Red team tools aren’t new to cybersecurity, but they are becoming more relevant. As our world becomes more digital and interconnected, automated cybersecurity is increasingly vital for businesses and individuals alike. Some organizations have created multiple security teams for specific tasks, designated by color:
- Red team: this team of white hats and ethical hackers goes on the offensive, imitating real-world attacks to test the other teams through creative “red team tools.”
- Blue team: this team is the defensive side, identifying the vulnerabilities that the red team exposes and determining the system’s security readiness.
- Purple team: the red and blue teams join forces, taking on offensive and defensive responsibilities to get a deeper understanding of the system.
While all three teams play equally valuable roles, this article focuses on the red team. Here’s a quick overview of the types of red team tools and the best options available.
Types of Red Team Tools
A cybersecurity breach often has a long life cycle and can come from multiple sources. As such, red team tools have many categories that follow the life cycle:
- Privilege Escalation
- Lateral Movement
- Command and Control
- Exfiltrate and Complete
Each step will get fleshed out as we move down the list. Security organizations and independent white hats have developed dozens of tools for each category over the years, but we narrowed it down to ten of the best and most widely used tools.
1. Network Mapper
Network Mapper – “Nmap” for short – is one of the oldest and most successful red team tools in existence. The network scanner first came out in 1997 and continues to rank among the best. It performs many essential reconnaissance tasks:
- Open port detection
- Network mapping and inventory
- Gathering hosts
- OS and DNS scanning
Nmap has a plethora of commands and scan scripts to fit a variety of security needs. It’s successfuly exposed threats in thousands of systems over the years, so it will be sure to poke a hole in yours too.
2. OSINT Framework
The OSINT Framework specializes in open-source intelligence research, making it one of the better reconnaissance tools available. Its web-based interface connects with virtually every detail, from passwords to public records to training systems. This kind of widespread red team coverage paints a clear picture of your organization’s public footprint and helps you identify all vulnerabilities.
3. Social-Engineer Toolkit
The Social-Engineer Toolkit (SET) is a Python-based kit that plays with your emotions. Many cyber threats use social engineering in the form of phishing, blackmail, etc. to convince people to expose sensitive information. The SET creates similar threats that test the non-technical human side of a security system, making it one of the most unpredictable and effective red team tools around.
Hashcat is an open-source cracker that’s easier to use than most delivery and exploitation tools, but it won’t be so easy on your passwords. It claims the title of the world’s fastest password cracker, breaking through even the most complex authentication processes. If you’re worried about the password strength in your security system, Hashcat is the tool for you.
PowerUp is one of many security tools from PowerShell that escalates a red team cyber attack once it has gained access to a security system. It primarily focuses on escalating problems in local Windows software, making it a relevant tool for many businesses and individuals. It also pursues other escalation opportunities, if your system is vulnerable enough.
PAExec is a free administration tool that helps with post-exploitation cleanup. It evaluates your security system’s failures and determines why those failures occurred. Then, it offers interactive sessions and remote execution services to help you fix them. You don’t even need to install the software if you don’t need it.
Empire has a small footprint relative to other tools, which helps it evade security obstacles and perform a complete post-exploitation analysis. This tool can be a huge game changer in the initial stages of the command and control (C2) phase. It digs multiple digital tunnels for data exfiltration and remote communication with the other security teams.
8. Cloakify Factory
Speaking of exfiltration, Cloakify Factory transforms exfiltrated data into strings, allowing it to hide in plain sight. Transferring data without setting off the system is crucial for red teams to thoroughly analyze their findings, so Cloakify can play a major role in the latter stages of improving your system.
9. Data Exfiltration Toolkit
The Data Exfiltration Toolkit (DET) is a proof of concept that performs data exfiltration and analysis through a wide range of platforms. You can use it on your social media accounts, email, internal organization accounts and pretty much any other platform that might have sensitive information. It’s popular for its ease of use and ability to transition from one to multiple channels.
Haktrails is the newest tool on the list, but it’s already gained an impressive following. It performs many of the final red team tasks, including subdomain enumeration, gathering DNS records and chaining with other tools to share information. You need to have a Go Programming Language (Golang) to use Haktrails, so make sure you have that program installed first.
Go on the Offensive
Defensive security efforts are no longer enough in today’s digital world. You need to go on the offensive and acquire these red team tools to expose your system’s flaws. Once the flaws are revealed, you can work to perfect them and create an ideal security system.
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