What is Purple Teaming?

Purple teaming is a collaborative cybersecurity strategy that integrates the offensive tactics of red teams and the defensive strategies of blue teams.

Traditionally working separately, red teams simulate attacks to identify vulnerabilities, while blue teams defend against these threats. By sharing intelligence and insights, they enhance detection and response capabilities.

Instead of forming a new specialised team, purple teaming integrates the processes and expertise of both red and blue teams. This cooperation helps organisations better understand and counteract potential threats, strengthening their security.


What Is Red Teaming?


Red teaming involves a group of security experts who simulate real-life cyber-attacks to identify vulnerabilities within an organisation’s infrastructure, systems, applications, and processes.

These professionals use techniques similar to those employed by actual cyber attackers to uncover and exploit security gaps.

The primary goal of red teams is to highlight weaknesses that could be exploited in a real attack, helping organisations to enhance their security measures.

Instead of exploring every possible vulnerability, red teams focus on achieving specific objectives. These include accessing sensitive data or compromising critical systems, by finding and exploiting a single vulnerability or a set of related weaknesses.


What Is Blue Teaming?


Blue teaming refers to the defensive counterpart to red teaming. Blue teams usually operate within a Security Operations Centre (SOC) and are tasked with protecting an organisation from cyber threats.

They work to prevent, detect, and respond to attacks by monitoring security systems, analysing threat intelligence, and implementing security measures.

Blue teams need to defend against all possible attacks. This requires them to constantly analyse a vast amount of data, including logs, network traffic, and threat intelligence.

Their role is to detect and respond to security incidents effectively, ensuring that any vulnerabilities identified by red teams are addressed and mitigated.


Collaboration Through Purple Teaming


Purple teaming is a collaborative approach in cybersecurity that unites the offensive and defensive efforts of red and blue teams.

Traditionally, these teams work separately, with red teams identifying vulnerabilities through simulated attacks, while blue teams focus on defending against these threats.

While maintaining their distinct roles, they share intelligence and insights to improve detection and response capabilities.

Organisations can better understand and counteract potential risks by combining the offensive tactics of red teams with the defensive strategies of blue teams. Ultimately, this strengthens their security infrastructure.

The goal of purple teaming is to change the typically adversarial relationship between red and blue teams into a cooperative effort. By sharing knowledge and collaborating, these teams can more effectively identify weaknesses in security controls, processes, and procedures.


Why Is Purple Teaming Necessary?


The idea behind purple teaming is that red and blue teams should work together rather than in isolation. Instead of being a completely new, specialised team, a purple team brings together members of both the red and blue teams. This approach is more about integrating processes than forming a new team.


Real-World Threat Simulation

Red teams focus on objectives-based assessments that mimic real-world threat actors. They use known tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to simulate attacks.

By understanding these TTPs, the blue team can configure their detection and response systems to counter these specific threats. For example, if a threat actor is known to use spear-phishing, the blue team must ensure their systems can detect and respond to such attempts.

Simply relying on security information and event management (SIEM) systems without proper configuration is not enough.


Tailored Threat Responses

When a specific threat group targets a particular industry, the red team simulates this type of attack. For instance, they might compromise an end-user’s system, escalate their credentials, and attempt to exfiltrate sensitive data through a web-based protocol to a cloud service.

The blue team must be equipped to detect and counteract such activities at every stage. This collaboration allows the blue team to measure and improve their detection and response capabilities against real-world threats.


Improved Security

By integrating red and blue teams, organisations can achieve more tailored and effective security measures. This cooperation allows the blue team to evaluate their systems in scenarios that closely mimic actual cyber threats.

The result is a more robust and real-world aligned security posture.


What Are The Benefits of Purple Teaming?


Purple teaming is beneficial for organisations of all sizes and industries. By integrating red and blue team efforts, even smaller organisations can effectively identify and decrease security risks.

By working together, red and blue teams can create a more dynamic and effective defence strategy, ensuring that organisations are better prepared to handle real-world cyber threats. This can enhance overall security and leads to continuous improvement through shared knowledge and strategised efforts.

Here is how purple teaming benefits organisations:


Enhanced Detection and Response

Purple teaming allows red and blue teams to work together in real-time. When red team members discover critical vulnerabilities, they immediately inform blue team defenders, who can then quickly address these issues.

This rapid detection and response minimise downtime and potential business disruptions, significantly reducing the financial and reputational impact of cyberattacks like ransomware or data breaches.

Purple teaming also creates a constant feedback loop between red and blue teams. This ongoing communication helps identify areas for improvement and ensures that blue team professionals stay updated on the latest threats and defensive strategies.


Better Equipped Workforce

As blue team members work alongside red team experts during penetration testing, they learn valuable techniques and strategies. This hands-on experience enhances their skills, leading to a stronger overall security for the organisation.

Working together also encourages red and blue teams to think outside the box and develop innovative solutions to security challenges. This collaboration brings new perspectives and promotes creativity, leading to a more rounded understanding of cybersecurity.

The combined efforts of offensive and defensive experts helps build “purple skills,” enhancing overall organisational security.


Cost-Effective Penetration Testing

By combining the efforts of red and blue teams, purple teaming increases the efficiency of penetration testing.

This integrated approach covers more potential threats within a given timeframe, reducing the overall costs associated with personnel and technology.

The result is significant savings and a more thorough security assessment.


Reduced Incident Response Costs

A collaborative approach during and after penetration testing reduces the time and resources needed for incident response.

Faster identification and mitigation of security issues lead to lower operational costs and increased business productivity due to less downtime.

Demonstrating efficient cybersecurity practices can also lower cybersecurity insurance premiums.


What Challenges Do Purple Teams Face?


While purple teaming has many benefits, it also presents several challenges. Overcoming these challenges is crucial for organisations to fully leverage the advantages of purple teaming and enhance their cybersecurity defences.


Adequate Skills and Insights

It’s crucial to have individuals who can view the work of both red and blue teams analytically and transform those insights into actionable steps. This requires a unique blend of offensive and defensive cybersecurity skills, along with strategic thinking.

Even if an organisation decides not to form a dedicated purple team, it still needs personnel who can think strategically and develop the security team as a whole. This requires ongoing training and development to ensure that team members stay current with emerging threats and technologies.


Continuous Learning

Purple teaming also involves continuous learning and adaptation. As cyber threats evolve, so too must the strategies and techniques used by both red and blue teams. This requires ongoing education and flexibility, which can be resource-intensive and challenging to maintain over time.


Embracing Collaboration

Another challenge is creating a collaborative culture between traditionally separate red and blue teams. Encouraging these teams to work together and share insights requires a shift in mindset and organisational culture.

This collaboration is essential for maximising the effectiveness of purple teaming but can be difficult to achieve in practice.

Ensuring that red and blue teams are aligned in their goals and objectives is another challenge. Both teams must work towards a common purpose of improving the organisation’s security posture, which can be difficult when their traditional roles and priorities differ.

To conclude, purple teaming has significant advantages in terms of enhancing detection, response, and overall cybersecurity stance. However, it also presents notable challenges.

Organisations need to invest in identifying and nurturing the right talent, promoting a collaborative culture, and ensuring continuous learning and strategic alignment between red and blue teams. Overcoming these challenges is crucial for maximising the benefits of purple teaming and bolstering the organisation’s defense against cyber threats.