Red Team / Blue Team Penetration Testing With Mitre Attack Framework

November 18, 20236 min read

The MITRE ATT&CK framework is a comprehensive matrix of tactics and techniques used by threat hunters, red teamers, and blue teamers to better classify and assess an organization’s security posture. Conducting a red team/blue team exercise using the MITRE ATT&CK framework involves a simulated adversarial attack (the red team) and a defensive countermeasure effort (the blue team) to help improve the organization’s defense strategies. Here’s a detailed guide on how to conduct this exercise:

Step 1: Preparation

Understanding the MITRE ATT&CK Framework: Before starting the exercise, both teams should become familiar with the MITRE ATT&CK framework. They should study the tactics, as well as the techniques, procedures, and tools associated with each tactic. This knowledge will guide the red team in creating attack scenarios and help the blue team prepare defenses and detection strategies.

Defining Objectives and Scope: Set clear goals and establish the boundaries for the exercise. Objectives may include identifying security weaknesses, testing incident response capabilities, validating security controls, or practicing threat hunting. The scope will define what systems, networks, and data are to be included and the rules of engagement for the red team.

Step 2: Red Team Preparation

Planning Attack Scenarios: The red team will select a subset of relevant techniques from the MITRE ATT&CK framework to plan their campaigns. This should be based on real-world tactics and the perceived threat landscape applicable to the organization. The team will document their intended attack paths, methods, and tools.

Setting up Infrastructure and Tools: Before executing any attacks, the red team will need to set up their infrastructure, including command and control (C2) servers, phishing platforms, and other required toolsets. They will also ensure these tools evade common detection mechanisms to simulate an actual adversarial approach.

Step 3: Blue Team Preparation

Implementing Detection and Protection Measures: The blue team will review their current security tools and configurations to map them against the MITRE ATT&CK framework. This includes ensuring log collection is active for detecting the techniques that will be used by the red team, configuring SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) solutions, applying threat intelligence feeds, and enhancing endpoint protection.

Establishing Communication and Incident Response Protocols: The blue team must have clear communication channels and processes for escalating potential threats. They should be ready to respond to incidents as they would in a real attack, following their incident response plan.

Step 4: Execution

Launching Red Team Attacks: Under the predefined rules of engagement, the red team begins their campaigns. Attacks are executed strategically and stealthily, emulating the behavior of real attackers. This includes social engineering, exploiting vulnerabilities, lateral movements, establishing persistence, data exfiltration, and other TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) outlined in the MITRE ATT&CK framework.

Monitoring and Responding by Blue Team: The blue team continuously monitors the environment for any signs of the red team’s activities. They use security tools to detect, investigate, and contain attacks. It’s crucial that the blue team remain unaware of the specific techniques or timing the red team will use to maintain the exercise’s efficacy.

Step 5: Analysis and Reporting

Red Team Debrief: Following the exercise, the red team produces a detailed report of all actions taken, including timelines, techniques, and any roadblocks they encountered. This report will highlight any successful breaches and provide context for the blue team.

Blue Team Debrief: The blue team reviews their detections, responses, and missed indicators. They analyze how effective their defenses were and where improvements are needed. They also compare their findings with the red team’s report to identify gaps in their security posture.

Step 6: Improvement

Lessons Learned: Both teams come together to discuss the exercise’s findings. They develop a collaborative action plan to address shortcomings, enhance detection and response capabilities, and improve the overall security posture.

Implementing Changes: Based on the debrief, the organization revises its security policies, re-configures tools, updates training protocols, patches vulnerabilities, and implements any other necessary changes.

Retesting: After improvements have been made, it’s important to conduct subsequent red team/blue team exercises to ensure that the changes have indeed enhanced the organization’s security posture.

This red team/blue team exercise using the MITRE ATT&CK framework is iterative. It’s part of a continuous improvement cycle for organizational security. By regularly practicing these exercises, an organization can stay ahead of adversaries and adapt to the ever-evolving threat landscape.