The Red Team Mindset: Five Guiding Principles - ITS Tactical
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The Red Team Mindset: Five Guiding Principles

By U. Fridman


Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Our friend and ITS Contributor, Uri Fridman, has provided a wealth of information here on ITS surrounding Red Team Operations. Today, we’re highlighting his Five Guiding Principles. 

Hopefully you’re familiar with the The Original 12 Rules to Ensure Success that have previously appeared on ITS, they’ve served our Red Team well and continue to do so every day. However, last year was particularly difficult for the team. We were caught in different situations where our mental strength was tested, often in less than permissive environments.

We developed the following set of principles during the various After Action Reports to help us keep our heads in the right direction when we need it. We call them The 5 Guiding Principles and I’ll try to explain them the best I can.

Here are the principles, followed by a short explanation.

  1. Always have an escape plan
  2. Simple and light equals freedom, agility and mobility
  3. Don’t spend time trying to move your opponent, just move yourself.
  4. The solution is in the problem.
  5. If it’s stupid but works, it isn’t stupid.

Always Have An Escape Plan

Everything can fail in a single instant. There is no doubt about it, always have a way out. Based on Rule 1, this guiding principle is at the top in everything we do. From field work to simple everyday tasks, we always make sure we can escape or find a solution to a problem.

Always think about PACE: Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency.

Simple and Light Equals Freedom, Agility and Mobility

Being small and light allows you to move faster and more fluently. Being light allows you to be more efficient. This also applies to mindset and planning. Keeping the plan nimble, simple and agile will allow for changes to happen when reality hits the team.

Having a small team also means they can adapt faster and their momentum can be stopped. If a 180 degree Plan B or an escape plan needs to be executed, then the team won’t crash. Always try to think “How can I achieve this the simplest way possible?” and “Can I perform with only half of what I thought I needed?”

Stay small. Stay light. Go fast. Be lean, productive and effective.

Don’t Spend Time Trying to Move Your Opponent, Just Move Yourself

One of my earlier Aikido Senseis taught me this principle. Essentially, your opponent can be stronger than you, bigger than you and better than you. You can’t move him, you can’t control him, but you can control yourself. Move and make your opponent come to you; make him play by your rules, blend into his attack and send him flying.

This can be applied to Red Teaming, planning, working, studying and pretty much each aspect of our lives. If the problem seems too big to find a solution, just move around the problem; look at it from all sides. Make the problem work the solution for you. Be flexible, be fluid and think outside the box.

If a plan is failing once it reaches the real world, don’t try to change it by forcing a half-baked alternative. You can’t always control the environment, however you can control how you can react to the environment or the reality you find yourself in. Move yourself to a position where you can make a difference.

Remain flexible and nimble. Think in small team terms and train for the unknown, because that’s what lies in the real world.


The Solution is in the Problem

A problem is often the result of poor planning or foresight. In most cases, you can find the solution to the problem within itself. However, you need to look at the problem from all sides in order to do this. Look at the problem as if it was a hollow cube.

Make the problem work the solution for you. See Principle 3.

If It’s Stupid but Works, It isn’t Stupid

The simplest solution is always the best. A solution that sounds stupid but works, ceases to be stupid.

Always try to find the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) solution. Have the team, friends, families or even strangers give you their opinions. Listen to them even if they might sound stupid. Some opinions might be, but there you can find the simplicity of it.

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: U. Fridman is a senior information security consultant that specializes in detection of information security threats and response to security incidents. His background includes extensive experience in red team activities and management, information warfare, counter cyber-terrorism, industrial espionage, forensics analysis and other security services.

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