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Red Team Vs Blue Team – What’s the Difference?

With the ever-increasing threat of data breaches for many organisations, testing your security systems is the only way to find vulnerabilities. When discussing cyber security tests, the terms “Red Team” and “Blue Team” are often mentioned. In this article, we will cover what the two teams are, their roles and how they work together to improve an organisation’s security posture.

So, what is the difference between red and blue team testing? The Red Team is made up of offensive attackers, who use “ethical hacking” to find weaknesses in an organisation’s cyber security defences. The aim of the Blue Team is to defend the organisation from the Red Team’s attacks, by ensuring security measures are implemented and attacks are responded to appropriately. 

Read on to find out more about common Red and Blue Team exercises, and how they can work together to provide a holistic approach to cyber security.

How Do Red and Blue Teams Differ?

Red Teams are often external entities brought in to test the effectiveness of an organisation’s security. The Red Team carries out various cyber-attacks to identify security flaws and test the IT defence strategy. The Blue Team refers to the internal department that is responsible for defending the business from a cyber attack, by ensuring security risks are managed and the correct defences are put into place. 

How Do Red and Blue Teams Work Together?

While the roles of the two teams are quite different, both are working towards one common goal — to improve security within an organisation. Both teams work together, through thorough communication and clear exercise goals, to get the most value out of the exercise — better known as “Purple teaming”. When carried out successfully, the teams safeguard an organisation by providing a holistic security solution — implementing strong internal systems while mitigating evolving threats.

What do Red Team Testing Exercises Include?

The Red Team works against the Blue Team to gain access to sensitive data within an organisation and to identify flaws in mature security systems. This is done using a few different techniques:

Social Engineering 

Staff members are often seen as the ‘weakest link’ when it comes to organisation’s security. There are a lot of weaknesses found in human nature, most of which can be exploited by hackers to gain access to important information. Social engineering could include phishing emails, impersonation and USB drops that could contain malicious code. 

To mitigate the risk of staff being exploited, encourage a positive security culture within your business, and train your staff on how to spot social engineering attacks. If you want to learn more about Social Engineering, read our recent blog, where we discuss four principles of social engineering and which attacks can be attributed to these principles.

Penetration Testing

It’s important to understand the difference between a Red Team Test and a standard penetration test. Security penetration testing uses the methodology of identifying and attempting to exploit security weaknesses associated with an organisation’s technology systems. This sounds similar to Red Team testing, however, the test is based around agreed testing limitations, and does not involve testing your people and processes. A Red Team test is often stealthier, not limited to one area of data, and is often played out over an extended period to gather a larger amount of sensitive information. 

Penetration testing engagements are often confused with Red Team testing. For more information on the difference between these two security testing measures, read our recent blog post

Physical Intrusion

Cyber attacks don’t just use remote methods to gather vital information; attackers may visit your business premises too. There are a few methods of doing this, which could include lock picking or disabling security alarms. The easiest, and most common, is tailgating. This simply means a hacker taking advantage of an open door, which is often held open by an employee entering the premises after a break.

Once a hacker is inside, they can access sensitive information by checking for notes and documents left in meeting rooms and on desks, and shoulder surfing oblivious employees while they access internal business systems.

What do Blue Team Exercises Include?

A Blue Team is an organisation’s own cyber security personnel, who carry out a variety of tasks to help protect against real-world cyber attacks:

Implementing Security Measures

The team is responsible for ensuring the whole organisation, including staff and other personnel, takes the correct precautions for protecting data that could be used to access the system. Automated systems may be used to stop common threats, such as malware and phishing emails. The Blue Team could work to add human intelligence to these tools, to make them more sophisticated and decrease the risks of security breaches.

Identify Security Flaws

The Blue Team oversees vulnerability management by regularly running internal scans for flaws in the organisation’s security system. The blue team is responsible for maintaining the security perimeter, triaging threats and enacting defined incident response procedures.

Defend Against Cyber Attacks 

Blue Teams are the main line of defence when a cyber-attack happens. The team is responsible for spotting the attack in real-time and taking the best course of action to stop hackers from gaining access to sensitive information. 

The team works at a rapid pace to shut down any form of compromise. The Blue Team then uses Red Team test attacks to identify vulnerabilities in the system and make appropriate updates to ensure these are fixed. 

Do You Need Red Team Testing?

If you have systems that store or process sensitive data, then Red Team testing is necessary. Sensitive data could refer to any information that could be of value to someone — payment card data, company accounts, or personal information of users, for example. 

Red Team testing should be used within organisations that consider themselves to have a mature cyber security posture, or where a large attack could result in a substantial financial loss, reputational damage or have legal consequences

What If You Don’t Have a Blue Team?

Let’s remember the objective of performing Red Team Testing – to verify the effectiveness of the security controls implemented in the organisation’s people, process, facilities, and technology. 

Blue Team activities could identify and respond to cyber attacks conducted by the Red Team, but other potential attacks, such as people and processes, are still left open. The Red Team will be able to identify these weaknesses, even if a Blue Team isn’t present within the organisation. 

If you want to find out more information on this common query, read our recent blog – Should You Conduct Red Team Testing Without a Blue Team?

Get Red Team Testing for Your Organisation

While Red and Blue Teams work well together to provide a holistic view of your organisation’s security stack, a Red Team can work independently to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities. If your organisation deals with sensitive information that needs to be kept safe, implementing Red Team testing is the only way to be certain of your security efforts. 

Risk Crew can design and deliver a systematic Red Teaming engagement to test the security controls in your organisation. Get a great return on investment for your cyber security testing budget by getting in touch with our qualified experts. 

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