Introduction To Black Teaming Exercises

Introduction To Black Teaming Exercises

From startups to enterprises, organizations of all sizes require a structured approach to secure their IT infrastructure. An adequate level of security is quintessential for protection against a plethora of threats that are likely to disrupt business operations. A comprehensive security program involves a wide range of controls, ranging from access control to safeguarding the restricted areas. In this article, we discuss black teaming which focusses on the physical aspects of security. Though it incorporates red teaming techniques, it aims to find loopholes in physical security controls implemented by an organization. At times, it is also referred to as a physical penetration test.


LIFARS is an industry leader that develops proactive strategies and tactics against evolving cybersecurity threats. Our services such as comprehensive gap assessment, red-teaming, penetration testing, threat hunting and vulnerability assessment reveal a company’s vulnerabilities.


What is Black Teaming?

Modern-day organizations must be proactive about their cybersecurity. The proactiveness is a primary reason for substantial investment in access control level and monitoring through guards and alarms. Black teaming is an approach to security testing that aims to identify the gaps in these safety measures. It also strives to bridge the gaps and ensure that these safeguards work effectively. A black teaming exercise involves assessing security vulnerabilities from a hacker’s perspective. It empowers the organizations to imbibe their weaknesses and strengthen their safety mechanisms. Like other security testing exercises such as red teaming, it helps organizations fix their vulnerabilities before an attacker exploits them.

Conducting a Black Teaming Exercise (or physical penetration test)


1. Scope

The scope of a black teaming exercise depends on size, category, and location of a business. There can be multiple possibilities when it comes to conducting a black teaming exercise. For example, organizations involved in research and development face a high degree of risk from physical security attacks. Such organizations implement a frontward strategy to minimize the associated risks. For such organizations, a black teaming exercise will include setting up honey traps and gathering open-source intelligence using OSINT tools. A thorough background check and due diligence will be mandatory for all the employees.

On the other hand, for small or medium-scale organizations with limited security budget, the exercise will focus on entry and exit points and physical locations that are crucial to their business operations.

2. Information Gathering

Black teaming exercises usually start with open-source intelligence gathering to prepare the organization’s profile and its public presence. Other collated information includes physical location, parking area, local amenities, transportation options, etc. OSINT can also help identify individuals who work for an organization, their position in the hierarchy, and the domain that they operate in. Beyond this, it may be possible in many cases that a black team can draw the entire organizational hierarchy based on the information available in the public domain.

3. Social Engineering Attacks & Security Testing

After gathering information, the black team will conduct a series of social engineering attacks. The objective behind these attacks can be to discover additional information about daily operations and procedures. For example, vishing calls can be made to employees to trick them into sharing organization-specific information. After this, the black team will attempt to infiltrate into the organization’s network, just like attackers would. Depending on the agreed scope between an organization and the black team, phishing attacks may also be carried at this stage. For modern-day enterprises, a typical exercise of this kind involves vulnerability assessments and penetration tests network, applications, mobile devices, cloud infrastructure, etc.

4. Physical Security Testing

Once the black team starts with the physical part of this exercise, they consider various health and safety measures employed in the building. They utilize information gathered about entry and exit points in the first phase to prepare a plan for their attack. In this stage, a black team’s objective is to gain physical access to the organization’s facility either secretly or under a disguise by bypassing the implemented physical security measures. When multiple members of a black team can enter the premises, they may distribute responsibilities among themselves to conduct their attacks simultaneously to analyze the organization’s preparedness to respond to physical security breaches. Our clients have specifically asked for covert method of entry (CME) exercises in some black teaming engagements.

Benefits and Future

It is often iterated that human beings are the weakest link in the cybersecurity ecosystem. However, the physical aspects of security are ignored altogether. Physical security of an organization’s IT infrastructure is as important as its technical security and staff awareness. A black teaming exercise, just like any other security testing exercise, concludes with the report presentation and suggestions. Black teaming exercises go beyond the general idea of security testing to account for time and efforts that the attackers would invest in their attacks. As a result, an ideal black teaming exercise should explain every possible attack vector to give detailed insights into the efficiency of an organization’s physical security controls.