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A CRTL Review

A Certified Red Team Lead (CRTL) Review

By Andres Roldan | November 25, 2022 | Category: Opinions

A few months ago (August 18 to be precise), @Rastamouse's Zero-Point Security released the course Red Team Ops II, or RTO-2 for short:

RTO-2 announcement

RTO-2 is mean to be a follow-up of the RTO course, focusing on advanced OPSEC tactics, including bypassing of modern enterprise Windows endpoint controls.

In this post, I will take an overview of the course contents and will relate my experience on the exam that gave me the title of Certified Red Team Lead.

Red Team Ops II

Early this year, I took and completed the RTO course and associated CRTO exam from which I gave a talk (in Spanish) on how to pass it.

RTO focused on how to perform Red Team operations on a multi-forest AD environment using Cobalt Strike.

OPSEC (Operations Security) notes and tips are given throughout the course but the main focus is not that. RTO-2 was born to compliment RTO on the OPSEC realm.

Currently RTO-2 course is divided on 7 chapters:

  1. C2 Infrastructure
  2. Windows APIs
  3. Process Injection
  4. Defense Evasion
  5. Attack Surface Reduction
  6. Windows Defender Application Control
  7. EDR Evasion

The chapter C2 Infrastructure presents a way to have a versatile, resilient and secure C2 architecture, including the use of redirectors, custom Apache redirect rules to avoid detection of the C2 infrastructure, SSL certificates for Beacon and strategies for beaconing failover. This is very useful for real engagements on mature corporate environments which a Red Team operator should be aware of.

The chapters Windows APIs and Process Injection are both heavily focused on offensive tooling development. First, there's an overview of commonly used Windows APIs used for offensive purposes, how can those functions be called from C++ and how to make use of unmanaged APIs from managed languages like C# and VBA by the use of P/Invoke and D/Invoke. Then in the Process Injection chapter those capabilities are used to inject code on processes using a wide range of techniques, from injecting arbitrary code in the current process, to injecting code in a remote process, or using undocumented functions on ntdll.dll to create a new executable section on a running process and inject the shellcode on it, and even creating a new suspended benign process, queue an Asynchronous Procedure Call with the desired shellcode and dispatch it on a new thread. A couple of fun chapters.

The chapter Defense Evasion explains capabilities used for endpoint controls to detect anomalous behavior and the way to bypass them. Cobalt Strike provides some interesting OPSEC features out-of-box, like PPID spoofing, command line spoofing, avoiding RWX sections, at-rest Beacon memory encryption and thread stack spoofing. There is also mention of what is and how to bypass Event Tracing for Windows (ETW), which is a Windows mechanism that is used to give EDRs feedback on events dispatched from user-mode, without the need of API hooking.

The next chapter describes Attack Surface Reduction which is composed of a set of rules that can be enforced by a GPO to prevent common techniques used by attackers. The rules include blocking API calls from Office macros, creating child processes from Office applications, block processes originating from PSExec and WMI and block credential stealing from the LSASS process (which is a complement to mitigations like PPL and Credential Guard). Those rules can be used together, providing a defense-in-depth protection. However, those rules are based mainly on blacklists and the chapter describe ways of bypassing some of them.

Then comes the chapter Windows Defender Application Control or WDAC, which allows to specify what applications can be run on a machine, based on things like its path, digital signature and file hash. As this is a security boundary, WDAC bypasses are actually fixed by Microsoft. However, misconfigurations can allow an attacker to circumvent the control to gain further access to the machine and this chapter teach us a way to find common scenarios which can be abused.

And finally, the chapter EDR evasion provides an overview of how modern EDRs work and some bypasses, including API unhooking, indirect syscalls and unregistering kernel callbacks. A fun chapter which even includes kernel-mode exploits to bypass EDR controls.

As you see, the course contents is very technical and there are a lot less videos than on the RTO course as it is assumed certain level of knowledge to pass it through. However, it is an absolutely valuable material, giving the fact that you have lifetime access to the course and related updates to its contents.


The RTO-2 course comes with an companion lab in Cyber Ranges (formerly Snaplabs), with 40 hours of lab access. In the lab, you can practice everything that's presented on the written material and it's composed of several machines with different configurations:

  • 2 Attacking machines
  • 2 Redirectors
  • 1 DC
  • 1 CA
  • 3 Workstations


After I was enrolled on RTO-2, it took me about three weeks to complete the material twice (yes, twice) because there was a lot of new concepts for me to digest.

I then scheduled the exam to start on November 21 at 9am.

For the exam, you are given with 72 hours or five days (whatever happens first) to obtain four flags on a given set of machines in an AD environment. Unlike CRTO (which you need 6 out of 8 flags to pass), you must collect all the flags to pass the exam.

You must enter the flags in a scoring system provided with the exam which checks the value and give the points. In the end, it took me around 11 hours to complete the exam:

Time spent


Exam tips

Here are some of the things that helped me to complete the exam:

  1. Follow the indications given on the course and practice them in the lab. Just reading will not give you the required skills to complete the exam (at least for me).
  2. There are things that are not covered in the course material. You need to be comfortable on using tools like Visual Studio Community, not only for compiling tools but also for debugging them.
  3. Practicing C# development is suggested and understanding how a C# assembly works is also a plus.
  4. Although RTO-2 is based on defense evasion and advanced OPSEC tactics, you must be comfortable with things like AD enumeration, pivoting, lateral movement, user impersonation, Kerberos attacks, etc, and experience using Cobalt Strike. RTO course will give you that.
  5. Technically speaking, you are not strictly required to use Cobalt Strike for everything in the exam, but you must know how to use other tools that may fulfill the same needs.
  6. There are some exercises proposed in the course. I suggest to complete them as it would give you confidence when dealing with unexpected requirements during the exam.
  7. And last but not least, enumeration and reconnaissance are the key to know to what kind of beast are you dealing with.

Exam results

I'm writing this article on Nov 23, just two days after finishing the exam. I must wait until the next friday to obtain the certification. I will update this section once I have it!


Red Team Ops II is a very nice course dealing with modern controls on mature enterprise infrastructures. It will also prepare you to win in engagements with restricted environments.

The exam is fun (s/fun/HARD AS HELL/g) but I think that the 72 hours/5 days given are enough to pass all the stages from rage, sadness, stress and finally joy.

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