Request a demo

What is a Live-Fire Exercise?

A type of cybersecurity exercise known as a live-fire exercise (LFX) is a controlled, real-world simulation of a cyber attack where an organization's cybersecurity team actively responds to a simulated threat. This practice allows teams to assess their preparedness, identify weaknesses, and improve their response capabilities. By simulating a real cyberattack, teams can evaluate their defenses and tactics, learn from their mistakes, and refine their strategies.

Teams > Technology

During an LFX, cybersecurity teams must work together to identify the source of the attack, mitigate the damage, and prevent future attacks. This exercise tests not only the technical skills of the cybersecurity team but also their ability to collaborate and communicate effectively during a crisis. The team's performance, the technology response, and the collaboration skills are all tracked, recorded, and analyzed to drive your continuous security improvement program.

What Are The 5 Different Types of Cyber Live-Fire Exercises?

LFXs are the perfect way to measure and improve your security operations center (SOC) teams and tools versus real-world threats using realistic simulations in an isolated, consequence-free environment — without exposing production systems. Here is an overview of the most common LFXs.

1. Red vs. Blue (Manual and Automated)

A Red vs. Blue team cyber event is a type of cybersecurity exercise that simulates real-world cyber threats by pitting two teams against each other — the Red and Blue teams. There are manual and automated versions of these events. The main objective of this exercise is to evaluate the organization's security posture and improve the skills of both teams. In a Red vs. Blue Team event:

  • The Red Team, often consisting of ethical hackers or penetration testers, acts as attackers. They aim to find vulnerabilities and exploit them to compromise the organization's systems, networks, or applications.
  • The Blue Team is responsible for defending the organization's assets against the simulated attacks conducted by the Red Team. They focus on detecting, preventing, and mitigating threats.

2. Red/Blue/Purple Team Events

Red, Blue, and Purple Teams are part of the cybersecurity ecosystem, with each playing a unique role in assessing and enhancing an organization's security posture. A Red vs. Blue Team cyber event focuses on simulating real-world cyber threats by having the Red Team attack and the defending Blue Team. In contrast, a Red/Blue/Purple Team event adds the element of collaboration and knowledge sharing between the teams through the involvement of the Purple Team. Purple Teams actively participate in the exercises or simulations to identify vulnerabilities, test defenses, and improve overall security.

  • The Red Team comprises skilled, ethical hackers or penetration testers who simulate real-world cyber attacks against an organization's defenses. Their primary goal is to identify vulnerabilities and security weaknesses by trying to compromise systems, networks, and applications. They often use the same tactics, techniques, and procedures as real cybercriminals, which enables them to assess an organization's security posture from an attacker's perspective.
  • The Blue Team defends an organization's assets and systems against cyber attacks. They work to detect, prevent, and mitigate the attacks conducted by the Red Team during simulations or exercises. Blue Teams are typically composed of security analysts, incident responders, and IT administrators who are responsible for maintaining the organization's cybersecurity measures.
  • The Purple Team is a collaborative effort between the Red and Blue Teams, designed to maximize the effectiveness of both teams. They facilitate communication and knowledge sharing between the Red and Blue Teams, ensuring the organization learns from the simulated attacks and improving its security posture. Purple Team exercises often involve real-time feedback and adjustments, which enables both teams to learn and adapt more quickly.

3. Castle vs. Castle

Castle vs. Castle is a live-fire cybersecurity exercise involving two or more competing teams, usually Red and Blue Teams. This exercise aims to simulate a realistic cyber conflict between attackers and defenders. In a Castle vs. Castle exercise, the Red Team attempts to infiltrate and compromise the Blue Team's "castle" (i.e., their network and systems), while the Blue Team strives to detect and defend against the Red Team's attacks. This exercise helps both teams improve their skills and better understand the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by adversaries in real-world cyber conflicts.

4. Capture the Flag (CTF) Event

A Capture the Flag (CTF) event is a competition designed to help participants improve their cybersecurity skills by solving challenges in a controlled environment. In a CTF event, participants are presented with various security-related tasks or puzzles that they must solve to "capture the flag" (i.e., obtain a hidden piece of information, such as a flag or token). These events typically involve various cybersecurity disciplines, such as web application security, network security, reverse engineering, cryptography, and forensics.

5. Cybersecurity Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Event:

A man-in-the-middle (MITM) event refers to a type of cyber attack rather than a specific cybersecurity competition or exercise. In a man-in-the-middle attack, a malicious actor intercepts and potentially alters the communication between two parties who believe they are communicating directly with each other. The attacker can eavesdrop on the conversation, manipulate the transmitted data, or impersonate one of the parties to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. MITM attacks can target various communication channels, such as network traffic, email, or instant messaging.

Why Live-Fire Exercises are Critical 

SimSpace’s Cyber Force Platform delivers various cybersecurity LFXs that are crucial for preparing organizations to face the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats. By immersing cyber teams in high-fidelity simulations and turning up the heat with real-world cyberattacks, these exercises enable participants to gain hands-on experience, foster collaboration and communication, and enhance their overall security posture. As a result, organizations become better equipped to detect, prevent, and mitigate potential cyber threats, ensuring the safety of their networks, systems, and sensitive information.

If you’re ready to fully challenge your cybersecurity team’s capabilities against real-world threats, SimSpace is here to help. Enhance your cyber readiness and request a live fire exercise today

Blog byShaun Walsh
Shaun Walsh
Shaun Walsh
Shaun Walsh is the VP of Global Marketing at SimSpace. He has spent over 20 years in senior leadership positions for leading companies in the cybersecurity, cloud computing, AI and enterprise networking industries.