Internet Security

What Are the Red Team and Blue Team in Cyber security?

Cyber security
Written by prodigitalweb

It’s no secret the modern cyber security world is complicated. There are new threats every day that cyber security professionals need to be ready for. Thus, it’s important to have a multi-faceted approach to defending computer systems. Any high-priority system should be protected with proactive defensive measures and offensive testing to ensure those measures are effective. These two sides of cyber security are often described as blue and red team tactics. If you’re interested in cyber security, it’s important to understand the difference between these two teams.

Penetration Testing

The concepts of the red and blue teams are rooted in penetration testing. A penetration test is a controlled, simulated attack on a computer system carried out by a team of authorized security professionals. The principal purpose of a pentest is to evaluate the security of a computer system, and the results can be used to improve the system’s security.

Red Team Cyber Security

In a penetration test, the security professionals who use offensive tactics to access the computer system are called the red team. They use offensive techniques to gather intelligence, fingerprint and scan systems, assess them and exploit any vulnerabilities they find. At the end of this process, the red team reports its findings.

It’s important to note that although a red team may use all the same techniques as illicit hackers, they are cyber security professionals who have the authorization to evaluate the target system and are not hacking with the intent to harm or steal. In fact, the most important step of any penetration test is the first one: getting authorization and setting test parameters.

The term “red team” is primarily associated with pentesting. However, red team tactics are discussed in other cyber security contexts because understanding them is essential to effectively defending any computer system.

Examples of Red Team Techniques

A cyber security professional on a red team must be familiar with a variety of offensive tactics (although some tests may limit which tactics are allowable). Some common examples are:

  • Social Engineering: This is a collection of techniques that use psychology and deception to gain information and/or access by tricking system users.
  • Phishing/Spear Phishing: Phishing is a form of social engineering that involves sending an email or other message intended to trick the recipient into sharing sensitive information or deploying malware. Spear Phishing is a special form of phishing that targets a specific individual such as an executive.
  • Communication Interception: This technique requires tools to intercept digital communication. Packet sniffing, the observation of network data, is a common example.
  • Card Cloning: In many cases, physical security is as essential to cyber security as digital protections. Red teams may clone security badges to gain physical access to servers and other high-value assets.

Blue Team Cyber Security

On the other side of the penetration test is the blue team. These professionals analyze security systems and attempt to harden their security against potential attacks. In some exercises, they may actively defend against red teams by trying to detect and respond to attacks.

In short, blue team tactics are what people think of when they imagine cyber security. They are the defensive measures that help keep hackers out of computer systems. However, more than just deploying defenses, blue teams are also charged with evaluating and improving cyber security systems.

Examples of Blue Team Techniques

  • Risk Assessment: During a risk assessment, blue teams identify vulnerabilities within a system and create defensive plans around those, lowering the risk of future cyber attacks. 
  • Staff Education: This includes ensuring the staff of any business or organization are aware of scams they might be vulnerable to. Educating employees is done in a variety of approaches, including video-based instruction, hands-on activities, and situational-based learning.
  • Audits: Blue teams will generally run audits of the DNS server and vulnerability scans to ensure best practices are being carried out. They’ll gather as much data as possible to perform the risk assessment efficiently. 
  • User Tracking: This practice is also called “digital footprint analysis”, which occurs when a blue team determines if a user shows suspicious activity. 

How the Red & Blue Teams Work Together

It’s probably no surprise that cyber security works best when both red and blue teams are involved. While blue team professionals may be able to foresee potential vulnerabilities in a system, it’s difficult to be prepared for everything without testing and evaluation.

Communication between these teams is essential. This is especially important during the authorization phase and evaluation/reporting phase. However, communication should be involved in other phases as well. For example, some penetration tests involve the red team having full knowledge of the security systems beforehand (thus, making the test more rigorous).

Learn More About Cyber Security With INE

Whether you want to pursue a career in cyber security or just want to learn more about red and blue teams, check out INE’s cyber security courses today.  



About the author