Cyber exercising is a cybersecurity activity with roots in the military. The concept of exercising or drills have long been utilized by armies to prepare for engagement in live operations. This is the same theory behind cyber exercises; however, it is within the framework of an organization’s response to a cyber incident.
A cyber exercise is not just a drill to perfect the reaction to an incident, but rather an environment for employees to learn about how vital business functions could be critically affected by a cyberattack. Pen testing and red teaming are two common security exercises. While they are both aimed at improving cybersecurity and based on behaving - to a certain level - like an attacker, there are key differences.
What is Pen Testing?
Penetration testing (otherwise known as pen testing) consists of a trained hacker, or group of hackers, attempting to breach a system using the tools and methods commonly used by cyber attackers in order to identify any cybersecurity vulnerabilities the organization may have before an actual attack happens.
An experienced penetration tester can identify:
- What specific parts of your system a hacker is likely to target
- What techniques are likely to be used in attacking those targets
- How well your defenses would hold up against an attack
- How deep into your system their breach could possibly go
Penetration testing seeks to identify weaknesses on all levels: application, network and physical security too.
Why is Pen Testing Important?
This type of testing can reveal parts of the company’s cybersecurity policy that are lacking. For example, you may discover during a penetration test that while your team is strong in early detection of cyber breaches, your defense team is not well versed at effectively evicting the attacker from the system before they cause a great deal of damage.
Penetration testing reports can also be used to help developers create stronger applications. If developers see how a pen tester hacked into an app, they can use that knowledge to reduce such weaknesses in the future.
Pen testing also helps identify physical security weaknesses and protect against physical security breaches for example leaving any valuable data or equipment unattended in the workplace or leaving a critical workplace area unlocked, and hence available to be accessed by unauthorized personnel.
What is Red Teaming?
A red team is a group that helps an organization improve itself by opposing its point of view to help it overcome its cultural bias. In fact the term “red teaming” was coined in US military and intelligence circles during the Cold War where a team would be assigned the task of challenging the test plans by adopting the enemy’s mindset. The key purpose of red teaming, both in the military and in cybersecurity, is to challenge common assumptions and established groupthink in the organization.
Whereas pen testing has a limited scope of means but with unlimited objectives, red teaming has a specific goal but with no limits to the means that can be used to achieve it. Red team engagements are as close to a real-world hack as you can get because they imitate actual targeted cyberattack scenarios from hackers that are looking to avoid detection.
Why Is Red Teaming Important?
Red Teaming enables an organization to identify physical, hardware, software, and human vulnerabilities in its system by simulating the specific actions a cyber attacker may take. It also shows how security-savvy its end-users are (how well they can detect fraudulent phishing emails or social engineering attempts).
Additionally, it gives an organization a more realistic understanding of how efficiently and quickly the defense (blue team) can respond to an incident. Red teaming is usually conducted without the blue team’s advance knowledge if it detects a red team’s malicious activity, it responds as if it were a real attack.
Red teaming helps an organization address and fix all identified security weaknesses. Red team exercises have narrow goals and wide approaches, so they generate actionable data on the realistic level of risk and vulnerabilities against an organization’s technology, human, and physical assets.
Do you have an Exercise Plan?
Cyber exercises like pen testing and red teaming are incredibly important for any organization looking to improve its security. In today’s digital age, drills of this nature are critical where it’s not if your organization will be attacked, it’s when.
No matter how strong your cybersecurity team is, they can gain invaluable insight from an outsider’s view via third-party testing. Let the professionals at ASB Resources help you identify the best resources to find weaknesses in your system and guide you to creating an ongoing security plan. Schedule a call with one of our experts today!