Trustwave SpiderLabs Exposes Unique Cybersecurity Threats in the Public Sector. Learn More

Trustwave SpiderLabs Exposes Unique Cybersecurity Threats in the Public Sector. Learn More

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The Power of Red and Purple Team Drills in Enhancing Offensive Security Programs

Despite investing in costly security solutions, keeping up with patches, and educating employees about suspicious emails, breaches still occur, leaving many organizations to wonder why they are vulnerable and which security areas need improvement.

The fact of the matter is a proper Offensive Security program must include Red and Purple Team testing, along with vulnerability assessments and threat intelligence, to deliver the necessary real-world testing of the organization's personnel, policies, and systems.

Why? Just as sports teams engage in pre-season matches to fine-tune their gameplay, organizations should similarly test their security measures.

 

Enter Red and Purple Team Exercises

Unlike the preparatory nature of Major League Baseball Spring Training or Premiere League Preseason Training, Red Team exercises are intense, full-force engagements aimed at pushing defense teams to their limits. They employ any means necessary, be it digital assaults or physical reconnaissance. Meanwhile, Purple Team events are more educational and handled in an entirely different fashion to show the defenders how to respond during an attack.

Let's examine the difference between these two types of testing when conducted through the lens of an Offensive Security program.

 

Purple Team: The Preliminary Drill

A Purple Team exercise is an initial step for a security provider and its client and must be conducted before a Red Team event.

Purple Teams are positioned between the offensive Red and the defensive Blue Teams. They are typically formed by security analysts or senior personnel from either the third-party provider or the client's organization.

These exercises are akin to controlled scrimmages, deliberately putting defenders in disadvantageous positions to see how they react. With oversight from the security vendor's team and client representatives guiding the simulation, the Blue Team gets a preview of what to expect in a Red Team exercise or an actual cyberattack.

At Trustwave, Purple Team exercises are more educational than confrontational. Clients may select a specific tactic from the MITRE Attack Framework, initiate a controlled attack, and receive guidance on the actions and appropriate responses.

Post-exercise, the Purple Team evaluates the collaboration between the Red and Blue Teams and offers insights for improvement.

 

Red Team: The Full-Scale Assault

In contrast, Red Team engagements represent full-scale attacks orchestrated by an external security firm or, in some cases, internal teams assuming the role of malicious actors. These attacks simulate real-world scenarios to assess the effectiveness of the client's defense mechanisms.

The exercise's primary focus is to find flaws in the people, processes, and technology the “target” organization has in place. This activity mimics the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that cyber gangs like LockBit, Royal, or nation-state-sponsored attackers would use during an attack.

Prior to an attack, the client decides which aspects of its defense it wants the Red Team to test. These goals can include checking its employees' ability to spot a phishing attack, or if it's a manufacturer, it could protect access to its SCADA environments or CAD drawings. If the client is in financial services, account numbers might be the target.

In each case, the Red Team will do its best to accomplish these goals while the Blue Team attempts to fend them off.

Red Team attacks are comprehensive and aim to exploit weaknesses in people, processes, and technology. They typically involve phases such as external reconnaissance, social engineering, and exploiting common vulnerabilities, such as weak passwords or a lack of multi-factor authentication.

The client's in-house security personnel, or the Blue Team, defends the organization and generally takes its stand in the Security Operations Center (SOC).

The expectation is for the Blues to detect, fight, and defeat the Reds, with the opponents doing everything possible to avoid losing.

Once the Red Team achieves the client's predefined objectives, the exercise concludes with a detailed report outlining identified weaknesses and recommendations for improvement. Overall, these simulated attacks serve as invaluable learning experiences and essential components of robust cybersecurity strategies.

 

Trustwave Offensive Security

Trustwave Consulting and Professional Services is a leading provider of Offensive Security, retaining all the tools necessary to conduct an effective review of a client's security program. The CPS team can identify and prioritize vulnerabilities, secure legacy technology, deliver advice, provide mitigation services, and offer long-term support for an organization to not only help prevent an attack, but also improve resilience and recovery.

 

Offensive_SecurityLearn more about Trustwave's tailored Offensive Security programs.

 

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