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How Red Team Can Improve Your Cyber Security Posture?

What is a Red Team in Cyber Security?

The term "Red Team" derives from the military practice of using war games to challenge operational plans by testing how defenses perform when faced with a brilliant adversary. A "Red Team" refers to an enemy team that has to overcome the defenses of the "Blue Team," the home team.

Red teams in cybersecurity play the role of attackers in this simulation; they use the same techniques and tools used by hackers to avoid detection and evaluate the defensive capabilities of the internal security team. A red team acts as an adversary, looking for and exploiting potential weaknesses in the organization's cyber defenses. Red teams usually gain access by stealing credentials or using social engineering techniques. Red teams penetrate a system by elevating their privileges and moving laterally across systems with the goal of exfiltrating data while avoiding detection as profoundly as possible.

A red team in cybersecurity aims to identify and assess vulnerabilities, test assumptions, examine alternative options for attacks, and reveal an organization's limitations and security risks. This group aims to evaluate the security posture of your enterprise and determine how it will fare against real-time attacks before they occur. In recognizing their roles as attackers, teaming exercises are sometimes called red-teaming.

What are Red Team Responsibilities?

Red teams will adapt their tactics in response to the defenses. They will look for opportunities to exploit the system and are in an excellent position to uncover unanticipated vulnerabilities. Red team activities begin by defining their terms of engagement. The majority of companies believe their systems are difficult to penetrate as they have implemented various robust security measures. The red team must only find the weakest link to breach the perimeter.

The objectives and responsibilities of the red team are as follows:

  • Red Team avoids detection by the blue team. Since most attacks occur over a short period, it can be difficult for the blue team to neutralize the threat before the 'damage' happens.
  • Extracting information from the target, invading its systems, or breaching its physical perimeters compromises the target's security.
  • Exploiting the weaknesses in the infrastructure of a target. The result is that the organization's technical security needs to be improved.
  • Initiate hostile activity, including sophisticated penetration testing, to provide a reliable evaluation of the blue team's defensive capabilities.
  • An organization's Red Team is tasked with breaching its security by acting like a hacker. Red team activities include:

       - Card cloning

       - Intercepting communication

       - Making recommendations to the blue team for security improvements

       - Penetration testing

       - Social engineering

In addition, the red team employs the following methods:

  • Social engineering and phishing techniques are employed to manipulate employees into providing information used to compromise their computers.
  • Establishing communication with the target's network using command-and-control servers (C&C or C2).
  • Gathering preliminary information on the target using open-source intelligence (OSINT).
  • Physical and digital penetration testing generally takes place in a vacuum.
  • Utilizing decoys to distract the blue team.

Why Red Team is Important?

Red teaming is the practice of systematically and rigorously (although ethically) identifying an attack path that exploits real-world attacks to breach an organization's security defenses. By adopting this adversarial approach, the organization's security is not based solely on the theoretical capabilities of security tools and systems but also on the devices and systems' actual performance under realistic threats. Red teaming is essential to assessing an organization's capabilities and maturity for prevention, detection, and remediation.

The team's skills and how they work together can directly impact the effectiveness of a red teaming exercise. Some organizations may choose to build their own red team. Depending on the task, these teams can be quite small, even consisting of as few as from two to over twenty people. Red teaming differs from narrower penetration tests because it involves a full-scale assault on your network. The process may take several hours, days, or even weeks. But the information gained from these activities can be incredibly useful in improving the security of applications, systems, and networks.

The following are six security objectives achieved by using a red team.

  • Identify vulnerabilities in applications and systems- Red team exercises can help identify vulnerabilities and exploitable configuration errors in production apps, systems, or the entire infrastructure. These penetration tests attempt to simulate a targeted and persistent attack against your digital assets to determine what, if anything, will break. This effort is focused on identifying weaknesses that allow access to your critical data assets and on all means by which an attacker would then be able to exfiltrate those assets.
  • Rethink your software and systems- An effective way to ensure network, data, and application security is to engage the services of a red team. Internal testing groups are often aware of the weak spots within their systems and tend to probe the same area repeatedly. It can enhance overall application security by addressing flaws uncovered during a penetration testing exercise.
  • Learn how a security breach can impact your organization- Red team exercises can help you identify the full implications of a compromise. As a result, it can uncover the multiple methods by which an attacker could breach your defenses. It can also identify the potential damage each process may cause to your data assets. Furthermore, such simulations can also provide a glimpse into the financial consequences of an attack or a breach of a particular system or portion of your IT infrastructure.
  • Recognize weaknesses in the development and testing processes- A red team exercise can reveal errors in your development and testing processes. If a penetration test shows a bug or several bugs in a product you have already tested, that indicates that something is wrong or not working correctly. Many organizations have skills and processes for developing secure code and testing the security of their applications. The testing process may also be inadequate. Red team testing might identify, for example, that an organization needs to perform black-box testing to identify vulnerabilities in hidden functions.
  • Assess your incident response capabilities- Red team exercises provide an excellent opportunity to test your real-time incident response capabilities, mainly when conducted in conjunction with blue team exercises. Suppose a red team simulates an attack against your organization. In that case, you will be able to determine how well your detection and mitigation capabilities will work in stopping or mitigating an actual attack.
  • Justify security expenditures by demonstrating security controls- Red team exercises can expose vulnerabilities in the infrastructure and show your security controls' robustness. There is a reasonable chance to have some well-designed defenses in place if a full-blown penetration test and simulated attack fail to reveal any significant weaknesses. The fact that a third-party firm attests to this is often viewed more favorably by a CIO and CEO than your assurances regarding improved security.

Common Red Teaming Tools

A Red team must continuously operate in a fast-paced environment. Many tools are available during the cybersecurity lifecycle, such as the exploitation framework, the post scanner, Intel gathering tools, and vulnerability scanning tools. Using the right tools is critical to success as a red teamer.

The following are the top ten tools used by the red teams globally:

1.       BloodHound

2.       Pupy

3.       Hashcat

4.       SET(Social Engineering Toolkit)

5.       LaZagne

6.       SpiderFoot

7.       Metasploit

8.       SQLmap tool

9.       Nikto

10.     Veil

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I am a cybersecurity enthusiast and an author. I write technical blogs and articles related to cyber security.
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About Inno Eroraha
Dulles, Virginia Website
Inno Eroraha is the Founder & Chief Strategist of NetSecurity Corporation, a cybersecurity products and services company based in Dulles, VA. NetSecurity is the developer of ThreatResponder Platform.
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