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What is a Red Team Assessment?

Uniquely designed for each organization, a red team assessment consists of a full scope, multi-layered adversarial attack simulation created to measure how well an organizations staff, networks, applications, and physical security controls can withstand a real-life attack. After mapping specific attack vectors, operators proceed to emulate an attack as if they were a threat actor. Given that a red team assessment has a smaller scope than a penetration test, an organization can expect assessments to take much less time, keeping in mind this can be dependent on each assessment. At the end of a red team assessment, an organization should be able to see the emulated attacks that occurred and understand how they effected the systems.

When Does a Red Team Assessment Make Sense?

Security budgets can be tight, so when does it make sense to conduct a red team assessment? A large factor is the security posture maturity of an organization. Randy Duprey, a REDSEC operator at NuHarbor Security, suggests, “It may not make sense for a less mature organization to start off with a red team assessment. It’s premature to pick one attack, when you have an environment full of them.” Conducting penetration tests, identifying vulnerabilities, and starting to fix those vulnerabilities, can increase an organization’s security. In turn, a red team assessment may become a more sensible option.

The frequency of these assessments is important as well, Randy advises, “For most organizations, a yearly assessment makes the most sense. However, organizations with a more mature security posture may be preparing for threats as they appear.” A recent example of this is the ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry. As a healthcare organization, if others in the industry are falling victim to these attacks, it’s only logical to prepare. Conducting a red team assessment can show how an organization will react to an attack, and what needs to change to be successful in defending against one.

What Makes Red Teaming Unique?

Red team assessments are commonly confused with other security assessments such as penetration testing and vulnerability scanning. Randy, explains what red teaming is, “When working with an organization, red teaming traditionally focuses on a narrower scope than penetration testing.” Red team assessments are created with a specific attack vector in mind unlike penetration tests, where the scope is much broader. The approach for the assessments is vastly different as well. Randy describes his approach, “The first question we ask an organization is, what specific attacks are they looking to have emulated? A lot of the time they don’t know, so that’s where we start.”

Penetration testing is one method organizations use to answer this question, so that they can advance to a red team assessment. The outcomes of red team assessments are substantially different than the outcomes of penetration tests or vulnerability scans. The goal of red team assessments is to show an organization attacks that may be used against them in the future and test the procedures designed to mitigate them. Randy believes that, “At the end of the day we want to leave a red team event with an organization meeting their goals, but also to learn and have the ability to see some attacks they wouldn’t normally see.” Red team operators emulate threat actors to give organizations a realistic assessment of how they would react if an attack were to occur. In comparison to an actual attack, they are identical except that red team operators want your organization to improve.

REDSEC at NuHarbor

Whether you are just getting started or nearing the finish line, NuHarbor Security has the end-to-end cybersecurity services to be your trusted partner in preparation for future attacks. Our REDSEC team will prepare your organization with the tools and knowledge to defend against the constantly changing cyber threat environment.

Ready to learn more about REDSEC and talk to an expert like Randy? Head over to https://nuharborsecurity.com/REDSEC for more information.

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