Dependence on information systems increases that’s why ensuring the safety of the corporate network is one of the biggest challenges companies face nowadays. One of the most effective ways to develop the skills of these defenders is to imitate real penetrations with Red vs Blue Team contests where Red Team attacks and Blue Team defends.
Red Team-Blue Team concept originates from the military. Detachments often divide into two divisions while training — blue team vs. red team — to simulate the conditions of a real battlefield. Regular practice of this kind of "games" helps to diversify the experience of security personnel and prepare them for the varied battlefield tactics and strategies of real enemies.
In this article, we are going to review the main tasks undertaken by such teams and determine which of them are most important.
Any system, no matter how well protected, is theoretically susceptible to hacking if connected to the internet. The point is that ever-developing and evolving security mechanisms provoke the development of new, more complex malignant methods, thus, intensifying the search for vulnerabilities. An average modern digital security system is close to impossible to breach for an ordinary internet user. Nevertheless, there has always existed a separate category of people (most of whom wish to remain anonymous) who know more about hacking than ordinary people and, with time, will penetrate the system, no matter how secure its protection is.
Vulnerabilities can be caused by a variety of factors, including
Having to deal with a lot of hurdles as it is, the information security staff of an average company quite often turns a blind eye to vulnerability management.
Because of these factors, companies in need of strong security for their digital assets, turn to test their protective mechanisms with the help of the two teams — red and blue — confrontation.
Below we explore the specific tactics and work of the two teams.
Red Team is a group of dedicated attackers, who try to penetrate the defenses of a web application which is overlooked by the Blue Team.
Red Team allows creating a holistic, objective vision of the tested object’s protection. Regular IT specialists are often unaware of the applications, algorithms, and methods used in cracking. In contrast, a dedicated pentester is usually a former hacker who, due to their remarkable experience, is able to intuitively detect systemic vulnerabilities and use special methodologies and/or social engineering for the purposes of hacking.
Unfortunately, there are not so many specialized courses that teach the skills and knowledge needed to be a successful hacker. The cost of such training, as a rule, is prohibitively high. That is why most pentesters are self-taught.
The main premise of the red teaming services is to discover vulnerabilities in the system and use it to show the customer imperfections in their protection mechanisms. Thus, the activity of Red Team security specialists allows identifying "gaps" in the system before real scammers can exploit them. Another important role is training the security department as a whole and members of the Blue Team, in particular.
Owners of any online product need to evaluate their defense systems with the use of a Red Team before allowing free access to their product. Moreover, if private information is involved, theft of which can bring someone financial losses or some other kind of harm.
Blue Team is a group of security professionals who are responsible for ensuring that Red Team cybersecurity specialists or real attackers will not be able to penetrate defenses and minimizing the results of any violations. Primarily, this is done through real-time analysis of all the network transmissions. In particular, SIEM (Security Information Event Management) methodology, its tools, and derivatives are often employed.
Obviously, manual tracking is almost impossible. Thus, numerous tools for automated monitoring — routers, firewalls, etc., come into play.
The Blue Team members should not be guided solely by information technology knowledge. The fact is that many successful hacks rely on social engineering methods.
Blue Team is usually composed of full-time security analysts. It means that they are well-acquainted with the peculiarities of the company’s inner workings, processes, culture, defense solutions, and operating environments.
The leading task of the Blue Team is to keep the members of the Red Team from getting inside the system, even if previously undiscovered vulnerabilities would serve as an attack vector. In addition, its members learn to uphold and even increase the fault tolerance of the protected structures.
Today almost any company that has its own IT department or at least a system administrator, whose duties include resolving breaches, needs a Blue Team.
What directly affects the performance indicators of the team’s work?
The main indicator of Red Team efficiency here, in addition to the practical skills of its members, is a "true hacker" mindset, a fraudulent type of thinking. Really good specialists will not be tied by any rules and ethical norms because they are not average "law-abiding citizens".
In real life, a hacker may not be an innocuous student of technical specialties who decided to practice their skills acquired after passing an online course on ethical hacking out of boredom. Most likely, this is a real criminal to whom the moral qualities of a normal person are alien. Because of this, for most productive Red vs Blue Team hacking, most companies turn to professionals, instead of dividing existing security employees into two groups.
Otherwise, red teaming fails to discover vulnerabilities. Due to the aggressive nature of “Reds” behavior, members of the Blue Team face real “field” threats and train to confront them in practice. They get a general idea of what methods and strategies their opponents choose to penetrate the network and how they conduct their “dark deeds".
In order to raise the skills of the Blue Team, its members must develop several options for responding to events, develop their own tactics in case of abnormal network activity, and learn to eliminate the consequences of attacks as quickly as possible. Of course, most of this activity is entrusted to specialized software but when it comes to preventive measures, such fights are a great way to practice creating safe and highly reliable security measures.
To reduce resources spent on Red Team pentesting, we collected several recommendations that must be fulfilled before organizing the opposition of the Red and Blue Teams.
The conflict of Red vs Blue Team is a great way to test how viable network security mechanisms are and to strengthen the theoretical knowledge and practical skills of your cybersecurity specialists.
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