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Red Team vs Blue Team Security Penetration Testing

What’s the difference between Red Team vs Blue Team Security?

  1. Red Teams are offensive security-focused. They simulate how a possible attacker would attack cybersecurity defenses.

  2. Blue Teams are defense-focused. They architect and maintain the protective internal cybersecurity infrastructure.

  3. Purple Teams - Blue AND Red Teams - are both offensively and defensively minded and were designed to ensure holistic and synergistic operations and information exchange between attackers and company defenders. A typically purple team isn't really a team at all, but rather a collaborative agreement between red and blue teams to create a purple team effort between the two teams.

  4. What is a tiger team? Tiger Teams are similar, but not quite the same as red team. They’re kind of like a special forces team that is put together to solve a specific problem.



What you’ll learn:

pentesting computer code

What is a red team?


A red team is a group of offensive security certified professionals who are acting as hackers trying to beat cyber security controls. Red teams usually comprise ethical hackers who work independently and objectively. They use a wide variety of techniques to find weaknesses in people, processes, and technology. Red teams make recommendations and plans to help an organization increase its security posture.

The objective of red teaming is to exploit, compromise, and circumvent blue team defenses so that a company can verify its prevention, detection, and response capabilities. A red team consists of security red team operators that proactively simulate how cyber attacks could be perpetrated in real time against an organization. Red teams aggressively pursue all attack vectors including physical security controls and access to sensitive data, using social engineering among other techniques.


What are red team techniques and exercises?


Red teams use a wide variety of methods and tools to help them find vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a system. These exercises include adversary simulation, black box penetration testing, and assumed breach scenarios to generate recommendations for vulnerability findings. Red teams gather threat intelligence and then map it against all of the information against known adversary tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). Specifically, red teams look to exploit cyber security controls and corporate environments by any means necessary including:

  • Penetration testing. This is also known as ethical hacking and involves a tester trying to gain access to a system using software tools.

  • Physical security breach. This involves a hacker trying to get physical access to a computer or system, in-person.

  • Wireless access. Wireless access involves red teams trying to gain access to a system remotely.

  • Active directory exploits. An active directory exploit is when a red team utilizes the directory to gain access to domain rights.

  • Email exploits and phishing. These tactics are used to try and get company members to log in to spam websites, give their credentials, and more.

  • Vulnerable file servers. Red teams will find vulnerable file servers and try to exploit them to gain access to the entire system.

  • Vulnerable endpoints. Red teams can utilize vulnerable endpoints to work their way back through a system.

  • Appropriate social engineering techniques for access. This involves a red team using threats, enticing rewards, alarms, and more to try and gain access.

  • Known vulnerabilities (common knowledge). Red teams can use known vulnerabilities in an organization to get in or to exploit team members to gain access.

What is a red team operator?

These operators are also called red teamers and are tasked with executing adversary emulations and assumed breach scenarios. Seasoned operators are expected to have experience in black box testing, Windows and Linux OS, networking protocols, and some coding languages including python, C/C#/C++, Java, and Ruby, and generally have strong software development skills. These operators are also part of the purple team.

What are red team tools?

Red teams emulate every step that a hacker would follow along the cyber kill chain. Red teaming requires being intelligent, clever, and the ability to think outside of normal processes. The Red Team tools used to support this work are diverse but can be grouped into categories based on the flow shown below.

Cyber Kill chain

Sample Red Team Tools

What is a blue team?


If red teams are the offense then blue teams in cyber security are the defense. Blue teams in cyber security don’t typically get the attention that a red team does however, their importance can’t be understated. Blue teams in cyber security are constantly assessing and analyzing information systems to patch systems, identify security flaws, and configuration issues relevant to security, and verify the impact of security controls on security posture. They work together with red teams to help create a strong security system and security improvements for an organization and its security team.


What are some examples of blue team work exercises and responsibilities?


Blue team consists of members who are defensive security professionals and perform all of the SOC (security operations center) functions and are generally responsible for security information and event management (SIEM), incident tracking, threat intelligence, packet capture and analysis, and security automation. Additionally, blue team exercises identify critical assets and conduct intermittent risk assessments in the form of vulnerability scans and risk assessments to continually test their exposure and security posture. The graphic below is the Emagined One Clear Path and the framework/methodology that we use to help clients mature their security program. Phase 1 addresses many of the functions and security objectives associated with blue teams. Additionally, our Managed Security Services provide blue team services for those who need them.

Blue team (as opposed to red team) activities encompass a wide range of responsibilities aimed at bolstering an organization's cybersecurity defenses. Some specific examples of exercises and responsibilities include:

  1. Security Incident Response: Blue teams play a crucial role in identifying and responding to security incidents promptly. This involves investigating alerts generated by the SIEM system, determining the scope and severity of incidents, and implementing measures to contain and mitigate threats.

  2. Threat Hunting: Blue teams actively search for signs of hidden threats and vulnerabilities within the network. They employ advanced techniques and tools to proactively identify potential security issues that may not trigger traditional alerts relative to the security posture.

  3. Security Automation: Automation is a key component of blue team operations. They develop and maintain automated scripts and processes to streamline security tasks, enhance efficiency, and reduce response times.

  4. Packet Capture and Analysis: Blue teams collect and analyze network traffic data to detect anomalies and potential security breaches. Packet capture tools assist in dissecting network packets to identify malicious activity.

  5. Threat Intelligence Integration: Blue teams continuously gather and incorporate threat intelligence into their security strategy. This involves monitoring external sources for emerging threats and adapting defenses accordingly.

  6. Risk Assessment: Blue teams conduct regular risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities in the organization's infrastructure and applications. This includes vulnerability scanning and penetration testing to gauge the effectiveness of security controls.

  7. Security Awareness Training: Educating employees about security best practices is part of team responsibilities. They often organize training sessions and awareness campaigns to mitigate risks associated with human error.

  8. Monitoring and Alerting: Blue teams maintain vigilant monitoring of network traffic and system logs to detect suspicious activities. They configure alerts to notify them of potential security incidents.

  9. Red Team Collaboration: red and blue teams are collaborators, who simulate cyberattacks to test an organization's defenses. This collaboration helps identify weaknesses and improve incident response capabilities.

  10. Compliance and Reporting: Blue teams ensure that the organization complies with relevant cybersecurity regulations and standards. They also prepare reports and documentation for internal and external stakeholders.


Blue teams are the defenders of an organization's digital assets, actively working to safeguard against cyber threats and respond effectively when incidents occur. Their responsibilities encompass a diverse set of tasks that collectively contribute to a robust cybersecurity posture.

one clear path version 2.png
  • Endpoint Protection

  • Logging (collecting, parsing, and normalization)

  • NSM event collection

  • NSM by network traffic layer

  • Continuous security monitoring (CSM) concepts

  • CSM event collection

  • Data centralization

  • Events, Alerts, Anomalies, and Incidents

  • Incident Management Systems

  • Threat Intelligence Platforms

  • SIEM

  • Triage and Analysis

  • Alert Tuning

  • Security Automation

  • Incident Containment

  • Other Blue Team Exercises

Sample Blue Team Tools

  • Windows tools including Windows GodMode utility

  • NMAP

  • OpenVAS

  • Nexpose Community

  • OSESEC - Free IDS tool

  • KaliLinux

    • Metasploit

    • Burpsuite

    • Maltego

    • John the ripper

  • Wireshark network protocol analyzer

  • JumpCloud

  • Syslog

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