Cybersecurity’s (Sort of) Primary Colors
With all the recent changes in the security landscape and new terminology arriving daily, it can often be difficult to distinguish between one team’s function and the next. When it comes to cybersecurity teams, let’s break it down for easier reference.
“Red Teams” are offensively minded, act and move like real-world attackers might. Red Teams are tasked with breaking into the networks, devices, locations, applications or other assets owned by the company that contracts them. Red Teams generally operate “under the radar” in a covert fashion, often without direct supervision or management by the company that contracts them, but generally with a very targeted or defined goal, such as the successful extraction of sensitive data, or the installation of persistent remote network access. Red Teams typically consist of highly-skilled and highly-vetted individuals whose common goal is to exploit weakness in the company’s security posture and defenses prior to an actual incident. Red Team members are comprised of penetration testers, developers, social engineers and physical security experts who specialize in breaching and bypassing security.
“Blue Teams” are defensively minded, act and move as company protectors might. Blue Teams are tasked with defending and protecting the networks, devices, locations, applications or other assets owned by the company that employs or in-sources them. Blue Teams generally operate in a 24x7x365 “follow the sun” approach, with direct company supervision and escalation. Their goal is the successful defense and protection of company assets. Blue Teams typically consist of blended-skills individuals whose common goal is to prevent an actual incident. Blue Team members are comprised of network engineers, developers, security analysts, vulnerability assessors, and digital forensics experts who specialize in bolstering and improving security.
“Purple Teams” are where the primary colors analogy breaks down. Purple Teams are after all a mix of red team and blue team members as one might expect. Purple Teams are both offensively and defensively minded, act and move like both attackers and company defenders might. Purple Teams are the newest addition to the cybersecurity team definition list and consist of highly-skilled members from both sides of the security aisle. Purple Teams are often internal only to those companies that can afford to employ red and blue teams under one roof. Purple Teams were designed to ensure holistic and synergistic operations and information exchange between company attackers and company defenders. Unfortunately, due to costs, and the level of care and feeding required to maintain such a team, precious few organizations have or can afford to employ them.