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With red teaming, you play the role of a malicious actor and search for hidden vulnerabilities within your own networks. But it's much more than basic penetration testing.
There are robbers lurking right outside your door, waiting for the perfect moment to break into your home and rifle through your most precious belongings.
Seem scary? It’s reality. Cyber threat actors surround us, and they aren’t just trying to break into your organization’s networks—they’re trying to steal your most valuable possessions.
Luckily, you can take steps to prevent a catastrophic break-in by—perhaps paradoxically—breaking into your own house first. Red teaming lets you think like the enemy, approaching your own networks as if you were a malicious actor searching for hidden vulnerabilities.
Red teaming is not basic penetration testing on low-hanging fruit, like your organization’s websites or servers. Instead, red teaming is a method of assessing the state of your organization’s cybersecurity efforts from the perspective of an adversary, one with malicious intent targeting your people, processes, and technologies. At Booz Allen, our teams of experts use red teaming to defend clients’ networks and businesses from cyber threats.
Red teaming involves identifying and developing your organization’s priority intelligence requirements (PIRs), the elements that are most important in keeping your organization running. Identifying these elements allows you to assess the types of cyber threat actors that are most likely to target your organization—and to understand the types of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) they could deploy that would be most damaging to your security posture.
Naming and applying these PIRs will help you discover your organization’s intelligence gaps and uncover solutions that can fill those gaps. If your organization’s point-of-sale terminals shut down, for example, or your shipping warehouse’s sortation services platform goes offline, it will cause mass disruption, resulting in loss of sales, late shipments, or worse. These “crown jewels” are the most valuable to a potential enemy, and are therefore the most vulnerable to attack.
Your organization needs to prepare before embarking on red teaming exercises. Think of the famous Sun Tzu quote: “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” It’s essential to develop a thorough understanding of your organization’s assets and weaknesses—and those of your potential opponents. We’ll help you consider the type of advanced persistent threats (APTs) that would likely attack your organization and examine the specific styles those attackers are likely to adopt. Effective red teaming involves three unique functions:
Adversary-style pen testing. This type of pen testing involves targeting your organization’s crown jewels from the perspective of a threat actor. Adversary-style pen testing is purely offensive in nature, attempting to expose technical vulnerabilities in your organization’s networks. At Booz Allen, our teams of cyber penetration testers have the knowledge and expertise to identify potential risks and protect your crown jewels from attack.
Red vs. Blue team testing. Red vs. Blue team exercises are about testing your organization’s technical resiliency. The red team launches an unannounced attack within your organization, while the “blue team”—your organization’s security operations center (SOC)—is tasked with finding the attack. The element of surprise means the blue team must maintain constant vigilance. Through this exercise, Booz Allen will partner with you to test your organization’s response times internally and in a safe environment, and examine how well your defensive teams can detect, respond to, and recover from incidents.
Wargaming. This live-action simulation reveals how your organization’s policies and procedures would play out in the event of a crisis. In this simulation, one team plays the adversary, while another team comprised of stakeholders from all parts of the organization—including cyber experts, business teams, operations teams, public relations, and even human resources—plays defense. Wargaming brings your organization’s leaders together to respond to this “crisis,” testing your organization’s processes in responding to a real attack—and identifying the gaps. In this way, wargaming does not simply test cyber skills, but instead offers an opportunity to practice how an entire organization would respond to a cybersecurity event as a united team. At Booz Allen, we lean on decades of experience in designing and executing wargames to deliver the most strategic exercises.
It’s not enough to adopt just one or two of these three functions, because they each expose different vulnerabilities. Adversary-style pen testing focuses on your technical capability to defend against an APT attack, Red vs. Blue testing addresses technical resiliency, and wargaming tests your organization’s processes when confronted with a crisis. By engaging in all three types of exercises, your organization can expose and address a wide range of vulnerabilities, from technical to tactical.
Booz Allen has the expertise you need in planning and conducting red teaming exercises. We’ve worked closely with public and private sector clients who’ve experienced breaches, so we know firsthand who your enemies are—and how they think. In fact, we’ve conducted more than 2,000 wargames and exercises for clients since 1997. We can mimic the tools and tactics of specific attackers that are most likely to go after your organization, helping you identify and address the gaps we find.
With the size and scope of our cyber workforce, we’re prepared to conduct red teaming exercises in any environment. We use known and assessed adversarial TTPs, as well as in-house-developed tactics, to test the readiness levels of your cyber operations, mission-critical assets, and business platforms in the most realistic scenarios possible.
Don’t wait to invest in red teaming. Developing your organization’s preparation and resilience methods before an attack can prevent catastrophic incident response down the road. The choice is easy: Test your own controls to identify potential vulnerabilities before an attack, or wait for threat actors to exploit those vulnerabilities.
Enemies are fast approaching, eager to walk inside, and steal everything they can. Wouldn’t you prefer to lock your doors before they arrive?
Find out how we’re Planting the Cyber Flag on Red Teaming: