Red Teaming? A Lesson From Mumbai

A recent article in Henley Putnam’s Journal of Strategic Studies describes how the Pakistani based terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) exploited four gaps and seams in order to be successful in perpetrating attacks in Mumbai in November of 2008.  The author, Andrea Dew a professor at the Naval War College, suggests that the four points of exploitation were:

  • Environmental and geographic factors
  • Institutional, bureaucratic and jurisdictional seams and gaps between agencies
  • Cognitive seams and gaps that made use of the sea by armed groups difficult to conceptualize
  • Diplomatic seams and gaps that led to heightened tensions among India, Pakistan and the United States.

Looking at Dew’s framework it is easy to see how the gaps and seams might be exploited in a plethora of other scenarios involving private industry, CIKR, and law enforcement.  However knowing about points of exploitation and working to eliminate them are two very different things.  Enter the RED TEAM.

While red teaming is traditionally thought of a DOD activity, there is evidence that the concept of having an adversary (red team) attempt something (an attack or security breach)  in order to test the response of a blue team occurs in domestic spheres as well.  Regardless of the origins of red teaming, it is an activity that every security specialist, supervisor and CEO should be aware of because it enables organizations and teams an opportunity to test their responses to threats.  Red teams can help expose weaknesses in physical security, established (but untested) protocol, information sharing and other standard operating procedures.

The guys of the Red Team Journal put it best, “red teaming is the art of challenging assumptions and exploring the possible”.

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