What Is a Red Team-Blue Team Exercise?

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In training exercises, a red team vs blue team is a simulation where two teams compete against each other in so-called “war games”.

These training exercises were first used by the military and their use have expanded towards countless industries, but their most popular use is in cybersecurity. The main objective of these competitions are to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the security of a company which could make them vulnerable to attacks by an outside attacker.

The Basic Concept

The main idea is fairly simple: One team –the red team– tries to attack an organization or a company and the other team –the blue team– has to prevent the attackers getting into their systems. Since the technique was originally used by the military, it was developed as a way of testing and training soldiers to face open combat and infiltration. Since then, it has been used to evaluate the accessibility of places such as nuclear facilities.

The red team vs blue team strategy began to be used to test cybersecurity in the 90s.

The Red Team

The red team is the “enemy team”, they are in charge of penetrating the security systems and testing the security programs. Their goals is to detect vulnerabilities.

The red team should apply methods of attack used by real-world attackers and they should perform all the steps that areal attacker would take. By doing this, they are able to find and expose the channels and backdoors that can be exploited in order to get past the company’s or the organization’s cybersecurity.

Common practice is to hire a third party, someone outside of the organization; someone who has the knowledge and skills to find and exploit vulnerabilities buy who is not aware of the existing defenses in the infrastructure.

A red team should use any and all techniques available in order to attempt to gain entrance to the systems. They should imitate a real-life attack perfectly. This allows the company to understand the possible breaches in their system and to work on preventing them.

The Blue Team

The two teams are similar in that they both aim to assess the vulnerabilities and backdoors into a security system.

However, where the red team is the offense, the blue team is the defense. The blue team needs to find ways to defend the system from attacks by the red team, and to prevent them from infiltrating the system.

The objective of the blue team is to organize a defense that will strengthen the incident response in case of an attack. They also need to be aware of all the possible tactics an attacker or a group of attackers would use and create a strategy to counteract them.

By preventing attacks, the blue team will find new procedures to be put in place in case of an attempted infiltration and they can find and improve the vulnerabilities of the security system. It is also a good training exercise should they need to fend off a real attack.