Strategies for Building an Effective Purple Team

April 26, 2022 | By IANS Faculty

Organizations traditionally used blue and red teams to test their cybersecurity programs with the goal of bettering them. This was a smart strategy in the past to help organizations identify strengths, weaknesses and any security gaps. 

More recently, organizations are integrating purple teams into their simulated attack exercises. Purple team strategies promote a collaborative effort between red and blue team that helps organizations further bolster their security posture. How can a purple team strategy help you improve your organization’s security? 

Purple Team Strengths

Unlike red and blue teams, which each take on specific roles, a purple team uniquely combines elements of both teams, helping them obtain a complete offensive and defensive security perspective. It’s a cooperative joint effort with strengths that include: 

  • Overcoming silos by giving each team insight into each other’s functions. 
  • Offering results-driven approaches highlighting where training is needed for teams. 
  • Helping teams observe and appreciate opposing skills in real time. 
  • Providing teams with a deeper understanding and awareness of risk areas.

With its business-focused and milestone approach, a purple team exercise can empower your red and blue teams to leverage their strengths while simultaneously providing them with the skills and expertise they need to overcome cybersecurity challenges. 

Purple Team Functions and Benefits 

Purple teams help improve cybersecurity effectiveness by enabling red and blue teams to better prioritize new risks and identify solutions to existing and emerging cybersecurity threats. Purple teams also promote: 

  • Continuous learning 
  • Assessment consistency 
  • Goal alignment  
  • Successful achievement of shared objectives

By identifying security gaps and finding solutions, purple teams can improve the entire organization’s security posture. For instance, purple teams can detect internal and external issues across business units, evaluate service provider security and even help with cloud configurations. 

Purple teams provide numerous benefits, including the ability to establish a stronger internal cybersecurity culture across the business. They can help your security team build its security knowledge while finding new ways to streamline security improvements. This can range from effective vulnerability detection to the ability to gain critical insight and knowledge about previously unseen risk areas. Overall, purple teams enable organizations to heighten cybersecurity performance without increasing budget. 

Purple Team Challenges 

One of the biggest challenges faced in purple team management is when purple teamers get caught up in either their red team or blue team roles. They sometimes forget to collaborate or decide not to readily share information. Without collaboration, however, the ability of the purple team to bolster knowledge and assist in fine-tuning strategies diminishes. 

Communication between the groups is essential, but it can also be a challenge. Red, blue and purple teams must work together to identify threat areas and mitigate risk. If the purple team feedback process is not effective, it can lessen its impact and adversely affect the organization's security posture. 

Staying current with new methods of cyberattacks is another challenge for purple teaming. The red and blue teams must be able to effectively exploit and respond to new threats and vulnerabilities.  

Steps to Building an Effective Purple Team 

Building an effective purple team that boosts your organization’s security posture and fosters a seamless and positive experience requires the following steps. 

1. Develop a Plan 

Put together a comprehensive purple team plan using the MITRE ATT&CK framework as a guide. This will help set up your organization for success by helping red and blue teams work together as one unit to develop a stronger threat-informed defense. 

2. Leverage automation 

Automation tools have become an essential component of the purple team methodology. Automation provides continuous testing and validation, and ensures security gaps don’t slip through the cracks or get inadvertently overlooked. Automation also provides your security team with real-time data and benchmarking. 

3. Set goals 

Without goals to target, your teams cannot fully complete their missions. Give your security team detailed objectives to help them identify problematic areas and develop solutions. These can include testing previously untested tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), training defenders or testing attack chains, to name a few. 

4. Execute your plan 

Following a structured plan helps teams manage both the expected and unexpected security events that can unfold during purple team exercises to ensure they stay on track with goals and objectives. 

5. Measure exercise results 

On completion of your purple team exercise, measure results to gain a firm grasp on both successes and breakdowns in organizational security. Documenting results will help you better identify and benchmark what your security team and organization needs now and for the future. 


READ: Purple Team Exercise Readiness Checklist 


Best Practices for Effective Purple Team Exercises 

To have an effective and successful purple team, it’s important to identify the right individuals for the right roles in your purple team exercises. Once roles are determined, be sure to define the roles in relation to your organization’s goals and objectives to round out a comprehensive plan. 

Once the exercise is completed, compare the results and metrics to your goals to make any security plan revisions or adjustments as necessary. As you hit the benchmarks in successive exercises, you’ll see how the purple team adds value to your organization. 

Threat actors have no intention of slowing their cybercriminal activity against businesses and other organizations. To respond to attacks, organizations must continually proactively improve their security posture. Purple team exercises can play a key role in helping your organization prepare itself for future threats. 

Although reasonable efforts will be made to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the information contained in our blog posts, no liability can be accepted by IANS or our Faculty members for the results of any actions taken by individuals or firms in connection with such information, opinions, or advice. 


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