Red Team, Blue Team & Purple Team. Action, Defense and Evaluation

The cybersecurity sector is constantly evolving and it is necessary to be prepared for every possible situation that may occur. That is why there are several different cybersecurity teams: the Blue Team, the Red Team and the Purple Team. Each one has a different function and is used to assess and analyse possible system failures.

The terms Red Team is used commonly to describe teams that use their skills to emulate attack techniques that “enemies” might use, and Blue Teams use their skills to defend. In fact, these teams play an important role in defending against advanced cyber attacks that threaten business communications, confidential customer data or trade secrets.

When it comes to IT security and data protection, these two teams are fundamental, they do complementary work to detect vulnerabilities, prevent cyber attacks and emulate threat scenarios.

To undestand in detail the operations and functions of each piece of equipment, we will describe each one:
Red Team

The Red Team is what we call offensive security and is made up of security professionals who act as adversaries to defeat cyber security controls. It is in charge of testing the Blue Team for vulnerabilities.

The Red Team attacks the system in a radical way to test the efficiency of the security programme. This attack is unannounced so that the defense can be as objective as possible and see what a real attack would look like. The attacks carried out may be internal to the company itself or may be from an external company. The teams are usually made up of ethical hackers who evaluate security objectively.

Red Team is often confused with pentesters as there is a certain overlap between their roles and skills, but they are not the same thing. Pentesters carry out an intrusion process using pivoting techniques, social engineering and other hacking tests that ends with a report identifying vulnerabilities.

By creating the various attacks, it is possible to see potential security leaks and to see the behaviour and possible techniques of future attackers. The effectiveness of the Red Team lies in constantly checking the possibility that someone outside the company could gain access to the systems and modify them.

¿How a Red Team works?

Red Teams spend more time planning an attack than actually carrying out attacks. In fact, the Red Team is responsible for implementing a series of methods to gain access to a network. The Red Team is hired to test the effectiveness of the Blue Team by emulating the behaviours of a real black team (cyber aggressors) in order to make the attack as realistic and chaotic as possible.

They use a range of methods and tools to exploit and exploit weaknesses and vulnerabilities in a network such as phishing, vulnerability identification, firewall intrusion etc. It is important to note that these teams will use any necessary methods, depending on the terms of the compromise, to break into a system. Depending on the vulnerability, they can deploy malware to infect hosts or even bypass physical security controls by cloning access cards.

Red Team functions
  • Red Teams emulate attackers, using the same or similar tools. The attacks attempt to exploit security vulnerabilities in the organisation’s systems and/or applications (exploits), pivoting techniques (jumping from one machine to another) and targets (systems and/or applications).
  • They carry out a process of emulating threat scenarios faced by an organisation, analysing security from the attackers point of view, in order to give the security team (Blue Team) the possibility to defend itself in a controlled and constructive way against attacks.
  • The Red Team is an entertainment for the Blue Team, which evaluates the real capacity of an organisation to protect its critical assets and its detection and response capabilities, taking into account technological, process and human aspects.
Blue Team

The Blue Team is what we call defensive security and is made up of security professionals who are responsible for protecting critical assets of the organisation against any threat. It is responsible for proactively defending against real and programmed attacks by the Red Team.

While conventional cyber security teams have similar functions, the Blue Team is different. The Blue Team has the functionality to constantly collect surveillance data for continuous evaluation, while conventional cyber security teams only act upon receiving an attack input. The Blue Team usually consists of the organisation’s internal cyber security staff.

The Blue Team aims to analyse patterns and behaviours that are out of the ordinary. It is also responsible for conducting assessments of the various threats that may affect the organisation, monitoring and recommending action plans to mitigate potential risks. To prevent attacks, they create a database with a range of possible use cases.

In the event of an attack, the Blue Team takes action and performs response tasks, including forensic analysis of the affected machines, traceability of attack vectors, proposed solutions and establishment of detection measures. Although the Blue Team is usually used to defend against large attacks, it evaluates and analyses any security flaw that occurs in the system, however small.

¿How does a Blue Team works?

The Blue Team starts with an initial data collection, documents exactly what needs to be protected and carries out a risk assessment. They then enforce access to the system in many ways. They also take care of staff education on security policies such as stricter passwords and ensure that they understand and comply with security procedures.

Monitoring tools are usually implemented that allow information about access to systems to be logged and checked for unusual activity. Blue Teams perform periodic system checks, such as DNS audits, scanning for internal or external network vulnerabilities and capturing sample network traffic for analysis.

Blue Team functions
  • They perform constant vigilance, analysing patterns and behaviours that are out of the ordinary both at the level of systems and applications as well as people, in terms of information security.
  • They work on continuous security improvement, tracking cybersecurity incidents, analysing systems and applications to identify flaws and/or vulnerabilities and verifying the effectiveness of the organisation’s security measures.
¿How do the red and blue teams work together?

Communication between the two teams is the most important factor for successful exercises and for the constant improvement of the system.

The Blue Team must keep up to date on new technologies to improve security and must share all information with the Red Team in order to conduct test attacks. Also, the red team must always be aware of new threats and penetration techniques used by hackers and advise the blue team on prevention techniques.

Depending on the target of their test, the Red Team will or will not inform the Blue Team of a planned test. For example, if the objective of the attack is to simulate a real response scenario, the Blue Team will not be notified of the test. Only someone in management should be informed about the test for further analysis, usually a Blue Team leader.

When the test is completed, both teams collect information and report their results. The Red Team advises the Blue Team if they succeed in penetrating defences and gives advice on how to block attempts similar to a real scenario. Similarly, the Blue Team informs the Red Team whether or not their monitoring procedures detected an attack attempt.

Finally, both teams must work together to plan, develop and implement tighter security controls as needed.

Purple Team

The Purple Team exists to analyse and maximise the effectiveness of the Red and Blue Teams.

This team is responsible for pitting the Blue Team’s defence techniques against the Red Team’s attack techniques. With this confrontation, it is possible to create more possible cases of failure or attack and to see if the system is working and prepared correctly. If the defence in the confrontation is positive, the relevant new scales or upgrades are integrated.

The idea of the Purple Team is to coordinate and ensure that the two previous teams share information about vulnerabilities in the system in order to achieve constant improvement. The Purple Team is more than a team, it is a coordinator of the Blue and Red Teams.

The Purple Team coordinates the Red and Blue Teams to ensure their correct functioning and evolution.

Purple Team functions

The main objective of the Purple Team is to manage the organisation’s security, perform tests to check the effectiveness of security mechanisms and procedures and define/develop additional security controls to reduce the organisation’s risk.

For both companies and institutions it is essential to implement security controls to minimise the risks of a cyber attack and protect the data they handle.

¿What are the advantages of such equipment?
  • They strengthen your entire system. With the testing and creation of Blue Team security your system will be strengthened and new and more effective security measures will be created.
  • Creation of an action plan. With the Purple Team actions you will be able to create different action plans. You will be able to foresee possible attacks or other computer problems encountered by the Red Team attacks.
  • Peace of mind. With the Blue and Red Team’s attacks and defences, although there is always room for improvement, you will know that your system is protected.

Although the different cybersecurity teams help to create a good defence against possible attacks, we must not forget that cyber attackers are constantly training and evolving to find the smallest breach to gain access. That is why it is vital to continuously analyse all security systems, especially nowadays when cyber-attacks on companies are on the rise.

“Cyber-attacks in Spain have grown by 125% in the last year to 40,000 per day”

Source: CyberSecurity News – 2021

This increase in cyber-attacks is caused by the rapid implementation of the digital world in many companies that have been forced to make the change due to the pandemic. It has also been caused by the introduction of teleworking, as many companies were not prepared for this change. This is why the implementation of cyber security is so important and vital for businesses.

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