Red Team vs Blue Team in Cyber Security

Aleksa Tamburkovski
Aleksa Tamburkovski
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It’s pretty obvious that cyber security is essential for modern businesses and organizations.

As the level and effectiveness of cyber attacks continues to rise, organizations need to improve their systems if they want to survive. You don’t just need firewalls and 2FA. You need to seriously test your security.

And this is where Red Team vs Blue Team comes into play. And no – we're not talking about AFC Richmond vs West Ham.


But what exactly is this method and how does it work?

Well, let me explain…

What is Red team vs Blue team?

In simple terms, you have 2 teams:

  • One team is designed to attack your website and try to hack it, using various methods (the red team)
  • The other team is there to try and spot these hacks, defend against them, and set up systems to stop them from happening (the blue team)

How does a red team vs blue team exercise help an organisation?

Although one team is attacking, and the other is defending, technically both the red and blue teams are both on your side.

The attackers and defenders are each trying to test your system and find flaws that are open to cyber threats, so you can then improve and remove them, before a real hacker finds them.

So let’s look at these teams and their respective skill sets.

What is the Red Team?

the red team

You can think of Red Team as the offensive side of Cyber Security.

Their objective is to identify vulnerabilities or flaws in the system by simulating cyber attacks, and then report their findings to the IT department.

The Red Team employs various techniques for these simulated attacks, including social engineering (“Hey, click this link in this email for free stuff!”) and penetration testing.

social engineering

Each of these attacks is designed to replicate the current methods used by real-life cyber criminals, giving organizations a clear understanding of their vulnerabilities and the areas that need strengthening.

Different Red Team methods can include:

  • Penetration Testing
  • Social Engineering
  • Physical Security Testing
  • Incident Response Testing
  • Wireless Security Testing
  • Mobile Device Security Testing
  • Application Testing

For Example

The Red Team is comprised of penetration testers, ethical hackers, offensive security experts, and network engineers. These individuals take steps to attack an organization's cybersecurity, which can be identical to the actions performed by real-life hackers.

To do this, the Red Team gathers information about the organization. Their target could be anyone or anything that could grant them access to the organization's facility, servers, data, and people.

Once the information gathering is complete, scanning takes place. (Scanning is gathering technical data from the organization's devices and servers).

After scanning, an attack is planned and conducted. This attack could be anything from exploiting a discovered vulnerability in an unpatched system to targeting an organization's employees by sending phishing emails to gather their credentials.

red team attack example

Common certifications needed for Red Team members

  • CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)
  • OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional)
  • OSWP (Offensive Security Wireless Professional)
  • CompTIA Security+
  • CompTIA PenTest+
  • Licensed Penetration Tester Master (LPT)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

What is the Blue Team?

blue team

Blue Team is considered the Defensive side in this process.

This team comprises cyber security professionals protecting the organization's infrastructure from both direct attacks and outside threats.

The Blue Team works closely with the IT department to implement and maintain security measures. They do so by monitoring the network for suspicious activity, analyzing security logs to detect anomalies, perform various security checks, and implement multiple defense mechanisms.

Different Blue Team exercises can include:

  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Network monitoring
  • Log analysis
  • Penetration testing
  • Security awareness training
  • System hardening
  • Risk assessment
  • Incident Responding

The Blue Team can also be responsible for Risk Assessment and Threat Intelligence.

This means that they don’t need to wait for the Red team to attack. They can implement their own internal security, training, and tests to improve security.

For example

Rather than wait for the Red Team to send phishing emails to capture someone's credentials (usernames and passwords), the Blue Team can periodically perform employee awareness training for cyber security and phishing attacks instead.

blue team awareness training

Another example is if the Red Team scans and discovers vulnerabilities in unpatched systems.

The Blue team could prevent this by frequently performing their own vulnerability analysis and patching their systems on time whenever they find a new vulnerability, before a hack occurs.

blue team vulnerability testing

Common certifications needed for Blue Team members

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • CompTIA Security+
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)
  • IBM Certified SOC Analyst
  • Certified Network Defender

How much do Cyber Security experts earn?

It varies based on your role and speciality. If you go broad and learn both offense and defense, then you’re looking at around $110,000 per year - scaling as high as $300,000 for senior team leads.

cyber security salary

What if my company is fairly small? Do I still need to run a Red vs Blue team event?

If you’re company is pretty small, or if you’ve never been the victim of a hack before, you might be thinking:

“Why bother with the red team? Couldn’t I just hire the blue team to look for threats and install the latest security?”

Hmm kind of, but it’s not the most secure option. These guys are all area specialists for a reason - simply because the industry is constantly evolving. If you want the best peace of mind, go with a red vs blue team event.

At the very least, you should hire a defense security specialist to remove any gaps in your system, as the first person of your cybersecurity team.

Or if you really want to be secure? Well then you could bring this all in house and create a ‘purple’ team…

What is a Purple Team?

purple team

Rather than just having a basic security professional working on your defense and updating Avast (lol), the Purple Team is basically a combination of red and blue team skills.

This can be a team or even an individual who incorporates the strategies used by Red Teams to simulate cyber attacks, with the procedures followed by Blue Teams for detecting and responding to security breaches.

This way, you’re far more likely to find any issues, and basically have an ongoing red vs blue process in place. It’s the best of both worlds!

What are you waiting for? Go secure your site!

Hopefully this guide has helped you to understand this process a little better, and given you some ideas of steps you can take to improve your security.

Don’t be one of those companies that only invests in security after they’ve already been hacked! Get ahead and secure yourself now. There are thousands of companies out there that will help you with this.

Or, if you fancy yourself or an employee as a Purple Team member, then our Complete Cybersecurity Bootcamp will give you all the tools to go from ZERO to HIRED as a Cyber Security Engineer!

You’ll learn everything you need to know from both attack and defense, and earn that 100k+ salary.

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