What is a Red Team in Cyber Security? Definition, Roles & Examples

Written By Sambita Panigrahy  
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh 
Published On September 8th, 2023
Reading Time 9 Minutes Reading

Definition: The red team in cyber security is a team of ethical or authorized hackers who test a company’s defense system. They help organizations in identifying vulnerabilities and launching attacks in a controlled environment. 

Primarily, red teams are withstood by the blue teams, the defenders, and both teams work collaboratively to provide a thorough picture of the company’s security posture.

Let’s get familiar with the red team further.

Red Team Roles in Cyber Security 

Red team security testing is best understood from the perspective of information security as “ethical hacking”. An impartial security team (the red team) resembles the role of an attacker to assess risks and vulnerabilities in a safe setting.

The team exercises are intended to reveal security flaws not only in networks, routers, switches, and other types of security equipment but also in individuals and even actual physical locations.

In red teaming, skilled security personnel generally conduct a variety of assaults during a red team test by exploiting the flaws in any of these components. Penetration tests, phishing efforts, social engineering, and red teaming tools like packet sniffers and protocol analyzers are all common approaches they use.

What Does a Red Team Do?

A red team starts its operation by gathering as much information as it can get on the desired target before the attacks start. The utilization of operating systems, network architecture, susceptible ports, and other elements are all identified as sources of information.

After this reconnaissance is finished, the red team will have enough knowledge to create a network map and a more comprehensive understanding of the attack routes and tactics that are most likely to be successful.

red team in cyber security

[Image Source: PlexTrac]

Let’s explore the red team’s working approach in a more detailed manner.

How Does a Red Team in Cyber Security Work?

To intensively test an organization’s detection and response capabilities, red teaming often uses a black-box, intelligence-driven methodology. This strategy is probably going to include:

1. Reconnaissance

For any red teaming effort to be successful, top-notch intelligence is essential. The information gathered by ethical hackers using a range of open-source intelligence tools, tactics, and resources may be leveraged to successfully compromise the target company. This approach might cover information about personnel, set-up infrastructure, and applied technology.

2. Staging & Weaponisation

Following the discovery of weaknesses and the creation of an attack strategy, the next phase is staging, which involves locating, setting up, and concealing the resources required to carry out the attack. This could involve creating malicious code and unique malware, setting up servers to conduct Command & Control (C2) and multiple malicious operations, or all of the above.

3. Attack Delivery

In this red teaming exercise, the target network is compromised in order to get access to it. Ethical hackers may try to harness vulnerabilities that have been found, use brute force to break weak employee passwords, generate phony email messages to initiate phishing attacks, and drop malicious payloads like malware as they work toward their goal.

4. Internal Compromise

The following phase of the red team engagement focuses on attaining the agreed-upon objective(s) once a foothold has been established on the target network. At this point, the security specialists may be involved in activities such as lateral movement across the network, privilege escalation, physical compromise, C2 activity, and data exfiltration.

5. Reporting and Analysis

After the red teaming activities come to an end, the Red Team creates a thorough client report to aid technical and non-technical staff in understanding the success of the exercise. This report includes an overview of vulnerabilities found, the attack vectors used, and suggestions for how to fix and mitigate any risks found.

Now, What Resources the Red Team in Cyber Security May Try to Exploit?

Whether you’re testing your organization, your software, or a combination of the two, will determine how a red team attacks.

The red team may test the following in order to simulate a genuine cyberattack:

  1. Organization’s Network – by making an effort to get access through unprotected ports, hacked hardware, or unsecured user accounts, to name just a few possibilities. This covers both on-premise installations and systems hosted in the cloud. Once within your network, the red team in cyber security will attempt to move laterally to important systems while utilizing security flaws to gain access to higher-level systems.
  2. Software – by looking for flaws in your software that could be used to launch a variety of attacks, such as buffer overflow, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and confused deputy. Red teams might also try fuzzing, a technique that involves figuring out how to crash your software. Then, identify the root cause of the crash to find a way to use your program maliciously. For example, attackers might use your program to execute malicious code or access data that is used to create new software exploits that can then be sold on the dark web, leading to numerous additional attacks on your users.
  3. Physical Security – by either utilizing sneaky methods like evading security camera blind spots or lockpicking to get access to a physical network port or server room or by using devices like RFID cloners to create fake security passes.
  4. Staff – by utilizing precisely targeted phishing scams to spread malware, gaining access to your physical premises through manipulating the way your staff thinks, or gathering data about your company that can help an attack.

Red Team Responsibilities in Cyber Security – Understand Their Importance

The increasing number of annual security breaches disclosed by today’s businesses and governments confirms that maintaining good organizational security has never been more difficult. And, it is the responsibility of security experts to provide strong defenses in hybrid settings. Further, the pressure on the red team increases significantly as businesses continue to migrate to the cloud.

In the competitive playing field between attackers and defenders, red-teaming exercise is crucial. Also, it enables defense teams to abandon their defensive stance, adopt the attitude of the attacker, and employ an aggressive strategy to find security flaws.

The truth is that no enterprise is safe, despite the fact that some businesses may rely on “security by obscurity” or believe that their smaller size makes them less likely targets.

Because the level of defense is lower or because they want to utilize that firm’s network as a staging area for a separate attack on a larger company farther down the supply chain, attackers frequently target smaller businesses. Any organization can adapt to Red Teaming since it is versatile enough to concentrate on dangers that are unique to a company’s size or sector.

Given this situation, it’s reasonable to say that the responsibilities of the red team are very crucial and accountable. Red teaming ought to be a fundamental security tool for almost any contemporary organization.

Red Team Exercise Example

In order to find weaknesses in the security architecture, red teams in cyber security employ a number of methodologies and tools. For instance, a red team member playing a hacker might infect the host with malware to disable security measures or employ different mind-manipulative strategies to steal access credentials.

The MITRE ATT&CK Framework, a knowledge base of adversary tactics, techniques, and methodologies based on actual experience and events, guides many common actions. Further, this Framework acts as a foundation for the creation of prevention, detection, and response capabilities that may be modified in accordance with the particular requirements of each company and changes in the threat landscape.

Examples of red team activities consist of the following

  • A red team member will try a range of practical methods during a penetration test to gain access to the system.
  • By using social engineering techniques, network users can persuade to share, create, or disclose network credentials.
  • Eavesdropping on conversations in order to map the network or learn more about the surroundings and get overused security measures.
  • Using a copy of an administrator’s access cards to enter unrestricted places.

Benefits of Commissioning Red Teaming in Cyber Security

  • Analyze your defense readiness for actual cyberattacks
  • Check the efficiency of security personnel, equipment, and procedures
  • Recognize and categorize a variety of security concerns
  • Boost the efficiency of detection and reaction techniques
  • find flaws that other testing methods overlooked
  • Identify risks and eliminate weaknesses
  • Obtain advice regarding upcoming security investments


Red team in cyber security offers the most realistic test of your organization’s and your systems’ security measures against a cyberattack. But, you are susceptible to ransomware and data exfiltration attacks if your business manages user data or depends on software systems for day-to-day operations. So, in order to safeguard your users from assaults that take advantage of your system, Red teaming should be a regular activity with all discoveries being communicated and taken into consideration.


Q. What is the purpose of a Red Team?

Some specific purpose of Red Team is to identify vulnerabilities, test defenses, evaluate detection & response, measure security awareness, provide realistic scenarios, assess security resilience, improve security posture, etc

Q. Who conducts Red Team Assessments?

Typically cybersecurity professionals who have expertise in vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, ethical hacking, and security assessments conduct red team assessments.

Q. How to become a Red Team member?

To become a red team member, one needs to have a strong background in cybersecurity. Apart from that, one should possess certain certifications such as Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP).

Q. What is the Red Teaming checklist?

It’s basically a structured document that outlines the key steps, considerations, and objectives for planning and conducting a red team exercise. Also, it totally depends on the organization’s requirements at that time.

Q. What are some common Red Team techniques?

Some common techniques involve pen testing, scanning of vulnerability, and exploitation of security flaws to mimic real-world attacks.