Compromise

The attacks can be of three types. Active attacks in which network and web applications are attacked, while passive attacks include phishing and social engineering to crack weak employee passwords and place malware through emails. The third type of attack is the physical attack in which tailgating, baiting and rogue access points are used. The Red team would discover more vulnerabilities as they move in the system, including lateral movement across the network. Privilege escalation, physical compromise, command and control activity, and data exfiltration occur once the red team further infiltrates the system.

Reporting and Analysis

After the Red team operations, a detailed final report is submitted that is understood by the management, technical and non-technical teams alike. The report has a detailed overview of the methodology used, attack vectors used, vulnerabilities found, and recommendations to mitigate these risks. The overview gives the organization the details of what risks they face and what they can do to secure their systems if such an attack occurs in future.

Conclusion

Red team engagement, otherwise known as purple teaming, is one way to enhance an organization’s security. The team employed to do this operation need to have the required skills and experience to plan and simulate an effective attack that exposes the security weaknesses. An effective attack and an accurate report after a purple teaming operation help create some actionable outcomes, which increases your security stance.

Our red team experts in Packetlabs conduct purple teaming assessments and operations by exploring vulnerabilities that are difficult to find in the ordinary course of operations, even by an in-house security team. Learn more about our methodology and tools and how we provide a detailed report with actionable outcomes by contacting us today.