Red Team vs Blue Team in Cybersecurity

If you’ve just started in cybersecurity, or have been in the industry for a while now, you may have heard the terms ‘Red Team’ and ‘Blue Team’ thrown around. With cyber attacks increasing year-on-year, companies are under pressure to ensure sensitive company details and data are protected from fraud and theft.

To find and resolve vulnerabilities in their cyber security, businesses have adopted the military term, with each team working to mimic enemy attacking and defending teams. A crucial process in any businesses cybersecurity testing, let’s explore the differences between Red Team vs Blue Team, and which of the cybersecurity teams you may be best suited for.

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What is Red Team?

A ‘Red Team’ is a group of people who will emulate the activities of hackers so that the business can identify weaknesses in their cybersecurity. This process is known as ethical hacking; an authorised attempt to gain access to unauthorised systems to detect vulnerabilities. The aim of the Red Team is to evaluate the strength of a business’s security so that improvements can be made.

What is the Red Team process?

The business will set specific goals for the Red Team that they must do during the exercise. Planning is an important step for Red Team, as the point of ethical hacking is to get access to specific information and stress-test certain parts of a business’s cyber security. Once goals have been set, they will plan the scenario.

Once goals and plans have been created, professionals in the Red Team will get started, discovering and exploiting weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the system to gain unauthorised access to the system. They will try to avoid detection from the Blue Team, while they perform penetration testing, and social engineering.

Once the testing and hacking is complete, the Red Team will then create a report, analysing the defence of the systems and the Blue Team. The report should outline all and any weaknesses and vulnerabilities so that the business can put measures in place to resolve these issues.

What are Red Team responsibilities?

Specialists in the Red Team may be expected to:

  • Determine a target and perform reconnaissance
  • Draw out information by hacking the system, or social engineering
  • Exploit weaknesses and avoid detection from the Blue Team
  • Undertake penetration testing to evaluate internal systems
  • Create a report on the findings from the test and offer recommendations to improve security

What are the skills required for Red Team?

Those in the Red Team will be expected to have experience from working as a cyber security specialist. They will need to know how to code, to help identify vulnerabilities in systems, and should also know how to perform social engineering (like vishing or phishing) to understand how likely the people working at the business would be to fall for scams.

They will need to know how to identify and exploit different vulnerabilities on the network through penetration testing, and should have a good understanding of threat intelligence to be able to gather information and potential attacks from different sources. Finally, there’s an element of creativity that those in the Red Team need to have, as they will need to be able to adopt different solutions to bypass defences and undertake effective techniques to rigorously test systems.

What is Blue Team?

The ‘Blue Team’ is a team of people whose aim is to protect the company’s information, data and other assets the Red Team is trying to gain access to. Members of the Blue Team will be part of a security operations centre, taking responsibility for defending and preventing the attacks from the Red Team. If you think of Red Team as the offencive team, Blue Team is the defensive team.

They’ll also need to analyse the strategies used by Red Team to ensure these kinds of attacks don’t happen from real threats.

What is the Blue Team process?

Firstly, Blue Team will collate documents and data to see what is required to protect their systems and data, and perform an initial risk assessment. By evaluating and understanding the potential risks and prioritising them, Blue Team is able to develop a plan to implement control measures that lower the impact or likelihood of threats.

Senior management involvement is very important at this level, because they will decide to accept a risk, or put measures in place to prevent it. They will also need to decide according to the business plan and cost-benefits of business.

Blue Team then calculates what the potential loss is in case the threat occurs. Taking into account a cost-benefit analysis, Blue Team may then decide to install intrusion detection and prevention systems to minimise the risk of future DDoS attacks.

What are Blue Team responsibilities?

Cyber security specialists in the Blue Team could be expected to:

  • Use IDS (Intrusion Detection Systems) to detect possible attacks and defend the infrastructure and network of the business
  • Perform DNS assessments to prevent activities that could compromise the network security
  • Manage end-point software and firewall controls to protect workstations.
  • Perform a footprint analysis, identifying any breaches

What are the skills required for Blue Team?

If you’d like to be a member of the Blue Team, you should be able to use detection systems, like intrusion prevention systems (IPS) software intrusion detection systems (IDS) and security and information event management (SIEM). You will need to know how to fix security holes and be able to identify vulnerabilities in the businesses cyber security, as well as gather data related to the different risks and threats the organisation may be exposed to.

It’s imperative members of the Blue Team are able to perform risk assessments, and use handle assessment tools to identify risks and recommended resources and means to protect important business assets and data. Attention to detail is a must, as you’ll be asked to identify even the smallest security flaw.

The difference between Red Team and Blue Team

It’s important to understand, you can’t have one without the other. Both teams play a vital role in making an organisation’s system or network secure; with one team identifying the risks and threats, the other team to perform the risk assessments and ensure the system or network is secure from threats.

Red TeamBlue Team
ActivityPlays the role of the attacker, to find vulnerabilities in the businesses cybersecurity.Defends and respond to the attack from Red Team
Key AimEthical hacking, intercepting communications and penetration testingProtect and monitor the infrastructure
SkillsExploiting vulnerabilities, social engineering, card cloning and penetration testingDigital forensics, secure attack areas and protecting the organisation’s infrastructure.
ToolsBlack box testingOperational security
ExerciseWeb app scanningDigital forensics
ActivitiesExploit vulnerabilitiesControl damage

Get started in cybersecurity

You don’t have to choose between Red or Blue Team to start a career in cybersecurity. Take a look at our live jobs or contact the team to find out more information about our available roles.