Purple teaming: The ultimate way to improve your cyber security

October 21, 2023
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Purple teaming: The ultimate way to improve your cyber security

What is purple teaming?

Most organisations regularly conduct penetration tests. This is a good practice as it provides insights into the vulnerabilities of an organisation's network, both from the outside and from the inside. Purple teaming takes a penetration test or red teaming attack to the next level by bringing the red (hackers) and blue (defenders) teams closer together, hence the name. The hackers and defenders work closely together to improve the overall security of a customer's network.

A normal penetration test is usually followed by an extensive report from the penetration testers with all findings and possible solutions. It then takes an organisation several weeks or months to mitigate all findings and improve their network security. In a purple teaming engagement, the findings are mitigated during the engagement by the blue team in close collaboration with IT staff from the organisation. The end result of a purple teaming engagement is a more secure network, improved network detection mechanisms, and better trained IT security personnel.

How does purple teaming work?

During an engagement, the red team attempts to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in the network to gain access to a company's crown jewels, such as sensitive business information. The actions of the red team are similar to a regular penetration test. However, as the red team discovers vulnerabilities, it communicates with the blue team to let them know what decisions have been made, what the current attack path is, and what exploits are being used to gain access to specific parts of the network.

Meanwhile, the blue team is hard at work using the customer's existing network security and monitoring tools to detect the red team. In addition to using existing network security tools, the blue team may also propose to implement temporary new security measures, such as installing network probes or re-configuring Windows Active Directory logging to improve visibility. These tools are also retained after the engagement. This means that the tested company also improves its network detection and incident response procedures.

Benefits of purple teaming

In a purple teaming engagement, hackers (penetration testers) work closely with experienced defenders. These defenders then work with the customer's IT security team to improve the overall security posture of the network. Through this collaboration, findings can be quickly addressed and the blue team can teach IT staff how to improve their network monitoring.

In addition, IT staff learn to respond to security incidents. As the red team makes its way through a company's network, the blue team will work with IT staff to improve their monitoring and respond to servers and other machines that are hacked.

At the end of the engagement, a detailed report is written. It describes all the steps taken by the red team to compromise the network, and the decisions and actions of the blue team to detect the attacks and mitigate vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities and mitigations that were not implemented during the test will be explained in detail so that IT staff can also address them. The end result is a more secure network and better trained IT staff.


A clear collaboration agreement is essential for any successful purple teaming effort. This agreement should clearly define the roles and responsibilities of both the red and blue teams, as well as the goals of the exercises. It should also specify how the results of the exercises will be reported. Training both teams is important for ensuring that they work together effectively. The red team should be trained in the latest hacking techniques, and the blue team should be trained in the latest security technologies and procedures. Realistic scenarios will help to ensure that the results of the exercises are relevant to the real world. The red team should be given a realistic goal, such as gaining access to sensitive data or disrupting critical systems. The blue team should be given the same information as the red team, so that they can respond in a realistic way. Thorough analysis of the results of the exercises is essential for identifying security vulnerabilities and improving the organization's response to a cyber attack. The analysis should focus on both the red team's successes and the blue team's failures.

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