A blue team is a cybersecurity organization that provides an ongoing analysis of information systems to validate the effectiveness of each security control and ensure these controls are correctly configured. Blue team members generally have the title of security analyst or security operations center (SOC) analyst. The blue team may be directly employed, outsourced in its entirety, or a mix of the two.
At the 1,000-foot view, the goals of the blue team are simple – to do what it takes to defend the organization’s information technology infrastructure. An IT infrastructure includes enterprise systems, networks, infrastructure, applications, and the sensitive data these systems may contain. In many cases, this defense also protects financial assets that are stored, authorized, or transferred through these systems. Security also includes safeguarding application systems that control and permit the movement of these funds. Finally, the blue team must defend this infrastructure from malicious activity, which can be attributed to external threat actors and malicious insiders.
Blue teams often work with threat intelligence data, respond to red teams and penetration testing, regular vulnerability scans, and more. The blue team aims to find and correct vulnerabilities before threat actors can exploit them. In the event of a security event, the blue team must investigate the incident to understand the full extent of the attack, the techniques used by the attackers, their possible motives, and if the event had material participation by insiders.
Daily blue team activities are often routine. These may include data and traffic analysis, endless analysis of log data from various sources, review of SIEM activity, and programming new policies and rules into the SIEM to better detect the most likely threats. A blue team may also execute audits, provide risk analysis, and take on other tasks as necessary to reduce cyber risk, the potential for data breaches, and more.
If there are ongoing red team attacks or penetration testing, the blue teams must closely evaluate their cyber defense to ensure they are defending against these attacks. If the red team or penetration testing is successful, the blue team must take steps to mitigate the vulnerabilities successfully exploited.
Red teams will simulate internal or external attacks using the same capabilities as malicious threat actors. The red team will copy, to the most significant degree possible, the behavior of a malicious attacker. Red teams aim to uncover the risks hidden in the attack surface. Red Teams must take on the mindset of an attacker and use all the tools and skills they have to complete a successful penetration. Red teams use various techniques to initiate a successful attack chain. These techniques can vary quite a bit.
Red team attacks involve a red team member pretending to be a supplier so they can infiltrate the target organization. They may use physical access to help them gain access to digital systems and networks. The blue team must stand as the defenders to anticipate, prevent, and stop the red team’s efforts.
Penetration testing is very similar to red team activity, but there are significant differences. Penetration testing generally is designed to discover vulnerabilities in selected areas. Penetration testing is usually associated with regular compliance testing, which must be done by the information technology or security operations center teams. Penetration testing provides a comprehensive view of the effectiveness of security controls as configured and the overall quality of defenses. Penetration testing is also generally undertaken with the cooperation of internal teams such as the blue team. Once again, the goal of penetration testing is to test the vulnerability of specific targets. Ethical hackers often support penetration testing.
Blue team testing has many benefits to the organization. For example, blue teams are often responsible for developing and updating the organization’s cyber defense strategy and plans. In addition, they select the security controls, processes, and procedures best suited for their organization’s environment.
Blue teams prioritize their time against high-level threats. The activity of blue teams is, in many ways, a virtuous cycle dedicated to continuous improvement in defensive planning, detection, mitigation, and other response techniques.
Blue teams should be agile, creative, and resourceful. The red team will not be predictable. To defend the organization, the blue team must react to unexpected scenarios in real-time. In addition, a blue team will work with information technology to help design and build out the best technology architecture, both for the organization’s business requirements and the security posture necessary for resilience.
Blue teams are tasked with rebuffing these attacks and exposing red team activity. Rebuffing an attack starts with a detailed risk assessment of the organization’s security posture. Based on this analysis, blue teams then may deploy a combination of human intellectual activity and technical tools to detect and rebuff red team incursions.
Blue teams require individuals that are detail-oriented and highly organized. Any single detail missed could be the vulnerability that an attacker uses to compromise the organization. Blue teams must have a comprehensive knowledge of cyber defense technologies and security best practices. Additionally, they must have the skills to analyze the organization’s current environment and find the weaknesses within IT infrastructure, security controls, and processes.
Threat profiling is an essential part of blue team activity. It is vital to assess the organization’s risk based on current events, geography, industry, partners, the political environment, and other factors that raise the relative risk of some threats and perhaps lower the relative dangers of others.
Finally, as mentioned earlier, one of the most essential technologies to the blue team is the setup and use of the SIEM. The SIEM automates the real-time analysis of security alerts and then generally ties into a SOAR for response automation with speed and scale. As a result, the SIEM and the SOAR are perhaps the two most essential tools used by blue teams today.
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