A Beginner’s Guide To Red Team Testing

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Security leaders face strategic turmoil from a data protection standpoint as businesses increasingly require an ‘anytime, anywhere access.’ Security testing is more important than ever now that the attack surface has increased because of the influx of technology and tools aimed at facilitating accessibility demands.

These days, when attempting to obtain unauthorized access to an organization’s assets and facilities, nefarious entities like crime rings and even disgruntled ex-employees may employ sophisticated attack methods and techniques to exploit security deficiencies. Attackers may then steal intellectual property or hard assets once they successfully breach a protected network. A breach may also cause significant disruptions to company operations and processes.

To better improve network security, conducting penetration or pen tests is recommended. And one of the ways to do this is through ‘red team testing.’ This beginner’s guide will introduce you to the basics of red teaming.

What’s Penetration Testing?

To discover vulnerabilities across a specific network, an attempt to penetrate security layers should be simulated. Pen testing is like attempting to open the doors and windows of a specific area of a building to see which are slightly ajar or completely unlocked. It’s essentially the same as what hackers would do, only this one’s a test for assessment. Many organizations’ compliance regimens have pen testing as a central component. It’s true even for those that use cybersecurity software.

Red Team Testing; What Is It and How Does It Differ from Penetration Testing?

Red teaming is a no-holds-barred approach to detecting network vulnerabilities. Its sole intent is to perform a simulated attack that would resemble the organization’s worst nightmare, or the ‘worst-case scenario’. A red team operates around accomplishing tasks built around a set of goals that a business provides without being detected.

Red team testing aims to find flaws in technology, processes, and employees, then tests the organization’s capability to detect and respond to the identified threats. It doesn't focus on the technical controls solely. On the other hand, the goal of general penetration testing is to find and exploit weak points to determine the risks of the network’s vulnerabilities. In pen tests, the organization is fully aware of the testing, while red teaming is an unannounced attack. However, there are also misconceptions about red teaming that you shouldn’t fall for if you find more information.

Red teaming’s areas of focus include open-source intelligence gathering, phishing, weaponization, and social engineering. Here’s a closer look:

  • Open-source intelligence gathering-this area of focus is more on the collection and identification of information that’s available to the public, or out in the open, which the organization may not be aware of.
  • Social engineering-red teams will conduct virtual and physical social engineering tests on the organization’s employees, which works like a test ‘scam’ to see if they would adhere to the management’s security policies.
  • Phishing-a more specific type of social engineering, which uses emails that will tempt employees to click on links that will initiate a malicious attack. A red team carries this out through methodologic and quantitative assessment of the human factor of security.
  • Weaponization-this is where red teams prepare to launch their attack by creating custom file payloads and trojans. Sometimes, false online personas are also used.

As already mentioned, read team testing isn’t only all about the technical controls. It also involves people and process analysis. That’s why read teams can obtain a true and more accurate simulation of potential oversight, and as to what or how an organization’s security may look like to hackers.

Common Security Testing Concerns That Red Teaming Can Help With

Below are situations where red team testing is applicable, including an explanation of why this type of test may be the most appropriate.

- Could A New Cyberattack Being Covered In The News Happen To A Business?

Red teams can examine any attack vector and play any role asked. It means that they can perform a test based on a breaking-news hack. If a company has a subsidiary organization in another country and has a vexing concern about their connection’s security, red teaming can also help.

Red team testing can also figure out how resilient a business can be to a specific attack vector by simulating the threat in question. It’ll help uncover the speed at which an organization will detect assault, how effectively it can block the offenders, and how close the company is to its desired security level.

- Will an Intrusion Be Actually Detected By An Organization’s Security Protocols?

Red teaming can test a business’ detection capabilities. That’s because by nature, it’s a planned stealth attack. It can assess the security protocols in an organization by testing the technology used, the monitoring personnel, and the security team's response. Red teams can also work with a company’s security team to tell if monitoring systems have logged any activity but didn’t flag it as part of an attack.

The Takeaway

Employees wouldn’t know that testing is underway during a security test performed by a red team. It allows red teams that mimic proficient attackers’ classic behaviors to really gauge the real-life responses of an organization to an unauthorized infiltration. Every business or company could use this unannounced, realistic attack just to see how secure their systems really are against malicious attacks.

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