Mastering Purple Teaming: Collaborative Cyber Resilience

Traditional Red Teaming has long been employed to simulate cyber-attacks and test an organisation’s security controls. However, this approach often falls short on driving lasting improvements.

The typical “test and deliver report” model leaves the Blue Team grappling with vulnerabilities without a clear path to remediation that suits their unique environment. To address this critical gap and foster a proactive and collaborative testing strategy, the concept of “Purple Teaming” emerged.

In this month’s Insight, we explore the evolution of Purple Teaming – a collaborative approach uniting offensive and defensive teams to enhance cyber resilience.

By emphasising real-time collaboration and adaptive defence strategies, Purple Teaming empowers organisations to bolster their cybersecurity effectively, and stay ahead in the battle against evolving threats.

Unlike its predecessor, Purple Teaming seeks to bridge the divide between the Red and Blue Teams, creating an environment in which offensive and defensive capabilities work in union.

By emphasising communication, real-time collaboration, and continuous feedback loops, Purple Teaming equips organisations with a comprehensive approach to cyber resilience.

3 Key Distinctions: Purple Teaming vs. Traditional Red Teaming

1. Communication and collaboration

Traditional Red Teaming typically involves isolated assessments where the Red Team operates independently, leaving little room for effective communication with the Blue Team.

In contrast, Purple Teaming places strong emphasis on effective collaboration between the Red and Blue Teams.

The open communication channels in Purple Teaming, promote transparency and cooperation throughout the testing phase. Both teams work together to understand each other’s strategies, leading to better threat detection and mitigation.

2. Continuous feedback loop

In Red Teaming, the assessment concludes after vulnerabilities are identified, the final report is delivered, and the Blue Team is tasked with interpreting and remediating the findings.

However, Purple Teaming maintains a continuous feedback loop in which findings and solutions are actively discussed and planned between the Blue and Red Teams.

This iterative approach enables the Red Team to share real-time findings with the Blue Team, who can then immediately apply lessons learned to enhance their defences. The ongoing collaboration allows for a more dynamic and adaptive cyber security response.

3. Knowledge sharing and development

In traditional Red Teaming, the primary focus is on assessing an organisation’s defences, with limited opportunities for training and skill development for the Blue Team.

In contrast, Purple Teaming offers a unique opportunity for the Blue Team to actively learn from the Red Team’s offensive techniques. It serves as a valuable training platform, providing defenders with hands-on experience and insights into adversaries’ tactics.

This enables the Blue Team to proactively improve their defensive capabilities, turning them into skilled and proactive cyber defenders.

The Benefits of Purple Teaming

Holistic Approach to Security:

Purple Teaming aligns offensive and defensive efforts, fostering a comprehensive approach to security. By simulating real-world attack scenarios and jointly addressing weaknesses, organisations can significantly improve their resilience against cyber threats.

For instance, during a Purple Team engagement, the Red Team may simulate a phishing attack to test the organisation’s employees’ awareness.

The Blue Team then collaborates with the Red Team to analyse the attack’s success rate and implement targeted security awareness training to bolster employee defences against phishing attempts.

Reduced Vulnerability Dwell Time:

The continuous feedback loop in Purple Teaming allows organisations to rapidly detect and mitigate vulnerabilities, reducing the time adversaries have to exploit weaknesses. For example, if the Red Team identifies a critical software vulnerability during a simulated breach attempt, the Blue Team can immediately respond by deploying patches and implementing additional security controls to prevent potential exploitation.

Purple Teaming offers a unique opportunity for the Blue Team to actively learn from the Red Team's offensive techniques. It serves as a valuable training platform, providing defenders with hands-on experience and insights into adversaries' tactics.

Empowering Blue Team:

Purple Teaming empowers the Blue Team by providing them with hands-on experience and real-time learning opportunities from the Red Team’s tactics. This enables them to evolve from reactive responders to proactive defenders.

In a Purple Team exercise, the Red Team may demonstrate sophisticated lateral movement techniques to infiltrate an organisation’s network. This hands-on experience enables the Blue Team to develop and implement enhanced detection and containment measures, better defending against such lateral movement tactics in the future.

Customised Training:

By identifying specific weaknesses, Purple Teaming facilitates targeted training for the Blue Team.

This ensures that security personnel are better prepared to defend against the organisation’s unique threat landscape. For example, if the Red Team uncovers a vulnerability in the organisation’s web application, they can work closely with the Blue Team to provide tailored training on secure coding practices, enabling developers to build more robust and secure applications.

Enhanced Incident Response Capabilities:

Collaboration between Red and Blue Teams enables organisations to fine-tune their incident response plans, ensuring a swift and coordinated response to cyber incidents.

In a Purple Team exercise, the Red Team might launch a simulated ransomware attack on the organisation’s network. The Blue Team then practices their incident response procedures in a controlled environment, refining their processes for rapid containment and recovery.

Purple Teaming has emerged as a powerful solution to bridge the gap between traditional Red Teaming and the Blue Team’s defence efforts.

By fostering open communication and collaboration between the Red and Blue Teams, Purple Teaming ensures a holistic and comprehensive approach to better and more proactive security.

By JJ Gericke, ThreeTwoFour


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