Ben Opel, Senior Director of Professional Services at Attack IQ and former Marine, joins Chris and Ron to talk about the essentials of purple teaming. Combining the essentials of the red team and the blue team, a purple team offers cybersecurity companies a unique opportunity to create a threat informed security process. Using his time in the Marines and his experience at Attack IQ, Ben walks through purple team philosophy, breach and attack simulations, and shifting from a reactive to a proactive mindset.
[00:00] Past experiences with cybersecurity in the Marine Corp
[04:28] Exposure to purple teaming in defensive cyber ops
[10:26] Implementing breach and attack simulations in defense strategy
[14:38] Threat informed defense and the aftermath of breach simulations
[23:36] Communicating and approaching risk-related decisions
Thank you to our sponsor AttackIQ for bringing this episode to life!
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How did you first get exposed to purple teaming and what are some of the tenants that you hold today?
Ben’s experience in cybersecurity and his journey into purple teaming occurred during his time with the Marine Corps, performing defensive cyber ops. Originally, Ben didn’t even know the term purple team existed when he first encountered it, but his team was already approaching their work that way. Ben explains a core tenant of purple teaming is getting people in the same room and showing them the value their work brings to one another.
“We started building our teams around this multifunctional purple concept of having threat hunters, threat intelligence, red cell, support and mitigation, and forensic cell all in one. All of these capabilities in one team, where they could work synergistically.”
What are the shortcomings and advantages of the purple team philosophy?
Like any philosophy, Ben explains that the hardest part of incorporating a purple team mindset is including it in everything your team does. To aid in this shortcoming, Ben keeps one question in mind: “What can someone do for me, and what can I do for them?” When involved in a purple team, everyone is putting their heads together. Ben explains there’s much less confusion between offensive and defensive professionals in that purple collaborative setting.
“Pure red team ops can be super fun, but you leave every job not sure they're going to actually make something with what you did. I've worked with blue teams who are like, ‘Hey, this was a great report, red, but we made some fixes, but we don't know if these are good.’”
How do we get more people into being proactive and adopting the purple team perspective?
A large majority of cybersecurity teams and processes involve reacting to potential threats and incidents. In contrast, purple teaming and threat informed defense strategies emphasize a more proactive mindset. Ben explains that working with a capability like Attack IQ helps teams build confidence in what they can prepare for and prevent. Building confidence in infrastructure and resilience in your team helps a proactive mindset thrive.
“It’s about giving folks the ability to parse out and understand what's important to them, and to boil that down into, ‘Okay, now, what does that mean when hands on keyboard?’ Making that available, making that easily digestible. It's an education problem in this realm.”
What would be your first piece of advice for the person about to embark on discovering or explaining breaches and attacks in relation to their organization?
Ben explains that explaining breaches and helping others in your organization understand attack risks starts with showing. He explains that revealing how easily these things can happen and in what situation certain events could be particularly harmful opens the eyes of members of your team to what their threats look like. Instead of catering to doom and gloom, analyze your cyber threat risk with practicality and literal examples.
“If I had to say that I had a specialty forced upon me by the Marine Corps, it was that. It was going over to peers and telling them that this is something that's good, bringing my red team in and letting them poke around, letting my blue team plug in to their network from some strange IP that they've never seen before.”
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