Security is a multifaceted field with multiple roles for carrying out diverse operations. In this article, we demystify the concept of the red team and the blue team in security.
First things first: why do we need to bifurcate security roles for two teams?
Simply put, security responsibilities in a company are so wide it’s not possible to be an expert in every field. In an attempt to provide encompassing and strong security posture, large organizations prefer to have different units within their security departments, fulfilling different purposes using advanced Red Team Workspace.
These are usually called the Red team and Blue team. We’ll take a deep dive to understand what both of them mean, which tasks they handle, and how important they are.
The Blue Team: Defenders
Blue teamers in the security department are specializing in protecting the assets of the organization. They have the responsibility of making sure that every company’s system is secured and patched, monitoring hacker activity to look for malicious signatures, and a lot of other complex procedures.
They have to ensure and maintain strong product security, which is why there are multiple roles defined even within blue teaming.
Let’s take a look at a few of them below:
- SOC Analyst: SOC stands for “Security Operations Center”, a sub-department continuously monitoring for anything out of ordinary. SOC analysts are the ones doing this job — they are the first line of defense in any organization, keeping an eye on multiple assets to figure out if something malicious is going on.
- Incident Responder: While SOC analysts are there to figure out and identify current and past threats, once an event or incident is uncovered, it’s the job of incident responders to take it forward.
- They have certain guidelines and strict procedures that must be followed to do proper containment and escalation after something occurs. They are usually part of CSIRT.
- Digital Forensic & Incident Response Analysts: They are responsible for analyzing artifacts and evidence after an event or compromise occurred. They perform tasks such as memory analysis, network and logs analysis, file system analysis, etc where they look for how the attack was carried out to dig deeper into them and do a thorough investigation.
- Threat Intelligence Analyst: After the information related to cybersecurity is collected and analyzed to understand cyber criminals’ motives, methods, etc, the finalized data is called threat intelligence. People who do this are called threat intelligence analysts. They analyze indicators of compromises (IOCs) and categorize them according to different known threat actors, so that the next time such IOCs are seen, they can be used to detect hackers. TI analysts also create rules and signatures to detect certain patterns based on analysis of existing threat intelligence.
- Malware Analyst/Reverse Engineer: When cybercrimes are performed, they are usually executed by delivery of some form of malware that infects the victim’s system. To understand how malware works, how to better protect against it, and to provide awareness of that malware further, it is important to break down the bad applications and study them. Reverse engineering is what most malware analysts do.
These are some of the commonly known roles that are popular among blue teams, but the list is exhaustive. A lot of other things, technical and non-technical alike, take place and relates to management, risk, and compliance to keep an organization safe.
And a lot of the responsibilities overlap: a malware analyst could also be doing threat hunting and gathering intelligence, or incident responders detecting and mitigating attacks. You are never doing one thing when you are part of a blue team, which leads to broader learning and growth as an individual.
While blue teamers make sure everything is secure, they cannot wait until a hacker attack happens to find what weaknesses exist in the system. Any seasoned blue teamer will tell you attacks and breaches are inevitable. To stay one step ahead of cybercriminals another security team comes into play. It’s known as the Red team, which we will explore now.
The Red Team: Ethical Advisors
Red teamers are responsible for performing security actions from an attacker’s point of view. In essence, they perform adversary simulation. Their tasks span from small pentests focussing on individual applications to large-scale pentests on a bigger scope or full-fledged red team activity. Let’s define what is the difference between penetration testing and red teaming.
Pentests are individual testing of products to look for vulnerabilities. It could be mobile app pentesting, web application penetration testing, or thick client pentesting. This is the traditional way of testing applications. Red teaming is a more close to modern needs as nothing is off the chart.
Operatives utilize phishing, social engineering, OSINT, and even test physical security in order to gain entry. Their main focus is overall large-scale offensive operations.
Simply put: red team operatives cover the wide scale of the attack surface, techniques, and tactics but pentesters look is more focused on a defined scope and more detailed in deep. All of them are still part of the offensive side of security.
While blue teams have specialized roles within them, there are no such clear divisions in red teams. One explanation for this could be that the red team is a unified process with only one goal — to compromise the product.
To give an example, while the red team needs to find only a single lock open, the blue team has to make sure all the locks are secure! Introducing different roles inside the red team can prove to be hard to manage and might decrease the efficiency of the operation. However, there are some specific skills that might differ from one operative to another.
For example, one red team operative might be highly skilled in source code review and white box testing while other might be an expert when it comes to hacking into a web application. Together, multiple operatives with different skill sets come together to form a formidable red team and perform attacks to present a challenge to the blue team.
While red team operations are taking place, the blue team on the other end continuously monitors the progress to check if they are able to stop them. And if not, they figure out where the breaches in the security system were and work on them together with the red team to apply fixes.
This cycle continues as new products, tools and workflows are added to a company’s ecosystem. Because it is better to be hacked by your own red team and be able to fix the issues instead of getting hacked by attackers and facing painful consequences!
Hexway: Bridging The Gap
We took a deep dive to shed light on the concepts of red and blue teams in security, what they do, why they do it, and why they are important for any organization. But there is one thing that is crucial to the operations of both teams: communication. Without efficient communication between red and blue teams, things fall apart. While an array of different tools are used for communication, data gathering, etc., the traditional lack the necessary features to keep up with the fast pacing environment of the security industry. This is where Hexway comes into play.
Hexway offers a complex solution, catering to red teams and their clients. Hexway Hive is a pentest and red team optimization tool, that lets you gather all data in one place and allows collaborative working between team members. It has import capabilities from multiple tools and formats, which helps in data aggregation. Hive further allows you to enrich the working process by providing features such as tool integrations, checklists, reporting tools, creating issues and merging them, and many other things.
While Hive helps the operations on the offensive side of security, Hexway Apiary makes sure clients get all information about found vulnerabilities, so they could start remediation as soon as possible.
Whatever issues are created by the pentester through Hive are reflected in Apiary so clients can get on with their job of fixing things as soon as bugs are found.
Creating Jira tickets is as easy as a few clicks as you can open Jira tickets straight from the Apiary dashboard, and the best thing is that there is reverse synchronization between Jira and Apiary (and consequently, Hive) which means as soon as the status of an issue changes in Jira, the updates are immediately reflected in Apiary and Hive.
Since Hive and Apiary are connected, all the comments that are logged by red teamers inside issues are visible in the Apiary so that both teams have absolute clarity through good communication.
Security is an extremely vast field, where the good guys and the bad guys are never on the same playing field as new exploits, attacks, and vulnerabilities are uncovered every day.
Organizations and their security teams need to constantly stay on their toes and stay alert for any possible intrusion and due to such diverse responsibilities, red and blue teams are required.
We went through the process of understanding the foundations of both teams and their utmost importance to protect against cybercriminals. And how to aid the crucial process of security operations, Hexway can prove to be a game changer with Hive helping the pentesters and Apiary lending a hand towards the defender, efficient tools that can plug into your PTaaS workflow and giving your teams an edge over the bad guys.
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