In the world of cybersecurity, a red team is a team of hackers that try to infiltrate a company, but at the request of the company. The idea is they look for vulnerabilities and issues and find them before criminal hackers do. They are the opposite of the blue team, who is trying to stop the red team and create defensive measures that prevent the red team from accessing data.
Many large companies use red teams. Microsoft maintains a red team (and a blue team) that are constantly competing to break into their systems and defend them (depending on which side you are thinking about). I’m sure Amazon, Google, and other large companies do the same thing. It’s an interesting idea, though I bet this is a lot of repetitive work where you constantly repeat similar attacks with slight variations. There certainly is some creativity and research as well, and some acting if you social engineer situations, but it’s not the type of work I would want to do. I doubt it’s as exciting as Hollywood movies portray hacking.
An organization could assemble a red team from external resources and use them to evaluate the security of your software, your infrastructure, or even your people. There’s an article this week on getting started with a red team. Since companies are seeing more and more attacks against their systems, I would expect more to be proactive and either assemble or hire someone to test them. In fact, I bet there will be lots of cybersecurity people setting up their own companies to help here.
Many of us might feel we are careful with security, and that we check for issues. I’m sure we do some of that, and many of us know how to secure things well. However, it’s easy to make a change and make a mistake. It’s easy to forget to include a group, or include the wrong group, in a security ACL. It’s easy to forget to check a setting or leave access open while we test and forget to go back and secure it properly.
Attackers think differently. We can learn to do this, but it might be helpful to have someone else doing the attacking and then giving us a report on what to fix.