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What is the difference between Pen Testing, Red Teaming and Threat Hunting

What is the difference between Pen Testing, Red Teaming and Threat Hunting

Data is one of the primary aspects of business operations. Therefore, it is critical for businesses to safeguard it with an impenetrable cyber security infrastructure such that breaches of any kind can be avoided beforehand and risks can be mitigated from the root. The average data breach cost in the United States amounted to over 9.44 million dollars (Statista). 

Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent, targeted, and complex, and cybercriminals are becoming more and more aware of the latest cybersecurity measures in organizations worldwide. Therefore, it is substantive for businesses to deploy the right cybersecurity framework with a thorough understanding of the complexity of attacks along with their vulnerabilities. 

How do we make sure that the data is protected and the network infrastructure is secure against the most potent and lethal breaches in the long run? We run simulated tests that allow us to get a comprehensive view of the status quo level of the organization’s cyber security framework. And we do this through pen testing, red teaming, and threat hunting. Through our blog, we are going to delve into the difference between each of them in detail and the purpose for which these tests are conducted. 

What you should know about pen testing?

Pen testing is short for penetration testing. It is also known as white-hat hacking. It is a simulation test that is launched into your organization’s network to discover the points that are vulnerable and exploitable. It is a form of ethical hacking that is conducted by network security experts to strengthen a network. 

According to a report by purplesac, 75 percent of penetration vectors are caused by poor protection of web resources. Through pen testing, multiple layers of an organization’s security are tested for vulnerabilities across all of the systems and applications. No wonder why it is a trusted method by over 5,600 organizations, including 37% of Fortune 1000 companies across 100 countries(Statista).

There are different kinds of penetration testing that are done as per the purpose. These include internal network pen testing, external network pen testing, wireless network pen testing, web application pen testing, and phishing penetration testing. 

Some examples of penetration testing

Penetration testing is done in a very controlled environment, thus it can only be conducted by experts. You may be wondering, what are some of the practical examples of penetration testing? Here are some practical examples:

Web Application Test: This is also a kind of ethical hacking test that is done to detect the vulnerabilities within web applications. It tests the strength of the architecture, design and configuration of web applications. In a particular web application test, a team, of unethical hackers try to compromise a web application tḥrough deployment of various hacking techniques. 

Network Services Test: It is one of the most preferred penetration tests by experts since it looks for openings within a network and an attempt of entry is made to check for plausible vulnerabilities remotely or locally.

What is red teaming?

In this type of testing, various tools and techniques are used to exploit an organization’s security architecture. Red Teaming is similar to pen testing but is more focused on the organization’s detection and response capabilities. According to one research report by International Business Machines, Data breach cost companies over $4 million. This puts more light on the importance of mitigating risks by assessing gaps in an organization’s cyber security framework to avoid expensive data breaches. 

The idea of Red teaming originates in the German military in the 19th century where they would use terrain pieces and battle tokens to simulate real-life battle simulations! A typical red teaming exercise involves two teams, the red team who devises the attack and the blue team that defends it. The stages involve- goal mapping, target reconnaissance, exploitation of vulnerabilities, probing and reconnaissance to check whether new vulnerabilities have risen, and finally, reporting and analysis. 

In this, the red team is a team of highly professional security experts who disguise themselves as real attacker and plot an attempt to weaken and breach the organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure. In today’s extremely complicated cybersecurity scenario, red teaming is a full-blown attack simulation done at multiple layers of the organization to know how well the organization’s existing networks, software applications, and physical security controls can withstand an attack from a real cyber criminal. Red teams look to breach in any way possible, this can include disguising as an employee of the organization and leveraging social engineering to set up a breach. The duration of red teaming depends on the scope of the exercise. It can go from anywhere between 3 months to shorter than 20 days. 

Some examples of red teaming

Unlike pen testing, red team simulation is done in a very discreet manner. Some of the practical examples of red teaming are as follows: 

Social engineering attack simulation: In this, a plausible threat actor tries to attempt a data theft of important credentials such as network log-ins. This is a kind of simulation that is done over mobile phone devices. 

Phishing attack simulation: Phishing email simulations occur with hackers disguising as internal employees asking for important information and log-in confirmation. The purpose behind this is to test whether the employees are susceptible to not recognizing the fake threat that is sent to the company email address as a scam.

What is Threat Hunting?

It is a proactive approach where cyber security experts search through the organization’s network to detect and isolate threats and eliminate them from the system. It is also known as cyber threat hunting where previously unknown or hidden threats are hunted. The main purpose is to catch a probable threat that is lurking in the system. Nowadays, attackers often lurk for months and patiently wait to engage in data breaches and stealing confidential information to unlock access for greater breaches. 

Therefore, the role of threat hunting has gained more importance now more so than ever before. The human element is very important in threat hunting because sometimes, sophisticated attackers can get past automated cybersecurity. According to a research report, sophisticated attackers can take up to 280 days on average to break into any network by bypassing their automated cybersecurity. That is why nuanced threat hunting brings cyber threat hunters who are skilled experts who monitor, log, analyze, search, and finally, neutralize threats before they turn lethal. Cyber threat hunters use tools such as Managed Detection and Response (MDR), Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), and Security analytics to hunt for the most potent threats. These tools are driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence to monitor and detect signs of threat.

Some examples of threat hunting

Threat hunting involves antivirus, Managed Detection and Response (MDR), and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) which help in profiling and detecting threats that are within an internal or external networks. 

Event-based hunting: In this, a threat is hunted based on company context-based hypotheses is predefined and a thorough analysis of event observations is done along with log sources.  

IOC-Based Hunting: Here, forensic data which is found in system log transactions and files are evaluated for potentially malicious activities within the network. 

Lead Based hunting: As the name suggests, we engage in threat hunting with a threat lead as a basepoint for our analysis. 

Lead Less hunting: We engage in threat hunting from scratch as opposed to lead based threat hunting. 

What is the difference?

All of the above tests have one thing in common and that is, they conduct a thorough assessment and improvement of the overall security of an organization. Where pen testing is a direct simulated attack on the organization’s network to isolate its vulnerabilities, red teaming is a discreet simulated attack that is focused on the detection and response capabilities of the cybersecurity framework of the organization. Whereas, threat hunting is all about hunting for all possible threats that are hidden or otherwise through tools such as MDR, SIEM, and security analytics. Where threat hunting can be a continuous process for an organization, Red team simulations, and pen testing can run for weeks or even months.

The SharkStriker Approach

When it comes to vulnerability assessment, we at SharkStriker, leave no stones unturned. We help organizations by conducting a comprehensive vulnerability assessment through a two-in-one approach that involves both vulnerability assessment and penetration testing. Through our cutting-edge MDR and SIEM tools that are driven by AI and ML combined with our expert cyber threat hunters, we hunt for the most lethal threats. Our SOCs are spread across the globe and are available 24×7 for 365 days, acting as a formidable vanguard against cyber threats and attackers. 

Partner with us to enhance your cybersecurity infrastructure to the next level.

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