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Best red team tools for your cybersecurity strategy

Read our blog to find out the best red team tools to use for your cybersecurity strategy, how to choose and use them.

red team tools

Unlocking the full potential of your cybersecurity strategy requires the right set of tools in your red team’s arsenal. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, threats are constantly evolving, and organizations must stay one step ahead.

Red teaming offers a proactive approach to security testing, but to truly excel, you need the right tools at your disposal. 

In this blog, we will cover: 

  • What is red teaming?
  • How are red team tools used in cybersecurity strategies?
  • Benefits of red team tools
  • Our top tools to use for your red teaming strategy
  • How to select the right red team tools for your organization’s cybersecurity strategy
  • Best practices for using red team tools
  • Integration with blue team tools
  • Regulatory and compliance considerations

What is red teaming?

Red teaming is a strategic cybersecurity approach that involves mimicking the tactics and techniques of malicious hackers to evaluate an organization’s security defenses comprehensively. It goes beyond conventional security assessments.

Instead, it simulates realistic cyberattacks often using specialized tools and methodologies. In essence, red teaming is an indispensable cybersecurity strategy that helps organizations identify and address security gaps.  

How are red team tools used in cybersecurity strategies?

Hackers are constantly thinking outside the box; therefore, red teamers need to keep up. Ethical hackers need to find new techniques and tools that replicate the tactics employed in an ever-evolving threat landscape.

How do they do this? They employ specialized tools to simulate real-world cyber attacks and evaluate an organization’s defenses. 

Since red teaming is a multi-layered attack, so is their use of techniques and tools. As a general overview, red teamers may opt for tactics such as application penetration testing, network penetration testing, physical penetration testing, intercepting communication, and social engineering.

Within these areas of attack, they use specialized tools to strategically mimic the tactics of threat actors and increase the likelihood of success. 

Benefits of red team tools

Incorporating red team tools into your cybersecurity strategy can significantly enhance an organization’s ability to detect, mitigate, and respond to security threats effectively.

Here are a few other benefits of red team tools: 

  • Comprehensive assessment: red team tools allow organizations to conduct thorough and realistic assessments of their security posture, including identifying  and scanning for vulnerabilities that might go unnoticed in traditional testing.
  • Real-world simulation: red team tools enable organizations to replicate the tactics and techniques used by actual threat actors, providing a more authentic assessment of their readiness against cyberattacks.
  • Prioritization of remediation: red team findings help organizations prioritize and focus their resources on addressing the most critical vulnerabilities and weaknesses first, enhancing their risk management efforts.
  • Improved incident response: by simulating real attacks, red team tools help organizations evaluate their incident response capabilities, identifying areas for improvement and refining their incident response plans.
  • Enhanced security awareness: red team tools involving social engineering can raise employee and stakeholder awareness of cybersecurity risks, leading to a more vigilant workforce.
  • Optimized defense strategies: red team findings guide organizations in fine-tuning their cybersecurity strategies and investments, ensuring resources are allocated where they are needed most.
  • Strengthened resilience: regular use of red team tools builds resilience by uncovering vulnerabilities and allowing organizations to proactively mitigate them, reducing the risk of successful cyberattacks.
  • Continuous improvement: red team assessments encourage a culture of continuous improvement in cybersecurity practices, fostering ongoing vigilance and adaptation to emerging threats.
  • Data-driven decision-making: red team reports provide valuable data and insights that assist organizations in making informed decisions to enhance their security posture.
  • Regulatory compliance: conducting red team exercises can help organizations demonstrate compliance with cybersecurity regulations and standards, which is often required in certain industries.

Our top tools to use for your red teaming strategy

When it comes to red teaming, having the right tools in your arsenal can make all the difference. In this section, we’ll share our top tools to use for each phase of the red teaming assessment. Keep in mind that some tools have capabilities that span multiple phases, depending on how they are used in the assessment. 

Reconnaissance 

The reconnaissance phase serves as the foundation for any red teaming assessment. It involves collecting critical intelligence about the target, enabling red teams to identify vulnerabilities, potential attack vectors, and more. Some key red team tools used in this phase include:

  • Amass: subdomain enumeration and network mapping.
  • TheHarvester: email address and subdomain gathering.
  • Cloud_Enum: identification of misconfigured cloud resources.
  • SauronEye: search tool built to find files with specific keywords. 
  • ADExplorer: exploration of Active Directory environments.
  • ADSearch: querying Active Directory for information.

Weaponization

Weaponization is where red teams turn collected intelligence into attack payloads and tactics. This phase involves creating malicious files and payloads for delivery. Here are some essential red team tools for weaponization:

  • Cobalt Strike: commercial tool for red teaming and penetration testing.
  • CovertSmuggler (CovertSwarm tool): tool for data exfiltration.
  • SwarmDeployer (CovertSwarm tool): deployment of red teaming infrastructure.
  • SwarmLoader (CovertSwarm tool): loading payloads.
  • Mythic: post-exploitation framework.
  • SharpShares: enumerating network shares.
  • Donut: generating and executing shellcode in memory.
  • ChameleonUltra: bypassing security measures on Windows.
  • Rubber Ducky (and other Hak5 tools): physical pentesting tools for USB-based attacks.

Delivery and exploitation

In this phase, red teams execute attacks, aiming to gain initial access to the target. Delivery and exploitation techniques include phishing and delivering malicious payloads. Red team tools often used include:

  • NMAP: network scanning and discovery.
  • Brute Ratel: password-cracking tool.
  • Medusa: password-cracking tool.
  • Certify: assessing Active Directory security.
  • Rubeus: post-exploitation tool for Windows environments.
  • Metasploit: extensive penetration testing framework.
  • sqlmap: detecting and exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities.
  • Havoc: discovering vulnerabilities in containerized environments.

Post-exploitation

Once initial access is achieved, the focus shifts to expanding within the target environment. Post-exploitation tools aid in lateral movement and privilege escalation. Notable red team tools in this phase include:

  • Bloodhound: visualizing Active Directory relationships.
  • Mimikatz: extracting credentials from Windows systems.
  • Seatbelt: post-exploitation tool for Windows.
  • Mfade: brute-forcing multi-factor authentication.
  • Pwnagotchi: portable Wi-Fi-based AI device for capturing handshakes.
  • FlipperZero: versatile pentesting and IoT hacking tool.

Exfiltrate and complete:

This phase involves manipulating the target system to achieve the operation’s objective, which often includes exfiltrating sensitive data. Red team tools for this purpose include:

  • CovertSmuggler (CovertSwarm tool): tool for data exfiltration.
  • Dnsteal: data exfiltration via DNS requests.

Reporting and documentation:

Following the assessment, red teams provide detailed reports documenting findings, methodologies, and recommendations. These reports help organizations improve security defenses.

Although red team tools aren’t typically used in this phase, documentation software may aid in report creation.

How to select the right red team tools for your organization’s cybersecurity strategy

With so many great red team tools to choose from, how can you ensure you’re making the right choice? Here are some guidelines to narrow down your selection: 

  • Define your objectives: start by outlining what you want to achieve with your red teaming assessment, whether it’s identifying vulnerabilities, testing incident response, or evaluating awareness.
  • Understand your environment: thoroughly assess your organization’s IT setup, including network architecture, systems, and potential weak points.
  • Consider your budget: evaluate your financial limits and allocate resources to red teaming tools wisely, keeping cost-effective options in mind.
  • Choose tools aligned with objectives: select tools that match your specific red teaming goals, as different phases may require different toolsets.
  • Assess ease of use: factor in the simplicity of tool usage to avoid unnecessary complexity and streamline the assessment process.
  • Evaluate compatibility: ensure chosen tools work seamlessly with your existing security infrastructure and systems.
  • Consider reporting capabilities: assess tools’ reporting and documentation features, as effective reporting is essential for conveying findings to stakeholders.
  • Prioritize security: verify that selected tools are secure themselves and won’t introduce vulnerabilities into your environment.

Best practices for using red team tools

When incorporating red team tools into your cybersecurity strategy, following best practices is crucial for a successful and effective assessment. Here’s what we suggest: 

  • Emulate real threats: design your assessments to mimic real-world cyber threats, enabling a more realistic evaluation of your defenses.
  • Skill development: Invest in training for your red team members to maximize their proficiency with chosen tools.
  • Continuous learning: stay up-to-date with evolving threats and tools, fostering a culture of continuous improvement within your team.
  • Maintain ethical standards: ensure that all actions taken with red team tools adhere to ethical and legal standards, respecting the privacy and security of stakeholders.
  • Limit impact: minimize potential disruptions to the organization’s daily operations and systems during red team engagements.
  • Documentation and reporting: thoroughly document all activities and findings, providing comprehensive reports to stakeholders for actionable insights.
  • Regular testing: prioritize testing red team tools in a controlled environment before conducting live engagements to verify their reliability.
  • Feedback loop: encourage feedback and collaboration among team members to enhance tool effectiveness and streamline processes.
  • Scalability: choose tools that can scale to meet the needs of your organization, especially as your infrastructure evolves. 
  • Secure tool usage: securely manage and control access to red team tools to prevent unauthorized use or exposure.
  • Legal compliance: familiarize yourself with relevant laws and regulations governing red teaming activities to ensure compliance.
  • Backup and recovery: implement backup and recovery measures for critical systems in case of unforeseen incidents during red team engagements.
  • Post-assessment debriefing: conduct debriefing sessions with stakeholders to discuss findings, lessons learned, and actions for improvement.

Integration with blue team tools

Integration with blue team tools is a pivotal aspect of a robust cybersecurity strategy. 

It allows red and blue teams to work in harmony, facilitating the swift exchange of vital information and streamlining incident response efforts. For example, blue teams can leverage red team-generated data for continuous monitoring and fine-tuning of security controls.

By integrating threat intelligence feeds, automating routine tasks, and implementing continuous monitoring solutions, organizations can fortify their security posture.

This collaborative approach not only enhances detection and response capabilities but also nurtures a feedback loop for ongoing improvement and empowers teams to adapt effectively to emerging cyber threats.

Regulatory and compliance considerations

Regulatory and compliance considerations are critical aspects of any cybersecurity strategy.

Organizations must adhere to various regulations and industry standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS, depending on their sector and geographic location. Failure to comply can result in legal penalties and reputational damage.

Here are five key considerations for regulatory and compliance aspects when using red team tools:

  1. Regulatory alignment: ensure that red team assessments are conducted in accordance with relevant regulatory requirements and industry standards applicable to your organization.
  2. Data privacy: be mindful of data protection laws and regulations when conducting red team exercises, especially if they involve handling sensitive or personally identifiable information (PII).
  3. Incident reporting: establish a clear process for reporting any compliance-related incidents or breaches that may arise during red team assessments, and ensure timely notification to relevant authorities if required.
  4. Documentation and reporting: maintain detailed documentation of red team activities, findings, and remediation efforts to provide evidence of compliance during audits and assessments.
  5. Legal and ethical considerations: ensure that all red team activities are conducted in an ethical and legal manner, adhering to local, national, and international laws and regulations. This includes obtaining necessary permissions and consents for testing.

Final thoughts

Thousands of cyber attacks are carried out each day. Don’t wait for your organization to be next.

Find out how resistant your security stance is without facing any of the dire consequences. Uncover your most hidden vulnerabilities with CovertSwarm’s red teaming services and dramatically improve the security of your IT systems, networks, and applications. 

Our threat detection and deflection exercises are some of the most advanced in the industry. We believe red teaming should be relentless, so that’s why we’ll launch a constant string of attracts across the full scope of your brand, using digital, physical and even social methods. 

If you’re looking for advice or have any questions about our red teaming services, don’t hesitate to contact the Swarm today.