How to teach your blue team to think like the red team when your network is under attack and time is your most valuable asset.

Ofer Israeli, CEO & Founder, Illusive Networks

July 21, 2016

5 Min Read

Perhaps you’ve purchased the best cybersecurity technology available. Maybe you’ve brought in a red team (or have one in-house). You feel prepared in case of a cyber attack. However, there’s another step to attaining the proper level of preparation for today’s sophisticated cyber attacks: making sure your blue team knows how attackers operate.

If you can implement a “hack-yourself” program effectively, you can improve the effectiveness of your defense-in-depth strategies by having a blue team capable of carrying out red team exercises to gain a better awareness of how attackers might approach certain network vulnerabilities.

When your network is under attack, your most valuable asset is time. The faster you understand you’re being attacked and the quicker you understand what’s happening, the faster you can identify where the attackers are and what they’re doing. Responding to attacks quickly and efficiently requires an advanced level of preparation that many security teams haven’t yet achieved.

The first step in improving preparation is theoretical training in the latest tools, techniques and procedures. Cybersecurity conferences such as Black Hat, DefCon, BSides and the Chaos Communication Conference can provide the higher-level, theoretical learning to get your security team moving toward proper awareness and preparation. The next step is to introduce red team exercises.

Red team exercises with third-party consultants can help large enterprises spot critical vulnerabilities in their networks. However, many companies rely on these red team exercises to the point that they don’t maintain the proper level of internal cybersecurity awareness. External red team exercises offer a level of expertise that most organization don’t have internally. But there is also real value in implementing a “hack-yourself” program to build your security posture from the inside -- and arm your blue team with the necessary skills to think like the red team and improve your security posture.

More than simulations
Rather than having your security team practice hacking skills on third-party sites, internal red team exercises are carried out on your real network--they are not just simulations. But to get the most out of a “hack yourself” program and avoid causing damage to the network, your security team must have the proper training to identify vulnerabilities as it hunts for data, administrator credentials, or any other valuable assets on your servers.

One way to ensure your security team has the proper training to carry out an advanced “hack-yourself” program is to invest in the Cyber Guardians program from the SANS Institute. The Cyber Guardians program consists of four core courses and corresponding certificates.

The program is meant to provide security professionals with knowledge about all kinds of cyber attacks and how to respond to them accordingly. After your security team has achieved Cyber Guardian status, you’ll know that they are capable of understanding many techniques attackers might use to maneuver through your network.

Once your internal red team is trained to enact the “hack-yourself” program, you need to supply them with tools similar to those that attackers have at their disposal when launching threats. The following are two toolkits blue teams can use together for an effective “hack-yourself” program: Metasploit through Kali Linux and Cobalt Strike.

Metasploit, which has been labeled the Attacker’s Playbook by many in the cybersecurity community, offers a rich library of exploits you can run on a number of different servers. If your blue team can simulate the various steps of APT attacks, they will better be able to spot the attack paths and vulnerabilities that might have otherwise allowed major data breaches.

However, before your internal security team can start using Metasploit to its fullest potential, they’ll need specific training. Offensive Security offers a free training program for the toolkit called Metasploit Unleashed.

Cobalt Strike
Cobalt Strike is a tool used by red teams to emulate real network threats. You can use the tools within Cobalt Strike to conduct penetration testing. The toolkit’s website says the software includes functionality for:

  • Network reconnaissance

  • Attack packages for Java Applet, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows, website cloning and more

  • Spear phishing

  • Collaboration within the penetration team

  • Post exploitation (execute PowerShell scripts, log keystrokes, take screenshots, download files, and spawn other payloads)

  • Covert communications to evade security systems

  • Browser pivoting to avoid two-factor authentication

  • Reporting and logging to analyze the results of the exercise

While Metasploit offers a collection of exploits for blue teams to use, the tools and functionality in Cobalt Strike help blue teams gather information and move laterally without exploits. With the combination of an exploit toolkit and a set of tools reconnaissance and lateral movement, your trained security team can successfully carry out a “hack-yourself” program and uncover even the deepest layer of vulnerabilities.

Why "hack yourself?"
If you’ve never experienced a cyber attack, you will likely think the first time will happen exactly as how you’ve studied. Consequently, you will be caught off guard when an attack actually occurs; there will be so much more information that it’s hard to understand what’s important, what isn’t important, and what to investigate further. The more you practice internally, the better prepared you’ll be when the time comes that you’re actually under attack.

Related Content:

Black Hat USA returns to the fabulous Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada July 30 through Aug. 4, 2016. Click for information on the conference schedule and to register.

About the Author(s)

Ofer Israeli

CEO & Founder, Illusive Networks

Having pioneered deception-based cybersecurity, founder and CEO of Illusive Networks Ofer Israeli leads the company at the forefront of the next evolution of cyber defense. Prior to establishing illusive networks, Ofer managed development teams based around the globe at Israel's seminal cybersecurity company Check Point Software Technologies, and was a research assistant in the Atom Chip Lab focusing on theoretical Quantum Mechanics. Ofer holds B.Sc. degrees in computer science and physics from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

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