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What is a red team (or, why would you pay to be hacked)?

Organisational spend on cybersecurity is at an all-time high.

As a proportion of the overall IT budget – and as a standalone spend – firms spend significant amounts on their security infrastructure, monitoring and reporting every year.

But how can you know that your cybersecurity is working effectively?

  • How will you know if something is misconfigured?
  • Are you confident that critical alerts are not being ignored because there are simply too many of them?
  • Or, for that matter, that lower priority alerts are not being incorrectly prioritised?
  • How long is it since you checked that your staff have all the skills necessary to interpret the information available?


The unsettling answer is this: the only real way you can determine the effectiveness of your security is by trying to get it hacked into.

And this is just what Falanx Cyber’s red teams are employed to do.


What is a red team?

Red teaming is the practice of testing the security of your systems by having a team of experts behave as if they were a malicious hacker trying to gain access to your secure systems or data.

They will never rely on just one way to gain access – as penetration tests do – but employ multiple methods to probe for weaknesses, exactly as a cybercriminal would.

For example, if they find you have highly effective penetration testing tools and endpoint detection processes, then they may opt to try and hack through phishing or breaching physical access controls.

A quick comparison of penetration testing with a red team simulation reveals exactly how these two methods differ.


Red Team Penetration Test
Extended time frame Brief time frame
Use anything to hand Use commercial pen-testing tools
Employees are not aware testing is taking place Employees are aware testing is taking place
Testers seek new vulnerabilities Testers review known vulnerabilities
Targets are somewhat fluid and cross multiple domains Targets are defined
Systems are tested simultaneously Systems are tested independently


As you can see from the above red teaming is a multi-layered, full-scope cyberattack simulation designed to test the effectiveness of every aspect of an organisation’s security controls.

Under the potential scope of a red team simulation would be:

  • Networks
  • Applications
  • Physical safeguards
  • And even employees

Why red teams are so effective

The central premise of red teaming is that you can’t really know how secure your systems are until they are under active and proactive attack.

Rather than running the risk of real-world damage that may follow a genuinely malicious attack, simulating one uncovers vulnerabilities that can be addressed before it’s too late.

Red teaming exercises provide a comprehensive look at just about any tactic, vulnerability, or entry point cybercriminals might use to breach your systems for any number of reasons.

And this is what makes them such a good investment – because no cybercriminal will try just one route in!

Rob Shapland | Falanx Cyber | Ethical hacker

Talk to an ethical hacker about red teaming for your organisation

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