The Purple Team: Strengthening Your Organization's Cybersecurity Posture

Brenda Gratas February 15, 2023
- 5 min read

In cybersecurity, organizations need to use a combination of prevention, detection, and response to reduce attacks and keep the data safe. One approach that has gained traction in recent years is the Purple Team approach. It is an innovative method that fosters collaboration between IT operations and security departments to stop or mitigate data breaches in their early stages.

Global cyber attacks increased by 38% in 2022 compared to 2021. This statistic reminds organizations to step up their security defenses and ensure they are robust and effective. In this context, companies must build cybersecurity on collaboration across teams.

By working together, the Purple Team approach ensures everyone is working towards the same goal. In this blog post, we'll look at its best practices, challenges, and limitations.

What is a Purple Team?

In IT security, a Purple Team is a collaborative approach to security testing that combines the strengths of the Red Team (offensive) and the Blue Team (defensive). The primary objective of the Purple Team is to identify vulnerabilities and improve the overall security posture of an organization.

What are Red and Blue Teams in cybersecurity?

Red, Blue, and Purple Teams are all part of the InfoSec color wheel, which aims to unite the efforts of information security and software deployment experts.

Red, Blue, and Purple Teams are all part of the InfoSec color wheel, which aims to unite the efforts of information security and software deployment experts.

A Red Team is a group of skilled security professionals who simulate attacks to test the security of an organization's systems and networks. They use a variety of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to try to breach an organization's defenses, including social engineering, phishing, and brute-force attacks.

On the other hand, a Blue Team is a group of security professionals responsible for defending an organization's systems and networks. They monitor the systems for signs of attacks, such as unusual network traffic or attempted breaches, and respond to incidents as they occur.

The middle point: Purple Teams

Unlike the Red and the Blue Teams, the Purple Team seeks to bring both sides together to simulate attacks and assess the effectiveness of the organization's security controls. This collaboration helps improve the organization's security posture by identifying defenses' vulnerabilities and weaknesses before an attacker can exploit them.

The Purple Team approach is more holistic, emphasizing team collaboration and aiming to improve the organization's overall security posture.

How can Purple Teams help organizations?

The primary role of the Purple Team is to improve an organization's security posture by identifying vulnerabilities, improving incident response, and ensuring that the organization's security controls are adequate. The Purple Team achieves this by bringing together both the Red and Blue Teams, combining their knowledge and expertise to simulate attacks and assess the organization's security defenses.

The Purple Team also helps bridge the Red and Blue teams' communication gap. By encouraging collaboration,  it ensures that everyone is working towards the same goal and that the organization's security defenses are solid and effective.

Benefits of the Purple Team

The Purple Team approach in cybersecurity offers several benefits for organizations that want to improve their security posture:

  • Collaboration - By bringing together the Red and Blue Teams, the Purple Team encourages collaboration between groups that may have operated in silos previously. This collaboration can lead to a better understanding of the organization's security posture and improve the overall effectiveness of security measures.

  • Real-world simulations - The Purple Team approach allows organizations to simulate real-world attacks, which can provide a more realistic assessment of their security posture. By using actual attack methods and TTPs, it can identify weaknesses that may have gone unnoticed in traditional testing scenarios.

  • Improved communication - By working together, the Red and Blue teams can improve communication and coordination during security incidents. The results can be faster incident response times and better overall security outcomes.

  • Better Return On Investment (ROI) - The Purple Team approach can provide a better ROI compared to traditional Red Team/Blue Team exercises. By collaborating and focusing on specific areas of weakness, the Purple Team can identify vulnerabilities and suggest remediation measures more efficiently and effectively.

  • Continuous improvement - The Purple Team approach emphasizes ongoing collaboration and continuous improvement. Thus, the organization's security posture can be continuously assessed and improved over time rather than relying on periodic testing exercises.

Purple Team best practices

Building and running an effective Purple Team requires specialized skills and knowledge. Here are some best practices to consider:

  1. Hire skilled professionals - Purple Team members should have a mix of offensive and defensive skills and should be able to work collaboratively with others.

  2. Use the right tools- There are many tools and technologies available to support the Purple Team, such as penetration testing tools, vulnerability scanners, and incident response platforms.

  3. Foster collaboration - The success of the Purple Team approach relies on effective collaboration between the Red and Blue Teams to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.

  4. Focus on continuous improvement - Regularly assess the Purple Team approach's effectiveness and look for improvement areas.

Purple Team challenges and limitations

While the Purple Team approach can be effective, there are some challenges and limitations to consider:

  1. The need for specialized skills and knowledge - Purple Team members should have a mix of offensive and defensive skills, which can be difficult to find in one person.

  2. The potential for conflicts between the Red and Blue Teams - These teams may have different priorities, and conflicts may arise during the collaboration process.

  3. The Purple Team approach may not be suitable for all organizations - Smaller organizations may need more resources to implement a Purple Team approach, while larger organizations may find it challenging to implement due to organizational structure and politics.

Key takeaways

In conclusion, the Purple Team approach is valuable to an organization's security program. By combining the strengths of the Red and Blue Teams, it helps to:

  • Identify vulnerabilities.
  • Improve incident response.
  • Ensure that an organization's security defenses are strong and effective. 

While there are challenges and limitations to implementing it, the benefits make it worth considering for organizations of all sizes.

Organizations should hire skilled professionals, use the right tools to build an effective Purple Team, foster collaboration, and continuously assess the approach's effectiveness. By doing so, they can ensure that their security program is solid and practical and that they are well-prepared to defend against today's ever-evolving threats.

As IT security threats continue to grow in complexity and frequency, organizations must remain vigilant to protect their data, systems, and networks. The Purple Team approach is one tool in the security professional's toolbox. By implementing it, they can take an essential step towards improving their security posture and protecting against cyber threats.

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