In the world of team-based sports, whether it is Soccer, Rugby or Cricket, there are various positions & roles on the team in which a player may specialize. Specializations are normally based on talent, skills, and effort to ensure the maximum contribution to the overall success of the team. For the sake of simplicity, if we take one example, say Soccer, there are various positions ranging from goalkeeper, defender, midfielder & forwards at a high level and each of these positions goes on to further specialize depending on the actual position within the playing field such as fullbacks, centerbacks, wingbacks and sweepers within the defenders positions.
Cyber Security Teams – Blue or Red- What’s the difference?
In a similar way, a cybersecurity team within an enterprise consists of various team players with varied specializations. These specialized roles consist of Analysts, Incident Responders, Forensic Investigators, Threat Hunters, and other specialized skills which provide a security operations team the flexibility and skills required to address the various challenges being faced by the organization. These specialized roles can be broadly classified under the category of Blue Team whose sole purpose is to defend an organization from cyber-attacks and respond in the least possible time against such attacks.
Another set of security experts are those who help assess the security controls in place for protecting the organization and help the Blue Team to not only improve the defenses surrounding the network but also test the efficacy of human cybersecurity skills as well as the security controls. This team mainly consists of penetration testers and vulnerability assessors which broadly form the Red Team.
The objective of the Red Team is to help test the security controls in place and not to break the systems. Primarily, the Red Team helps the Blue Team by assessing the points at which the system can be broken without breaking the system down. They try to emulate the behaviors and techniques of likely attackers to make it as realistic as possible. By doing this the Red Team can complement the Blue Team by providing insights into the strategies of the attackers and the way they go about punching holes in the cyber defense of an enterprise.
Each of the roles within the Blue & Red Teams requires not just technical skills and knowledge but also requires aptitude and a mental frame of mind focused on the job role. Thus, it is important to understand the traits of cybersecurity professionals being hired or contracted by an organization, and also match a corresponding Blue team training and Red team training practices to make sure these teams are at their best.
Are you a Blue or Red Team Player?
As it is commonly said in the world of sports – “knowing your kung fu” is the first stage in understanding your strengths and weaknesses. In a similar way, it is important for a cybersecurity professional to know his/her core strengths and weaknesses ensuring they are placed for success on either the Blue or Red Team. Even though these strengths or weaknesses do not always provide a definitive answer for an individual towards the kind of team that the player (cybersecurity professional) is suited towards, it does provide a clear indication of the traits/ capabilities suited for being a Blue or Red Team member.
There are some general traits that help to identify the human aptitude and mental framework for an individual to be part of the Blue or Red Team. For example, a few of the traits common to Red Team players include someone who takes a keen interest in the discovery of vulnerabilities within a system and exploiting them in such as a way to make the Blue Team members aware of the loopholes within the defenses of a network. Blue Team members would likely be individuals who lead and like to follow a disciplined Incident Response Plan in order to reduce the overall response time for incidents.
Even though the traits highlighted might not be common across both Blue & Red Teams, collectively the efforts of both the teams should help to ensure that the Blue Team is able to detect threats and attacks in the shortest possible time period and under the chinks in the cyber defenses of an organization.
How do we train Blue Teams and Red Teams?
Having understood the core objectives and traits of a security operations center (SOC), the next key question is how we train Blue Teams and Red Teams? Do we only train them on theoretical aspects of cybersecurity, or do we train them to respond to attacker behavior in real-time?
This key question brings us to the very fact that even though the theoretical aspects of the cybersecurity team domain are important, nothing can substitute the ability of the defender to protect against real-world cyber-attacks. Ensuring that Blue team training and Red team training is being done by responding to real-world attacks can only be achieved through a hyper-realistic simulation and training environment, (cyber range) such as Cyberbit Range. A cyber range can provide both role-specific training focused on the blue or red team with specific objectives to be achieved or as a holistic team exercise. From a Red team training perspective, the cyber range provides the ability to test skills like hacking a simulated IT network that would have the same protection as an enterprise corporate IT network. Red teams would be able to test various skills using cyber range without having to worry about breaking down the system and in turn, would be able to discover vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the system while sharpening their skills. From a Blue team training perspective, the cyber range offers the ability to provide the defenders a simulated corporate IT network which is quite like the corporate network that an average defender would be monitoring & defending.
The Key for Blue and Red Team Training:
Some of the key factors that need to be kept in mind while training blue and red teams are as follows:
For Red Team Training:
- Train on a cyber range that mimics real-world IT networks that encompass real-world applications like active directory, Web Servers hosting websites & portals, database servers, application servers to name a few.
- Provide the functionality to test hacking and penetration skills against commercial tools with advanced configurations.
- Practice without the concern of breaking the environment which can be reset within a few minutes.
- Leverage the latest set of tools & solutions for Red team members to behave the same way as attackers would.
- The Red team training should be used to assess the ability to penetrate a network but should also be able to measure the milestones that have been set for each stage of an attack.
For Blue Team Training:
- Provide the defenders with the ability to train on real-world corporate IT networks using cyber range, with design and architecture containing multiple zones like DMZ, MZ, Server farms & applications which they would experience within their own network.
- Train them on real-world attack patterns based on the Cyber Kill Chain & MITRE Framework.
- Learn how to detect & mitigate real-life cyber-attacks that require multiple investigations and deep dive into various technology platforms to experience a real-life situation.
- Assess the skills of defenders by measuring the various responses against actual cyber-attacks which are divided into multiple milestones, which need to be successfully detected, monitored, responded, and mitigated against each milestone.
- The Blue team training should include a cyber range with everyday solutions & tools used in day to day operations to protect & defend against cyber-attacks.
Thus, in summary, Blue and Red team training need to keep in mind the trainees’ skills, knowledge levels and job roles along with an overall perspective of how to respond to real-world attacks & threats and as they say in the world of sports “It’s Game On”