Cyberattacks are increasingly prevalent, so organizations need to stay proactive to find ways to defend against them. Upgrading cyberdefense strategies, and leveraging a security analytics solution to both preempt and thwart attacks before they cause far-reaching damage are two key tactics organizations should implement. Modern SIEM solutions with their threat intelligence and anomaly detection capabilities helps accomplish this.

Organizations can also adopt proactive approaches, such as pen testing, red teaming, and cyberwar gaming, to enhance and elevate their security posture. Taking these actions helps them test and improve their cyberdefenses so that attackers have difficulty exploiting network and user vulnerabilities. In essence, all three approaches help fortify an organization against various cyberattacks. However, the three approaches differ in scope and approach. Let's examine each of them.

Pen testing

Organizations usually outsource individuals—ethical hackers—as pen testers, who help them find any security loopholes or vulnerabilities in their system and applications before an attacker finds them. Unlike a bug bounty program, where organizations encourage their employees to find vulnerabilities and reward them accordingly, pen testers go a step further and recommend measures to remediate the identified security issues.

Red teaming

Red teaming involves a dedicated group of individuals, either in-house or outsourced, who operate with the explicit permission of C-suite executives to infiltrate the organization. The red team acts covertly and without the knowledge of the IT security department, also known as the blue team. By employing various techniques, including social engineering, the red team tries to manipulate users into providing their credentials. Or, they might use tools to uncover key user background details that enable them to obtain a user's passwords. To learn more about the differences between pen testing and red teaming, review this blog.

Cyberwar gaming

Cyberwar games are exercises conducted to test and improve an organization's security posture and preparedness against cyberattacks. These exercises can be of the tabletop variety, or simulations in a test environment that model a replica of the participating organization's business and security environment. Cyberwar games extend beyond the red and blue teams, and are similar to a real-life attack that impacts the entire organization. Cyberwar games also involve the participation of members from various teams in the organization to help combat the far-reaching consequences of cyberattacks.

The table below provides an idea of how cyberwar games are different from pen tests.

Pen testing Cyberwar gaming
Performed to identify security vulnerabilities in a system or an application. Conducted to test and improve the incident response and security preparedness of an organization.
Ethical hackers, also known as white hat hackers, perform pen testing. War-gaming experts, called facilitators, conduct cyberwar games.
The white hats could be experienced developers certified in pen testing, self-taught technophile, or reformed criminal hackers. Facilitators are usually CISOs or external cyberwar game experts, depending on whether it's conducted in-house or outsourced.
Pen testing doesn't require any engagement with users in the organization. Cyberwar games involve participation from various teams including security, HR, legal, customer care, marketing, business operations, application development, finance, risk management, corporate communications, and, ideally, C-suite executives.
Pen testing is performed directly on the organization's network, and not in a test environment. Cyberwar games are conducted in a test environment that simulates the organization's business and security environment.
Pen testing offers insights into an organization's potential security issues. By identifying and remediating them, pen testing helps an organization achieve security compliance. Cyberwar games help an organization gain a holistic outlook of attack and defense perspectives, understand and increase the effectiveness of cross-functional team collaboration, and identify strengths and weaknesses in its security posture.

Differences between pen testing and cyberwar gaming.

Organizations benefit from pen testing, red teaming, and cyberwar gaming. If any organization has not yet adopted an approach, security experts often advise starting with pen testing. Ultimately, however, the organization should determine which approach will best meet its current needs and accommodate its future security requirements. Thanks for reading, folks!

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