Penetration Testing vs Red Team Assessments: What's the Difference

by Tashina

With cyber attacks becoming more sophisticated each day, organisations need regular red team and vulnerability assessments.  These tests simulate the tactics and methods used by modern attackers to ensure protection from potential cyber attacks.
Depending upon an organisations security program, it may require using different security assessment testing methods to achieve its security goals. To fulfil this requirement, they perform red teaming and penetration tests regularly. Red team assessments and Penetration Testing (Pen testing) are both security assessments. These security assessments are important for small and large businesses to identify their security loopholes and address them accordingly.
Though many organisations use the two terms interchangeably, they are distinct from one another. So what exactly is the difference between the two? Let’s look at some major differences between the two types of security assessments.

Difference between Penetration Testing and Red Team Assessments

  • Time: Red Teaming needs more resources and time as they have to dig deep for a complete understanding of risk and vulnerabilities. Penetration test is a time-boxed assessment that exposes the weaknesses in an applications software, operating systems, core attack vectors, and network devices. The aim is to explore vulnerabilities in the system and secure them before the attacker exploits them. Red teaming  a long-term continuous assessment.
  • Objectives: A penetration test is a security assessment to identify the application, network, and system vulnerabilities. Red teaming is multi-layered, designed to explore how well an organisation’s physical security and applications can tolerate an attack from a real-life adversary.
  • Methodology: Penetration testing methodologies are technical. However, Red Team security assessments are more sophisticated and include social engineering, intelligence gathering, hacking, intrusion, and other techniques.
  • Scope: This scope of penetration testing is limited to identify application-layer, network-layer, and system vulnerabilities. It focuses on one specific system, such as a web application or internal network. On the other hand, the Red team has a broader scope meaning that they will utilize every available technique for testing the company’s security.

Cyberattacks such as  ransomware, phishing, Denial of Service attacks (DoS attacks)  other tactics of cyber attackers are becoming very common, and so there is the need for organisations to conduct regular security assessments. This is important to  identify strengths and vulnerabilities.
The best way to secure your systems and application is to perform penetration tests and red team assessments. Thus allowing organisations to find and inspect weaknesses, avoid long-term unavailability of the system, and protect the organisations reputation and brand name.

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