What is Purple Teaming in Cybersecurity?  by@jtruong

What is Purple Teaming in Cybersecurity?

The goal of the purple team is to maximize the effectiveness of the Red and Blue team. Purple teaming combines the vulnerabilities and threats found by the red team and the defense tactics and controls of the blue team. It is in place to help red and blue teams in an organization break down the barrier and cooperate with one another and to discuss the various attacks and defenses. When the two teams work together, they are able to build a stronger security infrastructure. An effective purple team will increase an organization’s confidence in detecting threats and displaying quantifiable improvements of defenses.
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Jessica Truong

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In one of my latest articles, I gave a quick crash course of the difference between the red and blue team in cybersecurity so definitely check that out for further detail. It is important to know what the red and blue team does before you can understand purple teaming. However, for a quick recap the red team plays defense and the blue team plays offense. In this article, I will go into detail as to everything you need to know about purple teaming in cybersecurity.

“The Purple Team should not be a group that fills both Red and Blue roles - but rather a function that enhances existing Red and Blue capabilities.” - Daniel Miessler

What is Purple Teaming?

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Image was taken from here

The goal of the purple team is to maximize the effectiveness of the Red and Blue team. The intention is to provide a deeper and stronger understanding and assurance to an organization.

Objectives

  • Works with both the red and blue team to identify weaknesses in an organization 
  • Ensures maximum delivery from both teams 

It is not a physical team, rather it is a cybersecurity function or process that combines both the red and blue team. Purple teaming combines the vulnerabilities and threats found by the red team and the defense tactics and controls found by the blue team. Think of it as a collaborative mindset between the defenders and attackers working on the same side. 

So, Why Do We Need It? 

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It is a known fact that the red and blue team should come together and work as one. The job of the red team is to simulate attacks using real-world attack techniques while the blue team is to understand what defense can be done to detect and prevent such techniques. When put together, they will proactively defend against any and all cyber attacks. We need purple teaming to help us stay ahead of cyber threats and attacks as the attacks are becoming more sophisticated.

How does it Help?

Many times organizations have experienced cyber attacks where their monitoring solution did not detect it. The attacker may have used an attack technique that gets missed by the monitoring solution. This is why sharing the data obtained from the purple teaming process will help organizations understand a threat actor’s tactic, technique and procedure. When the two teams work together, they are able to build a stronger security infrastructure. They help organizations prepare, prevent, and detect suspicious activities and actions. An effective purple team will increase an organization’s confidence in detecting threats and displaying quantifiable improvements of defenses over time. 

When Do We Need Purple Teaming?

"The increase in collaboration between teams will naturally lead to the centralization of shared repositories of knowledge” - Booz Allen

Unfortunately, there are times when the Red and Blue teams within an organization’s security team are not in sync and would require assistance from the purple team. These are just two examples:

  • The red team thinks they are better than the blue team and don’t share pertinent information with the blue team 
  • Since the red and blue team are not designed to work together on a continuous basis, information may not be shared with each other all the time

Communication between the red and blue team is crucial and with no proper communication, the organization may be even more vulnerable to cyber threats and attacks. 

Purple teaming is in place to help red and blue teams in an organization break down the barrier and cooperate with one another and to discuss the various attacks and defenses. 

The red team will examine the blue team’s findings for potential weaknesses that could be exploited by hackers while the blue team can take a look at the new attacks founded by the red team. 

It will help strengthen an organization’s security posture and strengthen the employee’s skills.    

Best Practices

It’s time to talk about the best practices that should be followed - remember that everyone is on the same team and have the same goal: defend against cyber attacks.

Here are some of the best practices to following:

  • Do not skip planning: plan ahead before you begin purple team testing
  • Track and revise the process: track each step and assess every task before moving on to the next; going over each mitigation will help both red and blue team have a better understanding
  • Define appropriate roles: make sure you have established roles within the team and have set responsibilities for each role

Final Thoughts: Purple Teaming in Cybersecurity 

Purple Teaming does not focus exclusively on attacking or defending, they do both. They are designed to spot-check an organization’s security posture to ensure that both the red and blue teams work together. It encourages both teams to share feedback and insights with one another. 

The key to success within an organization is for the red and blue team to have regular communication with one another, to have a constant flow of information sharing. Without purple teaming, regular security audits, threat hunting, and more, organizations would not stand a chance against threat actors.

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