4 steps for purple team success

With the threat landscape evolving faster than most can respond, understanding and embracing approaches such as purple teaming is becoming paramount. It goes beyond the mere cataloging of vulnerabilities, transcending traditional pen testing methods. By intertwining the best of both red and blue teams — the offensive and defensive worlds — purple teaming fosters an environment of collaboration, understanding, and resilience. Initiating these practices early, nurturing collaboration through precursor activities, and addressing pentest findings as a unit, can set organizations on a path of true cyber resilience. It ensures not just a strong defensive posture, but an adaptable, unified, and proactive approach to threats.

Understand what a purple team is and isn’t

The emergence of the purple team concept has been both a revelation and, occasionally, a source of confusion. At its core, a purple team isn’t merely an extension of pen testing; it represents a symbiotic blend of the offensive prowess of the red team and the defensive expertise of the various blue team functions. While pen testing seeks to validate vulnerabilities in a system’s armor, purple teaming delves deeper, exploring how these vulnerabilities can be both exploited and efficiently defended against in real-world scenarios.

Purple teaming is a function of collaborative security. Historically, it has literally brought together offensive security engineers or pen testers from the red side of the team and investigators, detection engineers, and CTI analysts from the blue side of the team. More recently, however, purple teams have looked very different, including a variety of members including developers, architects, information system security officers, software engineers, DFIR teams, and BCP personnel as well as other departments.

To view the purple team simply as a tactical unit would be an oversimplification. Beyond the immediate operational benefits, the true value of a purple team lies in fostering cyber resilience. It is about building an organizational capability that can not only withstand cyber threats but also adapt and recover swiftly from them. By collaboratively assessing, learning, and adapting, the purple team approach instills a resilience mindset, ensuring that the organization is prepared for evolving cyber threats and is capable of bouncing back even when breaches occur.

In essence, understanding the true nature of purple teaming requires recognizing its dual mandate: to provide a comprehensive, real-world evaluation of cyber vulnerabilities and to bolster the organization’s overarching cyber resilience. It’s not just about finding weaknesses, but about continuously strengthening and adapting the fortress.

Use collaborative precursor activities to purple teams

Before diving into full-fledged purple team exercises, organizations can benefit immensely from precursor activities such as threat modeling and tabletop exercises. These are not required but highly recommended. Collaborative efforts provide teams with a platform to communicate, understand shared objectives, and delineate potential threats in a controlled environment.

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