What is a Red Team?
In an ideal scenario, the red team would take over the network, breach the defenses and launch a cyber-attack or defend against an attack that happens in real-time. The red team would then do this without physically having to be inside the company in order to conduct the attack.
The red team may not exist in the real-life environment that many of us live, but it is a virtual reality. Just like red teaming, the red team is comprised of entities that could have malicious intent to gain an advantage or effect a response. The red team would be to the blue team what the gray team is to the white team. It would essentially take control of the system that the blue team has or is using.
One of the disadvantages of the gray team is that they may not be as motivated to have the cyber security organization push the red team along. That is to say, when a threat emerges, you might not have the time to go back and make adjustments to a security posture that you have put into place
However, this is not a negative attribute. This can be a positive. Why? For starters, the red team may not have any intention of bringing back control of the system to the blue team and therefore the red team could be motivated to move along quickly in their system penetration and red teaming activities. In fact, the red team could then take the blue team’s defense off balance if they are not prepared for the actual cyber-attack that is being carried out by the red team. In this case, the blue team may be forced to make adjustments.
The blue team would be responsible for conducting an attack and defending against the red team. However, instead of taking over the blue team’s system, the red team would be attempting to hack into the blue team’s network. If successful, the red team could gain access to the resources and information of the blue team.
Red Team Technologies
A Red Team is defined as a team of specially trained individuals that practices to show weaknesses of a group’s security defenses. In some cases, it may also be a group of information security experts that use publicly available information to attack or test a network.
Red Team Technique
The red team is normally used by a government or organization to test the response and readiness of their systems. Many security organizations rely on their red team members to document vulnerabilities, defend and mitigate threats before they are breached. The red team works by exposing flaws and vulnerabilities to organizations so that their defenses can be easily improved before they are exploited. This leads to an improved security posture and ultimately to a safer network environment.
Red teams are well known for exploiting vulnerabilities in your network, which is just a part of their security audit process. They find an impact of different types of threats, so the attacker can prove their theory.
All red teams focus on different aspects and tasks. Depending on your budget you can afford to only do red teaming operations that are required for your specific setup. With a big budget you can afford to do things like remote access inside the organization as well as penetration testing operations that will impact other parts of the organization. It is hard to overstate the benefit of red teaming, it can open up new revenue streams, save a lot of money, increase security awareness and improve the security posture of your organization.
Red teams work within a set of rules and guidelines
The focus in red team exercises is on identifying the weaknesses in an organization’s security posture, designing effective strategies to achieve the desired result, and identifying the intentions of defenders. As previously discussed, these exercises can lead to the implementation of potentially unethical or even illegal actions to achieve those objectives.
This list is by no means an exhaustive list. Rather it is a summary of many of the most widely-used techniques. It is intended to help administrators, managers, and IT security professionals understand where the red team will focus on attacking next and how to defend against the red team’s attacks.
Within security circles, red teams have been referred to as proactive adversaries, rather than defensive. That’s not to say they don’t focus on defending systems from attack, but rather that red teams use offensive and defensive techniques. Red teams commonly employ red team tactics such as mimicking an attacker and conducting offensive operations against a network. Other red team techniques that are well known include researching an organization’s goals and assessing risks from the risks of failing to defend against those goals.
For example, an enterprise may decide to engage a red team to test their ability to authenticate users, identify risky applications and environments, and identify how much control a weak authentication solution can give an attacker. Likewise, a customer may decide to engage a red team to identify vulnerabilities in their website’s security architecture.
Most security products provide some kind of red team tool, as well as blue team tools. Your traditional security team would use red team tools for red team drills, and blue team tools for blue team drills.
What's the real value of a red team?
The cost of actually hiring a red team, is generally pretty low. Some organizations might say that it's six figures or so to hire the red team and what they're providing is a very large scale crash course in understanding what the risks are and how to defend those risks – and how to build processes to mitigate those risks.
A very large-scale crash course in understanding what the risks are, how to build processes to mitigate those risks and how to build processes to improve security
After you've engaged the red team, you'll have a much better understanding of where your vulnerabilities are, and what you need to do to improve the security of those weaknesses. If you're understanding where the risks are, and what the threats are and what your vulnerabilities are, then you can start to move towards taking a long-term view of how to reduce your risks over time..
While the companies that I work with often make the argument that "we don't want to get rid of the blue team, it's good for us", the cost of hiring and engaging the red team is so low that it's often a much better use of the money to have the red team come in and help you find vulnerabilities, rather than having the blue team come in and tell you where your vulnerabilities are. That's been our experience with most of the customers that we've worked with.
Red teaming can be expensive.
The companies that I work with have seen the benefits of the red team, and the company is always looking for more. They want more partners, they want to bring more of those vendors in, so we're certainly going to be in there providing that.
It's important to see how the red team operates.
"What happens if they find an exploit? What if they break in? What happens if they do a root cause analysis? It's really important that you're able to see that for yourself. It's really important that you have a look at their process, and see what happens when an exploit is found. It can give you a unique competitive advantage. You might not even know what you've got until they've gone and presented you with the data.
Earlier this month, Infosecurity Magazine reported that, in addition to attacks from hostile nation states, enterprise organisations are also increasingly facing attacks from insiders.
What is the purpose of a red team?
When it comes to these types of tests, the red team is a security engineer. It's someone who works within your organization, but is not in the field of the operational folks or the folks that are there day in and day out, that's doing the damage. They are the red team – they come in and they show you what the real world is going to look like.
The red team is also typically working with the blue team but isn't as involved with them. In some cases, they'll also work separately – but usually they're working with the blue team.
What types of red teams are there and what are they focused on?
In terms of what the red teams are focused on, they're usually going to be focused on finding vulnerabilities in the operation of a network. The red team may also be able to go out and find vulnerabilities in hardware, software, network protocols or the software, network and software engineering processes that are in place within a company. But for the most part, they're focusing on the stuff that's going on in the network – the operational stuff that is going on that might be out there for the attacker to target.
The red team will go in and look at all kinds of things – they might focus on the general maintenance of systems or networks – doing the basic things that are required to keep the systems functioning. In this case, what this means is the red team is the good guy coming in and finding out how the systems are doing what they're supposed to do. Some people call it hands-on testing, We're the good guys. We're looking for things that might be outside of the realm of what the security operations folks would find. So they're coming in to tell us that they don't know what to look for, they don't know what's normal or they don't know what they're supposed to be doing.
There are a variety of different red team projects that the teams can work on. For example, they could look at overall infrastructure, operations, finding low hanging fruit or easy ways of getting around internal security measures, finding ways in – if a process is public, the red team might look at how they can potentially find a backdoor or create a pathway to an entry point to a certain process. But in the majority of cases they're looking for vulnerabilities within the operational piece, in the software, in the network. They're looking at things that are more internal security-based and not so much data center, server, cloud-based stuff.
Does this affect how security is built in an organization?
One of the best benefits of a red team is that the red team is also able to help show how you can build more secure systems by thinking through the concept of building in more and more security on top of systems that already exist – instead of building a new system with security built in at the beginning. If you're going to go through the hard work of trying to secure those operational systems first, by doing it right from the beginning – then you're starting the process of the migration off on the right foot.
"If you want to start over, and say you're going to take all this great software that's been written – but you're going to start off with something brand new and you're going to make it really secure from day one. If you did that, you would probably end up doing a lot better because now you're never going to have those vulnerabilities that are out there