Red, Blue and Purple Teaming - What's the Difference?

Cyber Defence Team
November 9, 2020


Today, the idea of hiring a friendly security team to try to break down a company’s defences is fairly common, as penetration testing forms a vital part of most cyber security strategies.  That being said, in the past, the attack and defence teams have always worked in isolation. However, we are now seeing a more collaborative approach.


The concept of teaming is modelled on military training exercises. The teams use simulated attacks to assess the strength of an organisation’s security capabilities and identify areas of improvement.

The practice of red vs blue teaming helps businesses enhance their chances of securing themselves and their users against evolving security threats. By adopting an attacker’s mindset, they can actively test their existing defences against real-world attack techniques in a low-risk environment. The two groups, the red and blue team, enable an organisation’s security strategy to constantly evolve by:

  • Identifying vulnerabilities in terms of people, technology, and systems.
  • Determining areas of improvement in terms of defence, response, and remediation.
  • Building first-hand experience of detecting and containing attacks.
  • Strengthening network security to detect targeted attacks.
  • Increasing cyber security awareness amongst employees.


In a cyber security simulation, the red team is the bad guy. The team attempts to identify and exploit weaknesses in a company’s cyber defences using sophisticated attack techniques. The team is composed of highly experienced cyber security professionals who are able to imitate real-world attack techniques and methods.

The red team will emulate the tools and techniques common to attackers. For example, they may use theft of user credentials or social engineering techniques to gain access to the organisation’s network. The team then works to elevate its privileges and move across systems, aiming to get as deep as possible into the network while avoiding detection.

By using real-world attack techniques, the organisation’s defences are truly tested; instead of being based on theoretical capabilities, their security tools and systems are forced to perform against a simulated real-world threat.


In contrast to the red team, the blue team is the good guy in a cyber security simulation. The team is responsible for setting up secure network infrastructure, monitoring it and responding to attacks as they happen. The team is generally composed of an organisation’s own IT security team and security analysts.

The aim of the blue team is to successfully defend the organisation’s network or system. This involves not only preventing attacks but detecting when a network has been infiltrated and responding accordingly to minimise damage.

A blue team, more than a standard security team, requires a mentality of constant vigilance against attack. Their mission is to detect, oppose and limit the red team at all costs.


Previously, if the red team launched an attack, it would be in isolation. So, while the blue team knew that something would happen, they would have to sit back and wait and try their best to defend. While that did simulate a real-world scenario, it often resulted in less than optimum cooperation. Outside resources used for the red team would not always share information and do not provide the comprehensive report needed to help organisations truly understand the issues, close the gaps and strengthen their defences. However, the purple team has come in to change all of that.

Not a team as such, the purple team is more of a concept to negotiate and manage a shared goal. This way, the efforts of both teams can be maximised to create a single story. With purple teaming, the methods of attack and defence are all predetermined. The red team will identify a control and will test ways to attack it. They then coordinate with the blue team to find ways to improve the control.

In purple teaming, instead of a battleground mentality with each in their own corner, the red and blue team often sit side by side. This creates a more active approach as, rather than trying to outwit each other, they can apply more complex scenarios and use aggressive attack environments. The benefit is that the blue team, and therefore the organisation, can truly understand the outcomes and make necessary changes to their security.


Purple teaming has changed the way that organisations test their security defences by creating a much more collaborative approach. This means that both the red and blue teams can improve their capabilities and adopt a more authentic approach.

In an ever-changing cyber environment, with hackers continually finding new ways around an organisations’ security systems, blue, red and purple teaming offers invaluable insight. Organisations can learn about the tactics and approaches attackers might use, how well their defences work, and how they can strengthen systems and improve their overall cyber resilience.

Here at Infotrust we offer security assurance services; including Penetration Testing and Red Teaming. To find out more, get in touch with the Infotrust team today.