penetration testing companies

4 Red Team Assessment Stages To Enhance Your Cybersecurity (and You Need Them All)

By Christopher Sanchez, ERMProtect, IT Security Manager

Red Teaming. It sounds intense, alarming even, but it is a key to safeguarding your company.

Most companies, no matter how large or small, cannot afford a cyberattack. From critical infrastructure getting hit to operational downtime to data loss, a cyberattack is an ever-present threat in today's world.

That's where Red Team Assessments come into play.

Red Team Assessments are a dynamic process that organizations use to strengthen their security measures. In this proactive approach, a group of specialists, often referred to as "Red Teamers," take on the role of attackers to thoroughly assess an organization's defenses.

This approach can be done internally or through the use of penetration testing companies. No matter how you get it done, it's important to make this part of your cybersecurity routine.

This evaluation unfolds through four key stages:

  1. Stage 1: Reconnaissance
  2. Stage 2: Planning
  3. Stage 3: Execution
  4. Stage 4: Reporting

These stages lay the groundwork for a Red Team Assessment to do its main job: protect your organization.

The Four Stages of a Red Team Assessment

Penetration testing companies will need to make sure an organization is ready for a Red Team Assessment before they move forward.

Why? There are a lot of moving parts and coordinated efforts both internally and externally to do it the right way.

In fact, some companies benefit more from penetration testing, an engagement that aims to cover breadth instead of depth.

Red Teaming focuses on depth - getting into the nitty-gritty of security testing by zooming in on things like:

  • Personnel
  • Processes that involve sensitive data
  • Physical location
  • Many different departments within the organization

This intensive approach puts organizations in a defensive position - armed to sustain even the most stealthy infiltration tactics.

Each stage of a Red Team Assessment is important in its own right. Below we break down each of the four stages.

Stage 1: Reconnaissance

During the reconnaissance stage, the Red Team dives deep into gathering information about the organization's infrastructure, systems, and processes. They scrutinize publicly available data, such as social media profiles and websites, to pinpoint potential vulnerabilities.

Engaging in interviews with employees and third-party sources further enriches their understanding. This stage sets the tone for the rest of the assessment.

Stage 2: Planning

In the planning stage, the Red Team crafts a strategic approach to exploit identified weaknesses in the organization's security posture. This involves developing attack plans and testing assumptions through mock attacks or simulations.

The goal is to establish a comprehensive strategy that challenges the organization's defenses.

Stage 3: Execution

Moving to the execution stage, the Red Team members put their devised attack strategy into action.

Leveraging tools such as social engineering, the latest known vulnerabilities, and various cyberattack methods, the team attempts to gain unauthorized access to systems, extract sensitive data, or disrupt the organization's operations.

This stage mirrors real-world scenarios, assessing the effectiveness of existing security measures.

Stage 4: Reporting

The reporting stage is pivotal, where the Red Team provides a detailed account of findings.

The comprehensive report includes insights into:

  • Vulnerabilities discovered
  • Successful attack vectors
  • Recommendations for enhancing the organization's security posture

The recommendations may range from policy and procedure adjustments to technology upgrades or employee training initiatives.

As such, the reporting stage is an essential piece of the Red Teaming puzzle.

Benefits of Red Teaming with Penetration Testing Companies

There are quite a few benefits for an organization that is attempting to perform a Red Team Assessment.

Red Team Assessments empower organizations to identify potential vulnerabilities before real-world attacks occur. This proactive approach strengthens defenses against evolving threats.

By simulating real-world attack scenarios, Red Team assessments contribute to the continuous improvement of an organization's security structure. The process enhances the team's familiarity with in-house technologies, fostering an environment of ongoing improvement.

Although these exercises can be done internally, hiring an outside penetration testing company to conduct the exercise brings independence and added expertise.

Red Team Assessments play a crucial role in building awareness among organizational members beyond the security team. This fosters a collective responsibility for security among all employees and departments.

Red Team Assessments also facilitate improved communication and collaboration between different departments or groups within an organization. Insights gained from the assessment lead to more effective coordination and shared responsibility for security measures.

Red Teamers and Penetration Testers should collaborate with Blue Team members, responsible for maintaining and defending the organization's systems. This partnership ensures a holistic approach to security, with both teams working together to identify vulnerabilities, improve defenses, and create a more robust security posture.

The Bottom Line: Don't Ignore Penetration Testing!

Red Team Assessments and Penetration Testing services are an indispensable component of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

By systematically evaluating and challenging an organization's security defenses, Red Team Assessments contribute to a proactive and continuously improving security posture, ultimately safeguarding the organization against evolving threats.

ERMProtect is one of the most sought after penetration testing companies in the U.S. For more information about a penetration test or a free quote, please contact [email protected] or call 305-447-6750.

Christopher Sanchez is a Senior Information Security Manager at ERMProtect Cybersecurity Solutions. He is certified as an EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCE) and as a Payment Card Industry Forensic Investigator (PCI PFI). He is a Coin Holder for SANS Institute Reverse Malware Engineering and SANs Institute Lethal Forensicator. 

Intelligence and Insights

NIST Cybersecurity Framework

Complete Guide to the NIST Cybersecurity Framework 2.0

In this comprehensive guide, we explain in simple terms every aspect of complying with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework 2.0 …
Musings From a Pen Tester’s Diary

Musings From a Penetration Tester’s Diary – Part 2

We asked Akash to take a trip down memory lane and discuss some of his more interesting intrusion cases. This is Part 2 of “Musings from Pen Tester’s Diary.” …
Musings From a Pen Tester’s Diary

Musings From a Penetration Tester’s Diary – Part 1

Ever want to peek inside the mind of an ethical hacker? Akash Desai, our Director of IT Consulting for 18 years, is sharing his diary of experiences “hacking” banks, factories, fire departments, airports, etc …