5 Ways to Improve Your Next Red Team Attack Simulation
Author: Matt Hulse
Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving business. New attack vectors are emerging every day, and cybercriminals are constantly looking for novel ways to evade current detection methods. According to research by Checkpoint, firms faced an average of 1,248 attacks each week from January to March 2023—marking a 7% increase compared to the same period last year.
For enterprise businesses, this creates a pressing need to strengthen existing defenses in the event of a security breach. That’s where Red Team Simulations come in.
Red Team Attack Simulations offer a comprehensive way to test your current defense, detection, and response capabilities in a highly realistic environment. By simulating how an adversary would move throughout your organization during a real attack, security teams can stress-test existing defensive protocols while also developing a deeper understanding of how attackers would target and exploit your environment.
So, what goes into a successful simulation?
Key Elements of an Effective Red Team Attack Simulation
- Limit people in the know. The fewer people who know the assessment is underway, the more realistic and accurate the results. With a Red Team Simulation, we’re testing your ability to not only prevent an attack but to also respond to it. Leverage a small number of “trusted agents” who are read in to the assessment, but don’t let your defensive teams know. This way, their responses can be assessed as a true and accurate depiction of their ability to defend.
- Have an objective. With penetration testing, the goal is to prove that vulnerabilities can be exploited. The potential risk of that exploitation is often left to the imagination. In a Red Team Attack Simulation, the goal is different. Exploitation of vulnerabilities enables the threat actor’s true objective. What is that objective? Is it to steal proprietary information? Is it to deploy ransomware? Create a persona to represent the simulated threat and let it serve as the guide for your Red Team.
- Establish clear rules of engagement for the simulation, but don’t handcuff the team. Your organization relies upon your information systems to operate. While a determined adversary has no rules in terms of their activities, it is important to establish clear rules of engagement that define systems, networks, facilities, and personnel that are either in-scope or out-of-scope. An effective Red Team Simulation needs to be able to operate as closely as possible to that of the threat actor you’re attempting to emulate. This includes targeting users in your environment. Human error is one of the most common causes of security breaches. Forty-three percent of people have made mistakes at work that compromised cybersecurity, and 85% of data breaches are caused by human error.
- Consolidate learnings to improve future detection and response – After your simulation is complete, it’s important to conduct a post-mortem to evaluate what went well and where there is room for future improvements. Many Red Team providers already offer this service as part of their services but if you’re planning on conducting a Red Team Attack Simulation in-house, this step is a critical part of ensuring future security benefits.
- Don’t grow complacent – Finally, Red Team Simulations are an ongoing endeavor, and security teams will need to continually test their defenses if they hope to keep up with the rapidly evolving pace of cybercriminals. When creating a defense plan for your organization, be sure to incorporate periodic Red Team Attack Simulations to regularly evaluate current security protocols and identify any potential weaknesses. As you develop a deeper understanding of the threats to your environment, leverage alternative personas to simulate different attack objectives and continue to improve your defenses.
Ready to learn more about Red Teaming and what you can do to strengthen your cybersecurity skills? Check out our Millennium Red Team solution to learn how you can better secure your cyber and physical assets alike.