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What is a purple team and why do you need one?

Read our blog to find out what a purple team is & the difference between them & red & blue teams & why your organization needs one.

purple team

The significance of red and blue teams in cybersecurity is often emphasized, yet having a purple team to mediate and assess their efforts is equally crucial.

In fact, integrating a purple team into your defense strategy promotes constructive collaboration between offensive and defensive components. But what is purple teaming all about?

This blog will cover: 

  • What is a purple team?
  • What’s the difference between a purple, blue, and red team?
  • How does purple teaming work?
  • Purple teaming exercises and activities
  • Benefits of purple teaming
  • Purple teaming best practices
  • How to measure a purple team’s success
  • Example of a purple team
  • Challenges of purple teaming and how to mitigate them

What is a purple team?

You may have heard of red and blue teams but about purple ones? In cybersecurity, purple teams are collaborative groups in cybersecurity that combine offensive (red team) and defensive (blue team) expertise.

Overall, purple teams simulate cyberattacks, assess security measures, and enhance an organization’s overall cybersecurity posture. 

What’s the difference between a purple, blue, and red team?

To understand the expertise, goals, and purpose of purple teams, you’ll need to gauge how red and blue teams work as well. Red, blue, and purple teams differ in several ways, for example: 

Red team 

The red team, composed of offensive security experts, specializes in simulating cyberattacks by using real-world hacking techniques. Their primary goal is to uncover vulnerabilities and weaknesses within an organization’s systems and networks.

This expertise helps identify security gaps and assess an organization’s readiness to defend against threats.

Blue team 

The blue team consists of defensive security specialists responsible for protecting an organization’s digital assets. Their expertise lies in threat detection, incident response, and risk mitigation.

Their main goal is to continuously monitor network activity, analyze logs, and utilize security tools to detect and thwart suspicious activities. Their purpose is to maintain a robust security posture and ensure effective security measures.

Purple team 

The purple team acts as a mediator, bridging the gap between red and blue teams. Their primary purpose is to enhance an organization’s overall security by facilitating collaboration between red and blue teams.

They create a controlled environment where simulated cyberattacks (red team actions) are closely monitored by the blue team to evaluate existing security measures and improve incident response capabilities.

The purple team helps identify weaknesses and refine cybersecurity strategies based on real-world threat simulations.

Team Expertise Goal Purpose
Red Team Offensive Security Attack Simulation Identify vulnerabilities and test defenses
Blue Team Defensive Security Defend Networks Protect against real and simulated cyberattacks
Purple Team Both Red and Blue Security Improvement Collaboratively assess and enhance security


How does purple teaming work?

In essence, purple teaming combines the efforts of red teams and blue teams to assess and enhance an organization’s security posture. Here’s a step-by-step of how purple teaming works:

Engagement planning

The engagement plan outlines the scope, objectives, and specific areas of focus for the purple team exercise. The red team and blue team define the goals and targets for the assessment to ensure a clear understanding of what needs to be done. 

Simulated attacks 

The red team conducts simulated cyberattacks using various techniques and tools that mimic real-world threat actors. These attacks can include penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, social engineering, and other offensive tactics. 

Defensive measures

The blue team actively monitors and defends the organization’s systems and networks during the simulated attacks. They use security tools, threat detection mechanisms, and incident response procedures to detect and respond to the red team’s activities in real time.


The purple team acts as a facilitator and mediator between both teams and they ensure effective communication and cooperation throughout the exercise. The purple team monitors the red team’s actions and provides feedback to the blue team on the effectiveness of their defenses. 

Debrief and analysis

After the purple team engagement concludes, there is a thorough debriefing session. The teams analyze the outcomes, vulnerabilities discovered, and defensive actions taken. 

Recommendations and remediation

Based on the findings, the purple team collaborates with the organization’s leadership and IT teams to make recommendations for improving security measures. This may include patching vulnerabilities, updating security policies, or enhancing staff training. 

Iterative process

Purple teaming is an iterative process that can be conducted regularly to continuously assess and enhance an organization’s security posture. Each iteration builds upon the lessons learned from previous engagements, helping the organization adapt and improve its security defenses. 

Purple teaming exercises and activities

Purple teaming exercises and activities are designed to facilitate collaboration between red and blue teams to assess and enhance an organization’s cybersecurity. Here are some common purple teaming exercises and activities:

Cross-training sessions

Purple teams facilitate and organize cross-training sessions, ensuring that both red and blue team members actively participate. They oversee the sharing of knowledge and skills, ensuring that each team gains a deeper understanding of the other’s expertise.

This collaborative learning helps bridge the gap between offensive and defensive strategies.

Mitigation validation

Purple teams orchestrate the exercise, providing scenarios for red teams to simulate attacks and blue teams to defend against them. They facilitate discussions and analysis afterward, helping both teams assess the effectiveness of mitigations and suggesting improvements collaboratively.

Root cause analysis

Purple teams guide the post-incident analysis, ensuring that both red and blue teams work together to identify the root causes of simulated breaches. They facilitate discussions to uncover vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, or human errors that led to the breach, fostering a shared understanding of weaknesses.

Attack scenario workshops

Purple teams lead the design of attack scenarios, combining insights from both red and blue teams. They ensure that the scenarios are realistic and representative of the organization’s threat landscape.

During simulations, they observe and provide guidance to enhance scenario execution.

Shadowing exercises

Purple teams coordinate shadowing exercises, ensuring that blue team members actively observe red team activities. They encourage real-time communication between teams, allowing blue team members to ask questions and gain insights into attacker tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

Adversary profiling

Purple teams collaborate on researching and profiling potential threat actors. They gather threat intelligence and analyze it jointly, helping both teams understand the motivations, capabilities, and preferred attack vectors of potential adversaries.

Risk assessment and prioritization

Purple teams guide the joint risk assessment process. They facilitate discussions between red and blue teams to assess vulnerabilities, assign risk scores, and collectively prioritize which vulnerabilities to address first based on potential impact and exploitability.

Policy alignment and gap analysis

Purple teams lead the review of security policies and procedures, ensuring both teams participate in the alignment process. They help identify gaps and inconsistencies, working together to recommend policy enhancements and improvements.

Continuous feedback loop

Purple teams establish and maintain the feedback loop between red and blue teams. They organize regular meetings where teams share insights, discuss ongoing threats, and collaboratively plan future exercises and security enhancements.

Simulated incident response

Purple teams orchestrate simulated incident response exercises, setting the stage for red teams to initiate mock incidents and blue teams to respond. They oversee the incident scenario and facilitate post-exercise discussions for learning and improvement.

Benefits of purple teaming

Purple teaming offers several key benefits to organizations, here are just a few:

  • Effective vulnerability identification: purple teaming allows for the proactive discovery of vulnerabilities in an organization’s systems and networks through realistic attack simulations. 
  • Improved incident response: by simulating cyberattacks and assessing incident response procedures, organizations can enhance their ability to detect, respond to, and mitigate security incidents quickly and effectively. 
  • Enhanced collaboration: purple teaming promotes collaboration and communication which leads to a better understanding of security threats and more coordinated efforts. 
  • Strategic security investments: organizations can prioritize security investments based on the findings of purple team exercises. 
  • Continuous improvement: purple teaming is an iterative process, allowing organizations to continuously adapt to evolving threats. 
  • Increased security awareness: by gaining a deeper understanding of cybersecurity risks and best practices organizations can reduce the likelihood of falling victim to attacks.
  • Regulatory compliance: purple teaming helps organizations meet regulatory and compliance requirements, which helps avoid fines and penalties. 
  • Reduction in attack surface: identifying and addressing vulnerabilities reduces an organization’s attack surface
  • Quantifiable results: measurable results allow organizations to track improvements in their security posture over time and demonstrate the return on investment in cybersecurity efforts.
  • Crisis preparedness: organizations that regularly conduct purple team exercises are better prepared to handle cybersecurity crises and incidents.
  • Executive confidence: leadership gains confidence in the organization’s ability to defend against threats which can lead to better support and investment. 

Purple teaming best practices

Incorporating purple teaming into your cybersecurity strategy is highly effective, but achieving success also requires adherence to a few best practices. Here are some essential guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Foster open communication: encourage constant information sharing between red and blue teams.
  • Define clear objectives: clearly state the goals and expectations for each exercise.
  • Rotate team roles: switch between red and blue team roles to gain broader insights.
  • Embrace feedback: continuously gather and act on feedback from both teams.
  • Align with business goals: ensure security efforts align with the organization’s objectives.
  • Share threat intelligence: collaboratively collect and analyze threat data for insights.
  • Document findings: keep detailed records of vulnerabilities, actions, and solutions.
  • Regularly train teams: invest in ongoing training and skill development.
  • Practice scenario realism: ensure simulations mimic real-world threats and scenarios.
  • Emphasize teamwork: foster a culture of collaboration and shared responsibilities. 

How to measure a purple team’s success

Measuring the success of a purple team requires a multifaceted approach. Here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): identify specific KPIs related to objectives, such as measuring reduced response time to simulated attacks, decreased vulnerabilities, or improved employee awareness.
  • Baseline assessments: establish pre-exercise security measurements for benchmarking post-exercise improvements.
  • Quantitative and qualitative metrics: use both numbers and feedback to assess technical and human aspects of security enhancement.
  • Incident response metrics: measure incident detection and response times (MTTD and MTTR) for continuous improvement.
  • Vulnerability reduction: track vulnerability reduction over time to gauge the effectiveness of mitigation efforts.
  • Cost-benefit analysis: compare exercise costs to potential savings from preventing real-world incidents due to purple team findings.

Example of a purple team

In this scenario, an organization wants to assess its defenses against a highly common and targeted form of cyberattack – spear phishing. Here’s how a purple team could approach this situation:

  1. Planning: the purple team meets to define the scope, objectives, and specific attack scenario. They decide to simulate a spear-phishing campaign targeting employees to test the organization’s email security and employee awareness.
  2. Threat profiling: the purple team researches real-world spear-phishing campaigns, including tactics, techniques, and the latest phishing lures used by threat actors. 
  3. Simulation design: the purple team designs a realistic spear-phishing email, mimicking the techniques used by actual attackers. They craft convincing lures to increase the chances of success.
  4. Execution: the red team takes on the role of the attacker, sending the simulated phishing emails to a select group of employees within the organization. The blue team is aware that the simulation is in progress.
  5. Monitoring and response: the blue team actively monitors incoming emails, network traffic, and user responses. When employees report suspicious emails or click on phishing links, the blue team investigates and takes appropriate actions to mitigate the threat.
  6. Debrief and analysis: the purple team conducts a joint debriefing session to analyze the effectiveness of the simulated phishing campaign, including how many employees fell for the phishing lure and how quickly the blue team responded to the threat.
  7. Improvement recommendations: the purple team discusses findings and recommends improvements. This may include enhancing email filtering, conducting additional employee training, or refining incident response procedures.
  8. Documentation: the purple team documents the exercise results, including vulnerabilities identified, remediation actions taken, and lessons learned. This documentation serves as a reference for future security enhancements.
  9. Continuous improvement: based on the exercise outcomes, the organization implements necessary changes to bolster its defenses against spear-phishing attacks. 

Challenges of purple teaming and how to mitigate them

While purple teaming offers significant benefits, it also comes with its unique set of difficulties. Recognizing and addressing these obstacles is crucial.

Here are some common challenges as well as remedies for mitigation. 

Team collaboration hurdles

  • Problem: silos between red and blue teams can impede collaboration. 
  • Solution: promote cross-training and team-building activities to foster open communication and mutual understanding.

Resource constraints

  • Problem: balancing operational duties with purple teaming can strain resources.
  • Solution: allocate dedicated time and resources for purple teaming exercises to ensure they are not overshadowed by day-to-day tasks.

Resistance to change

  • Problem: team members may resist new processes or feel threatened. 
  • Solution: provide clear explanations for the purpose and benefits of purple teaming, emphasizing its positive impact on security and career development.

Scope ambiguity

  • Problem: unclear objectives and scope can lead to inefficient exercises.
  • Solution: define precise goals, exercise boundaries, and expectations for both red and blue teams.

Lack of executive support 

  • Problem: insufficient backing from leadership can hinder progress.
  • Solution: engage executives early, emphasizing the strategic importance of purple teaming in risk management and compliance.

Skill gaps 

  • Problem: teams may lack the necessary skills for effective purple teaming
  • Solution: invest in training and skill development programs to bridge knowledge gaps and ensure team readiness.

Measurement challenges

  • Problem: difficulty in quantifying purple teaming outcomes may undermine its value. 
  • Solution: establish KPIs  and metrics to evaluate the success and impact of purple teaming efforts.

Overlooking feedback 

  • Problem: ignoring feedback from team members can hinder improvement.
  • Solution: actively solicit and implement feedback to continually enhance purple teaming processes and results.

Scenario realism

  • Problem: simulations that do not accurately reflect real threats can diminish exercise value. 
  • Solution: ensure exercises are designed with the latest threat intelligence and are regularly updated to reflect evolving risks.

Cultural resistance

  • Problem: an organization’s culture may not readily embrace purple teaming. 
  • Solution: advocate for a security-first culture and communicate the importance of collective responsibility in defending against cyber threats.

Final thoughts

Red and blue teams are essential parts of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy, but purple teams are the glue binding the two together.

Without this mediator, the synergy between offensive and defensive efforts can become disjointed and less effective. Purple teams facilitate collaboration, validate security controls, and bridge the gap to ensure a robust and proactive cybersecurity posture.

CovertSwarm’s red teaming service is ruthless in its approach. We cover all bases; digital, physical, and social.

While we will never expose you to any genuine risk, we’ll emulate the actions of genuine bad actors and use every trick in the book. We’ll reveal your most hidden vulnerabilities and, instead of using them against you, we provide you with the tools to rectify them.

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