Efficient and thorough penetration testing requires real-world scenarios similar to the same actions an attacker would use to exploit vulnerabilities. Red teaming is a group of whitehat hackers who run penetration testing on a system to find any weaknesses in infrastructure, software, user training, and other resources connected to the network. It’s common to hire a third-party consulting firm to carry out red teaming activities as these hackers are unfamiliar with the internal network and can emulate an attack in the same way an outside attacker would conduct social engineering and compromise techniques.
Red Teaming has some similarities to APT emulation, but it also has some differences that make it a beneficial addition to enterprise cyber security penetration testing. With a Red Team exercise, whitehat hackers use similar tools and scenarios that would be found in the wild. They often emulate the same techniques that a real-world attacker would use to exploit a system. Red Teams often work with other teams (usually called a Blue Team) to find vulnerabilities. The Red Team emulates bad actors and threats typical to a cyber-security attack, and the other team must defend against their exploits.
Scenarios similar to real-world attacks are used to determine corporate resilience across network, application and physical controls. Red Teaming is a form of ethical hacking, although the way members penetration test will be the same methods used in an actual attack. The results will reveal all types of vulnerabilities including physical, application, networking, and human factors.
An important aspect of Red Teaming is uncovering insider threats. Insider threats involve malicious or unintentional human errors that could compromise private data. Malicious insiders could be extracting data silently without notice, but even more common are human factors from successful phishing and social engineering. A Red Team will test employee factors such as phone calls to obtain private credentials or gaining physical access to the premises by tricking employees into opening locked entrances. Human factors are a large part of some of today’s biggest data breaches, so a Red Team with social engineering techniques can greatly improve employee education in detecting an intruder’s attack.
Red teams consist of members with different backgrounds and skill sets. Hackers think outside the box, so the normal rules of engagement don’t apply. A group of whitehat hackers in a Red Team have a deep understanding of systems, networking protocols, programming languages and cybersecurity. Most teams have members with distinct skills used in combination with penetration testing knowledge and their own custom and open-source tools. Many penetration testers manually review systems but they also have their own set of software tools and scripts used to find common vulnerabilities.
With a Red Teaming exercise, some attacks will be automated but mostly it’s a manual penetration test. Using this type of penetration testing, the organization gets a deep dive into its own cyber defenses against some of the best hackers.