When Is an Assault not an Assault? The Story of Purple Crew Versus Blue Crew

Cybersecurity specialists fill our days with terminology from warfare, together with jargon comparable to pink crew versus blue crew. The idea of ‘pink crew’ has its origin in wargaming. The pink crew performs an opposing drive and makes an attempt to bypass the boundaries of the defending or blue crew.  

These workouts will not be about profitable or shedding. They assist hedge towards disagreeable surprises and are a protected approach for organizations to check their resilience towards assaults.

The workouts spotlight weaknesses in defenses and reveal misconceptions or flaws in assault detection. Purple crew testing, or moral hacking, doesn’t solely concentrate on testing know-how. It additionally makes an attempt to seek out loopholes in processes and weaknesses in how individuals work together with laptop programs.


Evidently, the specialists don’t kick off a pink crew versus blue crew train randomly. They use a well-laid-out and designed plan. As a matter of truth, a pink crew engagement or moral hacking isn’t just ‘executing an assault’. Groups typically spend extra time planning the eventualities than on the precise assault.

Purple Crew Versus Blue Crew Pre-Engagement

Within the first section, the blue crew stays in the dead of night. One other actor will get concerned: the white crew. The members of the white crew are the one those who know of the pink crew train. The crew consists of the chief info safety officer (CISO) and subject material specialists on the examined areas.

The white crew referees the engagement and ensures the train runs pretty and doesn’t trigger operational issues. The white crew agrees with the pink crew on the scope, the timing and the principles of engagement.

As a final step, the white crew confirms the composition of the pink crew and the groups agree on a single level of contact in case of issues. If the train has bodily parts, the groups additionally agree on a so-called ‘get-out-of-jail’ letter. The pink crew makes use of this doc once they get caught to show the group organized the train. 

Reconnaissance of the Sufferer

As soon as the groups have set the scope, the pink crew gathers intelligence on the sufferer and the sector or enterprise the sufferer operates in. This permits them to construct a footprint of its future goal and determine on doable entries. If the scoping permits, the footprint will be prolonged with a map of the opposite organizations the sufferer typically interacts with. The attackers can abuse these trusted connections to realize entry to the sufferer.

Though the pink crew is now keen to begin its assault, there’s yet another section to undergo. 

Purple Crew State of affairs Constructing

The objective of the entire train is to be as real looking as doable. So, the pink crew researches the menace actors recognized to have focused the sufferer or the sector wherein the sufferer operates. They discover the everyday techniques, methods and procedures (TTPs) employed by these menace actors. The target is to current a reputable image of the threats the sufferer is going through, primarily based on real-world examples.

Extra superior pink groups can execute this section alongside particular intelligence suppliers. The TIBER-EU Framework consists of house for an exterior supplier to compile the menace intelligence on a sufferer and ship it to the pink crew to allow them to use it.

Armed with the TTPs, the pink crew develops a plan. To achieve success, the pink crew maps a sequence of methods for use on a mannequin, for instance, the Unified Cyber Kill Chain. This permits them to seek out their approach from preliminary entry to their closing targets, hidden deep within the sufferer’s community.

As soon as they compile and approve the plan, the pink crew deploys the required infrastructure and begins working the assault.

Assault Supply

On this section, the pink crew will get their arms soiled and might exhibit their expertise.

Purple Crew Versus Blue Crew: Preliminary Foothold

A standard assault situation for an preliminary foothold consists of sending a phishing e-mail and luring a consumer into opening an contaminated doc. Bear in mind we talked about mapping trusted connections? Pretending to be somebody belonging to a company with whom the sufferer typically works is a straightforward and confirmed strategy to persuade a consumer to open a doc. From a blue crew perspective, this isn’t straightforward to defend. A pink crew will typically not use an ‘off-the-shelf’ malicious doc. Which means mail filtering and antivirus software program are much less prone to detect the assault. 

Relying on what the pink crew does, the blue crew can choose up early indicators of the assault. Emails from newly registered domains or domains with unusual digital certificates may tip them off that one thing unusual is going on. 

Native Administrator

Some companies and companies increase their defenses with Endpoint Detection and Response options. This assists blue groups by highlighting (and generally blocking) the odd exercise that’s the results of opening a malicious doc. For instance, the attackers may ship a Phrase doc that, as soon as macros are enabled, launches an occasion of PowerShell. In regular circumstances, a Phrase course of won’t launch a scripting engine. That is one thing the blue crew can search for, or be notified of. Nevertheless, a number of organizations do not need EDR. Fortunately for our assault situation, that is additionally the case with our sufferer.

As soon as the pink crew installs the malicious code and infects the workstation, they try to realize greater privileges. The malware gave them the privileges of a traditional consumer. Now, they need to receive the privileges of a neighborhood administrator. Many organizations use native admin accounts for IT upkeep or have them as a part of a default set up. The pink crew can use these to realize entry to different workstations. The pink crew has a easy assault approach to acquire these credentials: brute-forcing.


Armed with a default thesaurus, consisting of key phrases assembled within the earlier reconnaissance and situation constructing section, the pink crew makes an attempt to guess the password of a neighborhood admin. Certain sufficient, it doesn’t take lengthy for the crew to find a working username and password. This provides them native admin entry to the workstation.

In a number of circumstances, the blue crew will likely be blind for this portion. Native authentication makes an attempt are sometimes not logged centrally, so the blue crew won’t detect them.

Community Propagation

Now that they’ve wider entry, the pink crew will concentrate on workstations the place a website admin is logged in. Particularly in bigger environments, discovering such workstations will be difficult and time-consuming. It’s additionally an opportunity for the blue crew to identify the assault. The pink crew should not despair, although. Because it occurs, there’s a instrument that makes this step simpler: BloodHound.

With BloodHound, the pink crew can automate the method of discovering workstations with area admin classes. At this stage, the blue crew can showcase how they ready for such a assault. The blue crew has a set of decoy customers. Any try to make use of these decoy customers is logged and alerted to the blue crew. When the blue crew discovers this, they inform the CISO.

The CISO, as a part of the white crew, informs the liaison of the pink crew that their intrusion has been detected. That is, nonetheless, not the top of the train. As a substitute of letting the blue crew have its approach and have them include and take away the pink crew from the atmosphere, they get directions to face down. The white crew instructs the pink crew to proceed with their assault situation to acquire area admin credentials.

Actions on Aims

The outcomes of BloodHound give the pink crew the assault path that they should observe. The graph of BloodHound signifies a workstation with a website administrator at the moment logged in. The crew makes use of the beforehand obtained native administrator credentials to get entry to this workstation. After gaining entry, they dump the Home windows course of containing the login credentials of the area administrator. This lastly brings them to their goal: buying area administrator credentials for the sufferer’s area.

A notice on actions on targets. The targets of an actual menace actor are hardly ever about getting area administrator credentials. Their targets are somewhat to make use of these credentials to entry delicate info or conduct sabotage or fraud.

Evaluation and Reporting: After the Moral Hacking 

The pink crew train doesn’t cease with demonstrating that the crew reached the target. As a substitute, they provide a full report detailing the execution of the situation, the findings and the suggestions. The report consists of:

  • The assault situation and the used methods, with the outcomes (proof) of the execution of those methods
  • A set of findings, or weaknesses, found in the course of the train that allowed the pink crew to progress
  • A danger ranking of those findings and their potential affect. The report particulars how they are often mitigated. It additionally paperwork how the blue crew can enhance detection for these methods.
  • A roadmap with suggestions which findings to resolve first. Resolving one weak point can generally restrict the affect of different, associated, weaknesses.
  • Recommendation on areas for enchancment when it comes to technical controls, insurance policies and procedures and training and consciousness
  • Tips for the blue crew on how you can replay the assault situation, after the enhancements have been carried out.

On this closing step, it’s time to introduce one more actor: the inexperienced crew. In most organizations, it won’t be the blue crew that oversees the safety enhancements, however somewhat the inexperienced crew. This crew removes weaknesses or places mitigative controls in place. They care for improved logging capabilities and help the blue crew with automation and getting alerts of surprising exercise.

There’s yet another shade now we have to cowl: purple crew. A purple crew just isn’t a separate actor. A purple crew is in regards to the particular interactions between the offensive aspect and the defensive aspect with the objective of bettering the blue crew’s detection and response capabilities. 

In any case, cybersecurity language isn’t wanting colourful jargon. And it takes all of those groups to run an train that teaches the group how you can defend itself higher. 

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