What is Red Teaming in Cyber Security?

In cyber security, most staffs are split between Red and Blue. The focus of this article will be on Red Teaming, and the attack side of cyber security. Red Teams are focused specifically on penetration testing and vetting their different systems. The objectives of Red Teams are to maximize the overall security of their company for employees and the data you store. This goal is achieved by detecting vulnerabilities in your controls, remedying said vulnerabilities, and preventing the vulnerabilities from being a problem in the future for the company.


Simply put, Red Teaming is a multi-leveled attack simulation (penetration test) designed to measure how well your defenses will hold up to a real-world attack. “Ethical hacking” is often how those in the field would describe Red Teaming to their friends and family. This is because Red Teaming is a vital and necessary function of your cyber security team and will help your team pinpoint flaws in your defenses before a bad actor can do the same.

The Steps to Red Teaming

1. Set Objectives

Setting objectives is vital to measure the progress of your Red Team, track your attack goals, and see if your team accomplishes these goals.  These objectives be either simple or complex in nature, but will always guide your Red Team’s focus when attacking your system. The objectives you set should always be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely in nature.

2. Gather Information

Once the goals of a attack have been determined, Red Teams must then gather information on their attack target. This information will be vital to your Red Team’s targeting efforts when trying to find vulnerable locations to penetrate a system. Information gathered here can vary greatly in nature, ranging from technical specifics of a system to the names and personal information of employees at the company. Anything and everything that can be used in your attack should be found and documented in this stage of Red Teaming.

3. Simulate Attack

Simulating a real attack is when all of your preparation builds to a real attack attempt. In this step Red Teams use all of the tools and information at their disposal to try and compromise your company’s system. Your defenses and Blue Team are put to the test, and all vulnerabilities identified by Red Teams will be documented for future reporting.

4. Report Findings

Once you have performed an attack on your company it is time to sort out the importance priority of each vulnerability for your company. In this step your Red Team will accumulate all of their findings, document the risks and vulnerability of each attack vector, and report these findings to your entire cyber security team so they may be patched and resolved in the future.

Why is Red Teaming Important?

The answer to this question is quite simple: Red Teaming helps protect your company and all of its assets from compromise. Red Teaming focuses on your company’s technology, people, and physical areas to make sure you are ready for anything thrown at you. Red Teaming is critical for companies of all sizes. This is because Red Teams are encouraged to be more creative and “wide-thinking” than a simple penetration test. Having a Red Team in place in your cyber security department gives your company flexibility and freedom to ensure your networks are sound in a wide variety of outcomes and avenues. You may think that your company is “too small” or “too irrelevant” for an attack, but that frame of mind is exactly how an attacker is able to get into businesses of all sizes. Small companies are just as vulnerable to an attack as large, multinational ones are, and often are targeted because of their limited security controls. Maintaining a strong and high-quality Red Team will maximize your protection from these attacks and allow you to focus on other aspects of your business while your Red Team beefs up your security.


Red Teams offer great insight into data exploitation and the prevention of future breaches. By taking on the role of attacker, your company is able to show backdoors and gaps in security that you otherwise might not know about. From social engineering phishing schemes to full-fledged botnet attacks, Red Teams are designed to make sure every aspect of your business is up to par and knows the procedure regarding every form of targeted attack. This focus will save you time as a company, large sums of money associated with an actual compromise, and precious data that otherwise would belong to a nefarious attacker.


The Role of a Red Team in your Company

Red Teams have a large list of goals they aim to accomplish for your company. Some of the key roles that Red Teams fill are listed below:

Compromising their target's security by extracting information and infiltrating its systems or breaching its physical perimeters

Ethical hacking is vital to your company’s security system. Constantly attacking and seeking compromise of your systems is the most important and necessary job of Red Teams. This is the never ending “attack” duty that Red Teams take on.

Avoiding detection by the Blue Team of the company. 

Many attacks are carried out over a large timeframe, which will make it hard for Blue Teams to identify and conquer the threat before damage can be done. The “battle” between your Red and Blue teams is a healthy way to manage your information systems and constantly improve your defenses. 

Exploiting weaknesses and network bugs in their target's infrastructure.

Looking for weaknesses and gaps in the infrastructure of your company will protect you from many attack vectors that hackers use to infiltrate your networks. This activity will illuminate gaps in the company’s security that will require fixing, improving security posture as a whole. Constantly vetting your network for bugs and holes is a constant job for Red Teams.

Initiating attacks and other hostile activity - including penetration testing.

This activity will give a reliable and real-world estimate of your Blue Team’s defensive capabilities and your vulnerability to an actual attack. Performing mock attacks is the best practice for your defenses to be tested and further improved against dangerous infiltrators.

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