Intelligence in Offensive Security: How to Level Up
Echelon TIBER EU Framework red team

Level-Up Your Testing with Adversarial-Based Red Teaming and the TIBER-EU Framework

In today's digital age, organizations of all sizes face an ever-increasing number of cyber threats. These threats all have a certain way of operating, from the tools they use to the objectives they are trying to achieve. Traditional penetration testing has long been a valuable tool for identifying vulnerabilities in an organization's security posture, but it is often unable to simulate a real-world attack scenario. This is because while today’s threats continuously evolve, there are standard tools and methods that are taught to traditional pen-testers today.

Adversarial-based red teaming has emerged as a more effective approach to cybersecurity testing, allowing organizations to stress test their defenses against a skilled and determined adversary that is aligned to the organization’s industry and threat profile.

The TIBER-EU Framework, developed by the European Central Bank, offers us a comprehensive methodology for conducting adversarial-based red teaming exercises.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between traditional penetration testing and adversarial-based red teaming, examine the benefits of the TIBER-EU Framework, and provide advice for organizations looking to implement this approach.

One Big Difference Between Pen-Testing vs. Adversarial Based Red Teaming:

Traditional pen-tests leverage the tools that the penetration tester is usually most familiar with.

Adversarial based red-teaming uses the actual tools and tradecraft that real threat actors would use against a company like yours.

Pen Testing vs. Adversarial-Based Red Teaming

I would like to first call attention to a recent Echelon intelligence article: Cyber Definition Problems: Red Teaming vs. Penetration Testing, where we explain the difference between "red teaming" and "penetration testing" and how these terms are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion and misinformation.

Adversarial-based red teaming is a proactive security approach that goes beyond traditional penetration testing by simulating real-world attack using specific tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) employed by skilled threat actors.

Unlike traditional penetration testing, which focuses on finding vulnerabilities, adversarial-based red teaming evaluates an organization's ability to detect, respond to, and mitigate sophisticated attacks. It is essential for organizations to understand this difference because it enables them to better identify and prioritize the most critical security gaps and allocate resources more effectively.

This bears repeating - with adversarial emulation you don’t just identify vulnerabilities, you identify the most relevant vulnerabilities.

Understanding the TIBER-EU Framework

The TIBER-EU Framework provides a fantastic structure for incorporating the principles of adversarial-based red teaming methodologies into an organization’s approach to cybersecurity testing.

The TIBER-EU Framework for adversarial-based red teaming exercises consists of several components, including:

  • Threat intelligence gathering
  • Target selection
  • Scenario design
  • And the actual testing itself

By using a structured approach to testing that aligns with real-world attacker TTPs, organizations can gain a more accurate assessment of their security posture and better prioritize gaps that need to be addressed. This approach also helps organizations mitigate emerging cyber threats by providing a more comprehensive view of their vulnerabilities and enabling them to take action before an actual attack occurs.

Recommendations for Organizations to Level-Up Their Testing Program

For organizations just starting to explore the benefits of adversarial-based red teaming, it is important to take a systematic approach to implementation. This includes:

Identify clear objectives for the implementation of adversarial-based red teaming within your organization to help make the business case

Study the TIBER-EU framework to identify certain testing ideologies that your organization should adopt

Share the differences between the various testing approaches to key stakeholders to ensure appropriate buy-in

Allocate sufficient resources to support the testing process (e.g., time, dollars, people, etc.)

Develop a sufficient understanding of the threat landscape that your organization operates within

Work with experienced security professionals to tailor the approach to specific organizational needs

Seek guidance on how to implement the framework effectively

Start small by identifying a specific threat simulation activity that is both relevant and easily achievable

Take a methodical approach to rolling out the principles of the program more widely

The Bottom Line

Adversarial-based red teaming with the TIBER-EU Framework is a powerful tool for organizations looking to proactively identify and mitigate emerging cyber threats. By taking a systematic approach to implementation and working with experienced security professionals, organizations can reap the benefits of this approach and improve their overall cybersecurity posture.

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, it's essential that organizations stay ahead of the curve and leverage the latest methodologies and frameworks to protect their critical assets. Adversarial-based red teaming with the TIBER-EU Framework is one such approach, and it's well worth exploring for any organization serious about leveling-up their cybersecurity posture.

Sign up to get Cyber Intelligence Weekly in your inbox.