Article: Red Team Theory, Part I - Emotional Awareness

I sincerely appreciate all of the positive feedback that I have received for my last article.  I have decided to continue my work on this subject with a series of articles that I will release periodically.  These articles will focus on practical ways to implement the adversarial mindset to your daily life.  If you simply want to improve yourself or if you’re really adamant about becoming a “Red Teamer”, the information I will share in this series should prove useful.  This article, in particular, focuses on the importance of emotional awareness and more important, emotional availability.


Social Engineering

As the bad actor in an adversarial assessment you must explore all avenues of attack.  If you carefully examine past incidents involving security breaches, you’ll quickly learn that the human element of security is often the weakest.  The success of an attack is most often the result of human negligence.  So, for a moment, let’s put aside all of the technical skills that you and your group would need to be an effective red team.   Can you have and maintain a conversion with a stranger?  If you needed to extract information from your target without your expensive high-tech gadgetry, how would you do it?

There is a scene in The Bourne Identity that is often overlooked and actually used to bring levity to the story, but I feel it is most realistic scene in the entire film.  Bourne tasks Marie with gathering records from a hotel regarding a certain Mr. Kane.  He gives her an exhausting list of directions to follow once she enters the hotel.  As she walks inside, she sees a male front desk agent, he smiles at her.  Suddenly, the scene cuts to her meeting Bourne outside, records in hand.  Now, how do you think Marie was able to acquire those records without following Bourne’s direction?  Her feminine wiles?  Following Bourne’s questioning, she states she simply asked for them.  Don’t we all wish red teaming was that easy?  Marie tells Bourne that she told the desk agent she was Mr. Kane’s personal assistant.  Although, she provides a simple answer, the engagement was likely more complicated than that.  I believe she was able to tap into the most receptive part of the human person. 

Human emotion.  

A few days ago, I had an interesting conversation with my girlfriend.  She works in property management.  On top of her daily tasks, she is constantly fielding problems, dealing with vendors, addressing tenant complaints, and managing her employees.  During our conversation, she said, “Whenever you need something from someone, never demand it.  Saying, ‘please,’ won’t help you either.  Instead, put yourself in a position of the needy.  State your problem and ask for help.”  People that ask for help are automatically people you feel you can trust.  Why?  Because they are trusting you to help them.

People in need of help trigger something in human beings.  They trigger emotion, it can be sympathy, sadness, in some cases it can even be pride.  When you put yourself in a position of need, especially in this particular way, you put your target in a position of power.  It will make your target feel like they hold all of the cards.  Whether or not that is  true is irrelevant.  Although, you never really see Marie’s engagement with the hotel agent, I would like to think the encounter was more complex than the movie makes it out to be.

This method of social exploitation, by it’s very nature, runs contrary to what you would normally expect from an adversarial engagement.  The goal is to be noticed.  You want your target to focus on you.  However, it is also important to understand the culture of the environment in which you are going to work.  Some people are more willing to help a man wearing a Verizon shirt asking for a restroom than they would a panhandler.   Remember your ABCs.

Emotional Awareness

To be truly effective in a social engagement, emotional awareness is essential.  To be aware of others, you must learn to be emotionally available yourself.  All of our emotions are inherently good.  Although, some may be uncomfortable, they are still good.  They are primal tools, which inform us of ourselves and our surroundings.   In the information age, emotional insensitivity seems to be norm, not the exception.  This leaves us at a disadvantage.  If it takes you more than sixty seconds to identify what you’re feeling at any given moment, you probably have an issue.

If you think about how the human body responds to stimuli, your body reacts first, then your emotions, and finally your intellect.  All three are meant to compliment each other.  Once your body reacts, you are meant to feel, and then temper those emotions with your reason.  So, how do you begin to put this into practice?   Next time you read a book, have a glass of wine, or dinner with your significant other, ask yourself how it made you feel.   The emotions are there, you just have to start giving them their proper attention.

Once you gain a better understanding of your own emotional state, you can purposefully begin to engage others.  Years ago, when I realized I was a bit emotionally underdeveloped, I decided to make a dramatic career shift.   The work forced me to engage people on a daily basis.   I encountered numerous difficulties.  In spite of that, I had to remain proactive, and I had to challenge myself.  And after two years, I found that I had I changed and grown in ways I never thought possible. 

So, if you find yourself lacking in emotional awareness, you know have work to do.  Red Teaming is a multifaceted and multidisciplinary field.  This particular skill will eventually be applied to any large scale social or cultural intel gathering activities.  Challenge yourself, do not fear failure, and embrace your own suffering.  It is the man that can properly harness his emotional state and recognize the emotional state of others, that will find success in whatever he chooses to pursue.   So, do you still want to be a red teamer?

“There are some games you don't get to play unless you are all in.” - Jordan B. Peterson


Quote: What is the secret of our success?

What is the secret of our success?

Well, I think it had to do with a basic American’s Creed. Perhaps it never passed a pioneer’s lips in this form, but if it had I think he would have said something like this:

‘I believe in my God, in my Country and in Myself.’

I know that sounds like a trite too simple thing to say, and yet it’s a rare man today who will dare to stand up and say, ‘I believe in my God and my Country and in Myself.’ (And in that order.) When the early American pioneer first turned his eyes toward the west, there were only Indian trails or ‘traces’ as they were called, for him to foll’er through the wilderness. Do you know, today, you can roller skate from Miami to Seattle, from San Diego to Plymouth Rock? In this little bitty instant, as historical time is measured, our 7% of the Earth’s population has come to possess more than half of all the world’s good things.

How come?

Well sir, when that early pioneer turned his eyes toward the west, he didn’t demand that somebody else look after him. He didn’t demand a free education. He didn’t demand a guaranteed rocking chair at eventide. He didn’t demand that somebody else take care of him if he got ill or got old.  There was an old fashioned philosophy in those days, that a man was supposed to provide for his own and for his own future. He didn’t demand a maximum amount of money for a minimum amount of work. Nor did he expect pay for no work at all. Come to think of it, he didn’t demand anything. That hard-handed pioneer just looked out there at the rolling plains stretching away to the tall green mountains and then lifted his eyes to the blue skies and said:

‘Thank you God. Now, I can take it from here.’
— Paul Harvey

Article: The Theory of Red Teaming - A Call to Action

GW RT Article.jpg

Since March 2018, I have been following the Red Team Podcast.  It is a podcast and blog dedicated to the subject of red teaming.  Now, you’re probably asking, “What is a red team?”  The concept is rooted in military history.  If that is of interest, just google Red Cell. A Red Team is a group that assumes the role of adversary and challenges another group to test and improve the efficacy of its strategies and procedures.   As the adversary, a Red Team will attempt to attack and exploit their target by any viable means necessary.  Vectors of attack can be physical, digital, social, and even theoretical.  The intention is to highlight the vulnerabilities of a target and eventually work with the target to eliminate those vulnerabilities.  Sounds cool, right?

The Red Team Podcast, however, dives deeper into the subject of what true red teaming is and discusses the mindset required to be an effective “Red Teamer.”  Ironically, the more you listen to the podcast, the more you learn that red teaming is quite difficult to define.  It spans numerous subjects of thought and study.  By it’s very nature, it proves difficult to provide a short and concise definition that encompasses all of its elements.  However, with all of the information provided in the podcast, the hosts (Uri and Dan) constantly field two questions in particular.  Hopefully, I can provide an answer to both that will be easy for average folk to understand.

“What is Red Teaming?”

 Ultimately, Red Teaming is a call to action.

It is about figuring out what you don’t know about yourself, and acting on that information.  It’s about self improvement.

From a security standpoint, it’s knowing your adversary.  It is about knowing who the hostile actors might be and what they want from you.  It is knowing how they will exploit your weaknesses and impose on your vulnerabilities. 

It’s imperative to know two things.  First, who is the adversary?  It can be a competitor, it can be a malicious hacker, or an insider threat.  “Insider threat,” means your adversary is within your own group or organization.  It is also important to realize that an attack will come through any viable means necessary.  It can be a physical attack, a digital breach, or simply through social engineering.

So, to truly define your enemy, the best course of action is to have an independent party, a Red Team, complete an assessment of your organization.  This Red Team will assume the role of your adversary.  They will carefully observe your practices, define habits and a method of exploitation, and finally commit a real world attack.   Afterward, they will report any discovered vulnerabilities, they should help you to mend them and help create any proactive response protocols deemed necessary.

From a Red Teamer’s perspective, your method of attack should be unique to what is observed.  If you truly want to service your client, remaining unpredictable is key.

Now, to the dismay of Uri and Dan, this usually leads to the second question.

“How do I become a Red Teamer?”

The answer is simple, but may be difficult for some to accept.

Build resiliency.

Many seem enthralled with the “cool factor” of red teaming, without realizing what is actually required of them.  They undermine the fact that red teaming requires a very specific mindset to achieve the objective.  It is not about what exploits you know or your locking picking skills.  If you really want to know what it takes to be a Red Teamer, apply the methodology of red teaming to yourself. 

What don’t you know?   What are your weaknesses?  Be sure to account for personal bias.  Speak with trusted friends, ask them to comment on your personality traits and your habits.  What do you do when you encounter difficulties?  Do you panic?  Do you quit?

Test yourself.  Put yourself in uncomfortable situations and see what happens.  Is there a particular skill set in which you lack expertise?  Say you have the digital capability, are you fit enough to properly accomplish a physical assessment?  If not, what are you doing about it?  If you don’t have the discipline to better yourself, what makes you think you can provide such a service to someone else?

To be a Red Teamer, you must have the strength of mind and character to embrace your own suffering.  Once you can achieve that, then the answer to this question should be clear to you.

“Do not sleep under a roof. Carry no money or food. Go alone to places frightening to the common brand of men. Become a criminal of purpose. Be put in jail, and extricate yourself by your own wisdom.” - Miyamoto Musashi

Review: GORUCK MACV-1 (Ongoing)


I received my first pair last month and I was so excited to put these to work, I forgot to take initial photos of the boots out of the box.  So, these photos were taken after about 50 miles on the books. Feel free to click any of the photos to enlarge.

The MACV-1 pays homage to the beloved Vietnam era jungle boots used by the United States military.  GORUCK modernized the design for today’s challenges and produced a boot they state is tougher, lighter, and more supportive.  To develop the MACV-1, GORUCK teamed with Richard Rice, US Army 1966-94 5th Special Forces Group and Paul Litchfield, a true treasure in shoe business with 30 years experience.

The MACV-1 essentially features a four part construction.  The uppers, the midsole, the outsole, and the insert. Let’s start with the uppers.

The Uppers

The uppers are made of leather and 1000 D Cordura.  They also have a strip of 2-inch nylon webbing to provide ankle support.  The use of Cordura nylon reduces the amount of leather used.  This really helps to reduce the overall weight of the boot and increases its breathability.  In addition, it adds flexibility without compromising ankle support.  At the very top they added doubled over leather for comfort, greatly appreciated.

GORUCK’s spearhead logo is featured on the tongue.  The tongue is also made of Cordura nylon, and is wide enough to allow for easy accessibility. On to the midsoles.

The Midsole

The midsoles are made out of a lightweight foam called EVA.  In testing, GORUCK attempted to use an EVA only outsole, but it didn’t provide enough traction.  To remedy the issue, they added a shielding rubber outsole. Other boots of this kind will usually have a rubber only outsole making the boots incredibly heavily. The EVA saves the weight, and make these boots feel more like a sneakers than boots. To bond these materials together without sacrificing durability, they used an adhesive bond tested at upwards of 12.5 kg of applied force, far surpassing industry standards.  These boots will take a beating.  

Shortly after taking these photos, I used the boots to help a family member with some junk removal.  As we were taking apart a large piece of wooden furniture to fit inside a dumpster, it somehow managed to tip over and one of the edges struck the side of my foot.  While it left a nice bruise and a few deep scratches on the sole, the sole itself was not compromised whatsoever. We also happened to be loading this dumpster during some heavy rain…and these boots are NOT waterproof.

That’s a good thing. Just above the midsole, the MACV-1 features drain holes.  GORUCK is actually proud to state that these boots are not waterproof.  They added two shielded drain holes that expel water and moisture while also keeping debris out.  These boots are made for walking (cue Nancy Sinatra), LOTS of walking.  Your feet need to breathe. Waterproof lined boots will definitely keep the water out however, they will also serve to trap and collect any moisture inside the boot and keep it there.  During sustained hikes or rucks, water that comes in over the top, any sweat build up, or any moisture accumulation will wreak absolute havoc on your feet.  These drain holes will keep your feet dry, and also prevent odor build up.

The Outsole

As you can see above, the bottom of the rubber outsole features a unique hexagonal pattern, with a triangular sub-pattern. This design provides great traction. GoRuck’s spearhead logo is prominently displayed at the center of the sole. The amount of rubber used usually determines the weight of a shoe. So, fusing this with the EVA midsole was a brilliant move.

The Workhorse Insert

The insert is fairly thin, you’ll find the manufacture date, item information, and the logo on the bottom side of the insert. According to GORUCK, it uses dual layered compression foam and provides contoured arch support. It’s worth noting, they use a similar dual layer method in the straps of their rucksacks. One layer is standard, the other is significantly denser to provide greater support and comfort. This insert has done a great job so far, I still haven’t had any issues with hotspots or blisters.

Overall Opinion

The MACV-1 is true to size.  However, I forgot to account for foot swelling.  While in use, I have felt pressure at the toes during longer rucks.  So, I’ve ordered my next pair to be a half size larger.  Once my next order arrives, I’ll use these as daily beaters and see how they hold up. GORUCK claims these boots require no break-in time. I found that to be somewhat true. Initially, they were a little tight above the midfoot where the laces begin. However, they only took 3-4 uses to properly break in.

I’ve also found that these boots are a great for travel. The use of Cordura fabric allows them to collapse and compress in ways ordinary boots cannot. They won’t take up much more room in your pack or suitcase than a pair of regular shoes or sneakers.

Now, I’ve read many complaints regarding the MACV-1’s appearance.  We’re talking about GORUCK here.  GORUCK’s design principles have always prioritized function first.  Aesthetics have always been and should always be secondary.  Their design principles are meant to give what you need, not what you want or what you think you need.  If you’re looking for style or perhaps to impress your friends, stop complaining and go buy a pair of $500 Whites Boots. 

Although, I praise many features of the MACV-1, this is a first generation model. Ultimately, we have to see how they hold up over time. As of now, I’m very satisfied with my purchase. They are surprisingly light and comfortable. I’ll be sure to keep this review updated with any success and/or failures.

I’m training to complete GORUCK’s Star Course (50 miler), which will take place in New York next September. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use a pair of MACV-1 while I earn the patch.

GORUCK is now taking pre-orders for the MACV-1 in Coyote Tan.  They are scheduled to ship the week of 12/17/18.

If you have any questions about the MACV-1, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Thanks!

Quote: Who is “the Country”?

For in a republic, who is "the Country"? Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the Government is merely a servant--merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them. Who, then, is "the Country"? Is it the newspaper? is it the pulpit? is it the school superintendent? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it; they have not command, they have only their little share in the command. They are but one in the thousand; it is in the thousand that command is lodged; they must determine what is right and what is wrong; they must decide who is a patriot and who isn't.

Who are the thousand--that is to say, who are "the Country"? In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country--hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of.

- Mark Twain Glances at History (suppressed)

Review: MKII Paradive Gen 3 (FAT BAR)

The MKII Paradive Gen 3 (FAT BAR) is part of MKII’s Ready-to-Wear series of watches. In operation since 2002, MKII is a contemporary watch brand that references and reinterprets vintage military watch designs. The Paradive is a watch that pays homage to the renowned Benrus Type 1. The Benrus Type 1 & Type 2 were dive watches produced for US Special Forces and CIA operatives from the 1960’s to the 80’s, and proved to be hardwearing and capable timepieces. You can still find some examples of these watches on the market today, however, you’ll be hard pressed to find one in satisfactory condition. Given their history and limited number, these watches command a hefty price tag, often exceeding $2000.

The MKII Paradive is more than just a recreation of the timeless Benrus Type 1, it also improves upon its design. It has a larger 41.25mm bezel diameter, a double domed sapphire crystal with an anti reflective coating, SuperLumiNova BGW9, and it comes with a bead blasted 316L stainless steel casement. It has a Made in Japan SII NE15 movement. And, it comes with a screw down crown, with water resistance up to 200 meters. The “FAT BAR” designation simply means the watch accepts both 1.8mm and the heavier 2.5mm diameter spring bars. Like its predecessor, this watch is designed to take a beating. I’m very hard on my watches, so we’ll see how it holds up.

With its durability aside, what I love about this watch is the utter simplicity of it. For once, this is minimalism done right. Note the large white indices on the black dial, the plain and yet gorgeous bead blasted steel case, and the aluminum GMT bezel insert. You can also get the Paradive with an acrylic bezel, which would be truer to the original, however, I feel the aluminum bezel is far more appealing.

Although, I have only worn the watch for about a week, wearing it has been immensely satisfying. At first sight, the watch appears to be very large. However, the convex design slightly elevates the watch off the wrist, and it wears very comfortably. The crown guard also prevents the crown from pressing into your wrist which only adds to the comfort.

My watch was purchased at Worn & Wound’s WindUp Watch Fair. Luckily, I scored a deal, as my Paradive came with a tool kit, and both a rubber and nato strap included. However, the price tag of $895 is more than fair for what you get in the Paradive. Not only is it a beautiful timepiece, it comes with no shortage of history and I’ve found it to be a great conversation starter. Trust me, people will take notice. This is a watch I plan to keep in my collection, to live with and enjoy for years to come. I look forward to writing an additional review once I’ve worn it for some time.

At the fair, I also had the pleasure of trying on MKII’s new model, the Cruxible. If the Paradive doesn’t fit your style, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s modeled after the American A-11 tool watch of World War II. It’s a lovely timepiece.