What is red teaming in cyber security?

Organizations regularly face cyber-attacks of varying complexity – from technical approaches to social engineering. To protect against such threats, they use the best means and defensive tactics. Nevertheless, every year, the number of information security incidents is growing by more than 10%, so organizations need to be prepared for real attacks that have no limits and no frameworks.

The existing security analysis tools are not always enough because of the continuous appearance of new cyber threats and totally new risks. What are the best solutions for now? One of the good approaches is red team testing that gives a chance to deeply test the systems’ security. Moreover, the red team testing helps to check the incident response specialists and the resilience of infrastructure to new types of attacks that may happen.

The concept of red teaming and the purpose of its usage

Let us start our review of this tool from the red teaming meaning. First of all, this is a tool that tests the ability of the organization to repel cyber-attacks. While doing this, the methods of the real hackers are utilized.

The purpose of its utilization is the following:

  • to identify the weak points that may be missed by traditional testing;
  • to assess the possibilities for prevention, detection and response to attacks.

The security team of the client is named blue. It does not get any information about the activity of the red counterpart. That is why the latter can simulate the real attackers after threat analysis and even can hack the infrastructure. However, everything is controlled in order not to harm the system.

In a nutshell, the red team in cyber security allows the client to find out problematic issues in the company related to the data security service. That can be people, processes, or technologies. That is the firm stage for further improvement of the system and towards better protection.

How does this method work?

Different red team tactics can be utilized according to the set aim. The most popular methods are the following:

  • the capture of the AD forest (AD Forest takeover);
  • theft of sensitive client data;
  • access to the device of the top manager;
  • theft of intellectual property.

Advanced cyber-attacks, carried out by the red group include a whole series of steps, undertaken to accomplish the mission.

Generally, the red team activities include the following steps.


At first, the team needs to gather as much data about the target as possible. This is one of the most important steps that allow you to learn a lot of new things related to everything that happens in the client’s company in real time. The stage may include the acquisition of special tools and data.


Then proceeds an analysis of collected data about all the important processes and key points. Through this step, the team starts to form a plan to achieve the goal and the main operations to get the result.


Here happens the active launch of a full operation. The red team makes attacks, vulnerability analysis, installation of various remote connection software, and also determines the best conditions for further steps.

Operation and installation

The main task at this step is to pave the way for the next control acquisition stage. The team is hacking the servers, apps, or networks and is operated by target personnel through social engineering.


After a successful compromise, attempts are made to go from initially compromised systems to more vulnerable or highly valued. For example, switching between internal systems, and continuous reuse of any expanding access in order to endanger coordinated target systems.

Taking action against the target

The task at this final step is to open access to compromised systems and to previously agreed on target data. The team aims to complete the task as efficiently as possible and achieve previously agreed goals.

Penetration testing vs cyber red teaming

Although these two methods apply similar cyber-attack tools, the goals and results of both studies differ considerably. Let us find out the main difference that exists between them.


This process imitates real and purposeful attacks on the company and its security measures. The advantage of this method is in the proper collection of data to achieve the task. It checks deeply and provides a good understanding of the existing security helping to stay aware of this reality. Moreover, the companies can think about effective internal processes in case it is subjected to an attack.


During this study, the tester attempts to take benefit of the existing vulnerabilities and elevate your privileges to assess the risk. Using this method, you cannot check the ability to detect and react to cyber-attacks.

Therefore, if you have a choice of red team vs pen testing think about your goals first and what results you want to achieve for your company.

How does this tool help to stay secure and protected?

Full-scale cyber exercises provide answers to the following questions:

  1. How do the utilized security tools protect critical data?
  2. Is the configuration of the notification and system for monitoring correct?
  3. How ready is the security team to counter the attack of a highly skilled intruder?
  4. What opportunities open up to an attacker who reaches the system?

In addition, there are some obvious pros of this tool that contribute to its popularity, namely:

  • absence of limits in time of exposure;
  • high efficiency for organizations with a good level of protection and security;
  • focus on achieving the set tasks, whether you want to find the weak points or improve something in your protection.

The method is as close as possible to the behavior of the real hacker to demonstrate the possible hacker attack scenarios and at the same time develop effective protection of systems. Based on its results, the organization will be able to correctly assess the risk associated with modern cyber threats and think about the proper tools for protection well beforehand. No wonder, it has gained such great popularity and is widely used.

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