What Is a Honeypot? Discover How This Tool Protects Your Business from Hackers

Vladislav Podolyako
Jul 07, 2022
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It's no secret that large companies are desired targets for cyber criminals. To protect yourself from their attacks, you need to be well aware of how hackers operate and their methods, which change and improve along with other tools for the protection. And honeypot cyber security is aimed at effectively combating these attacks.

You may have heard about this word before and wondered what a honeypot is, what it means, and how it helps protect your computer. These cyber systems and processes are designed to collect information about the behavior and the ways of threats. Their main purpose is to draw the attention of attackers and deter malicious activities to infiltrate a network or search for valuable assets. Such special so-called traps make it impossible to detect real network resources. Real or simulated systems and processes are set up to be mistaken for real, only with vulnerabilities.

In computer security terms ๐Ÿ’ป, a cyber honeypot works in a similar way, baiting a trap for hackers. Traps are a common method and tool for detecting rogue threat sources. In this article, we will talk about the traps for hackers and the role of this tool in honeypot security.

What is a honeypot? Learn the definition of this term

Along with the honeypot, you might also hear the term honey trap. These phrases both come from the world of spying. Let's immerse ourselves a little into history to know what a honeypot is. The spies started a romantic relationship with men in order to find out secret information from them. Often, compromised enemy agents were blackmailed, and they revealed everything they knew.

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In the computer world, honeypot cyber security refers to traps for hackers. These are systems that attract criminals into a trap. Hackers attack the trick, and a honeypot company uses this to gather all the possible information about the batch methods or distract them from other targets.

The purpose of honeypot cyber security is to draw attacks or unauthorized research. Such a tool allows you to analyze the attacker's plan and find out how strikes can be made on real-life security objects.

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The trick is modeled in such a way as to look as realistic as possible. Today, honeypot cyber security is one of the most effective threat detection tools. The purpose of the system is to gather all the information about the criminals' methods and timely inform IT departments about the start of an attack. Since honeypot security exists separately from the real infrastructure, any interaction with it means a targeted cyber attack. In turn, this allows a honeypot company to quickly take action against an intruder, provide more reliable protection against vulnerabilities in the infrastructure and avoid real attacks.

Saying in other words what a honeypot is, it is a resource (program or appliance) that attracts the attention of hackers with its relative insecurity. It also contains information that is interesting to attackers, such as passwords for user accounts or a way to connect to a company's network infrastructure. ๐Ÿ” Honeypot cyber security is a passive method of protecting corporate infrastructure because it does not prevent attacks by criminals and does not stop real penetration in any way. Its goal is to collect data on the methods used by hackers to attack and signal the information security departments that certain areas of information safety need to be urgently strengthened in order to avoid attacks that are already real.

Back in 2018, Kaspersky Lab launched a system that numbered 50 honeypots in order to analyze malicious attacks. In an hour, the internal network of traps recorded about 80 thousand infected sessions. In addition to regular honeypots software that listens on specific ports, they also created a multi-port honeypot called an uberpot. The idea is simple: it listens on all TCP and UDP ports, accepts connections, and logs the received data and metainformation.

Which common types of honeypot cyber security exist?

There are three common types of honeypot cyber security:

  • The one with a low level of interaction. In this case, an attacker or attacking system mistakes it for a real vulnerable system and installs the payload.
  • Those ones of the middle level of interaction also simulate vulnerable systems, but they are more functional than the simplest traps.
  • The ones with a high level of interaction. These are real systems that require additional steps on the part of the administrator to limit malicious activity and avoid compromising other systems.
  • A pure honeypot refers to a full-scale system running on various servers. It completely mimics the production system. Within a pure honeypot is data made to look confidential, as well as “sensitive” user information, which have a number of sensors used to track and observe attacker activity.

What are traps and how do they work with honeypot cyber security?

Different types of traps in honeypot security are used to detect different threats. Their properties depend on the threat for which they are created. For example, spam honeypots are designed to attract spammers by using open proxies and mail relays. It completely mimics the production system. Each trap has a role to play in a comprehensive and effective honeypot security strategy. ๐Ÿ‘‡

  1. Mail trap, or Spam trap, places a mock email address in a well-hidden location where only an automated email harvester can find it. Given the purpose of such an address, you can be 100% sure that any incoming fake email address through it is spam. All messages that look trapped can be blocked immediately, and the sender's address can be blacklisted.
  2. Decoy databases. The cybersecurity team sends out deception virtual machines, and decoys across the data center, campus, or cloud that appear to be genuine assets. Decoy databases are used to monitor software vulnerabilities and detect attacks that use untrusted systems architecture.
  3. Software trap mimics applications and APIs to encourage malware attacks. Attackers are analyzed to develop protection or eliminate vulnerabilities in the API.
  4. The spider honeypot traps web crawlers. It creates web pages and links that are only available to them. With its help, they learn to block malicious bots and advertising search robots.

By analyzing incoming malicious traffic, you can:

  • find out the whereabouts of criminals;
  • assess the degree of threat;
  • study the methods of intruders;
  • find out what data or applications they are interested in;
  • evaluate the effectiveness of the measures used to protect against cyber attacks.

Cyber traps are also divided into highly interactive and low interactive. Low interaction honeypots use fewer resources and gather only basic data concerning the level and type of threat and its source. But such a trap will not keep the hacker for long โŒ›๏ธ and will not allow for a detailed study of his habits or complex threats.

At the same time, high interaction honeypot makes attackers spend a lot of time, which means they allow you to collect a lot of data about their goals and intentions, methods of work, and vulnerabilities they exploit. Thus, criminals get bogged down in databases, production systems, and processes for a long time. At this time, people who research honeypots can track exactly where in the system the attacker is looking for private information, what tools he uses to increase the level of access, and what exploits he uses to compromise the system.

However, high interaction honeypots consume a lot of resources, and their installation and monitoring require a lot of effort and time.

Each of these two types of traps has its own purpose: the low-interactive one provides basic information about threats, while the highly interactive one adds information about the purposes and methods of criminals, as well as the vulnerabilities they exploit.

How does a honeypot server work?

Now, when you know what is a honeypot and which types of it exist we can move further. 

Honeypot network security is designed to lure attackers into fake network environments to:

  • See what they want
  • How they go about trying to meet their objectives
  • Learn how to stop them

A honeypot is used by companies to mimic a system with applications and data, and criminals mistake it for the real thing. For example, honeypot cyber security can mimic a billing system for a company's customers. This is a popular target for criminals who want to get their hands on credit card numbers. Trapped in a computer system hackers can be observed in order to study their behavior to create more effective ways to protect real systems.

To make traps more attractive to attackers, they are deliberately made vulnerable. For example, they use ports that can be detected by scanning, or weak passwords. Vulnerable ports are often left open: this increases the chances that the trick will work and the attacker will be distracted from the protected real networks.

โ—๏ธ The trap is not an antivirus. It does not help solve specific security problems. It is rather a deception technology that helps to study existing and identify new threats. In addition, the creation of personalized traps that mimic the environment of companies will more effectively lure hackers. For example, you can try to place a fake active directory. The system works when the intruder has overcome all perimeter defenses. The trap provides companies with early warning and allows them to investigate all the possible methods of hackers. After all, understanding who wants to attack you will help you better defend yourself. Interacting traps that mimic a real network create an entire trap system that is configured to monitor and record all data.

Discover the benefits of traps

Cyber traps are a great way to find vulnerabilities in important systems. For example, a trap can not only demonstrate how dangerous attacks are but also suggest how protection can be strengthened.

There are several reasons to use traps instead of trying to detect attacks on the real system.

  1. There can be no legitimate activity in a trap- any recorded actions are most likely intrusion attempts to probe the system or hack it.
  2. You can easily detect patterns (like IP addresses that are similar or come from the same country) that indicate exploring the Web. The big advantage of traps is that you are unlikely to capture anything other than malicious servers, which makes it much easier to detect an attack.
  3. In addition, cyber traps consume very little resources and traffic. They do not need powerful equipment- old, useless computers are suitable for setting up a trap. As for software, you can find ready-made traps so as not to waste the time and effort of employees on creating and launching them.
  4. Also, cyber traps give a minimum of false positives. This helps to focus efforts on important issues and not waste resources.
  5. A honeypot gives you information to help prioritize your cybersecurity efforts.
  6. By using cyber honeypot to create a threat intelligence framework, a business can ensure that it's targeting its cybersecurity spend at the right places and can see where it has security weak points.
  7. Honeypot helps in testing the incident response processes.

Here are some other advantages:

  • Traps have a simple principle of operation. When any activity is detected in the decoy systems, it is necessary to track what is happening and respond to these actions properly, since they are usually configured in such a way that a random user cannot get into a highly interactive system;
  • Traps can work with encrypted traffic;
  • Traps do not require large computing power, so almost any outdated embedded device can be used to host them.

Learn the disadvantages of traps

๐Ÿ‘‰ Here are some cons of honeypot cyber security:

  1. Although traps help improve cyber security measures, they only capture activity that is targeted at them. At the same time, attackers may target not a trap, but a real system. Therefore, it is important to follow the news of IT security, not relying only on a trap.
  2. A good, properly configured trap will make a hacker think he has gained access to a real system. Everything will be in it, as in life: the same login warnings and data entry windows, the same design, and logos. However, if an attacker realizes that this is a fake, he will not touch it but will attack your other systems.
  3. After recognizing a trap, a criminal can perform a feint attack to divert attention from the real exploit targeting your systems. It can also provide incorrect data to the trap.
  4. Worse yet, a smart cyber criminal can use a trap to break into your infrastructure.
  5. Honeypots can’t replace security controls, such as firewalls and other intrusion detection systems. Since a honeypot could serve as a launch pad for further intrusion, ensure all honeypots are well secured.

Overall, the benefits of the honeypot system far outweigh the risks. The criminals are often perceived as a distant and invisible threat. With the help of a trap, you will see their actions in real-time and will be able to use the collected information against them.

HoneyNet large-scale monitoring system

Honeypot cyber security system can be expanded into an entire structure that consists of several systems in the corporate network. Such a deployed system is called a honeynet.

A honeynet allows you to configure several types of honeypots software with different configurations and vulnerabilities. Usually with the help of a centralized toolkit for monitoring all honeypot traps in the network.

Typically, a honeynet is a virtual network with virtual services and applications that look like a real network to an attacker. And such a system is especially useful for large-scale monitoring of malware honeypot activity, due to the use of various operating systems and vulnerabilities.

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Why do we recommend using this technology taking into account honeypot reviews?

Now, when cyber attacks are growing faster and faster, it is really important that companies remain always alert ๐Ÿšจ. Deception software will let you know about the types of cyber attacks that hackers use before the company is hit by an actual attack. A well-thought-out system of early detection of violations will not allow external intruders and internal threats. And advance notification of malicious activity will allow system administrators to take immediate action before harmful consequences occur.

With the right system, a honeypot company will develop synthetic fake environments to deceive attackers to reveal details of the tactics and methods that hackers use to infiltrate a network. With this information you will be able to:

  • strengthen protection at different levels with the help of honeypots security;
  • improve the reliability of information assets using honeypots security;
  • improve the efficiency of sorting and searching for threats due to honeypots security.

Find out some honeypot reviews before making the final decision

According to honeypot reviews of people who have already tried this tool, all of them agree that this is a good security measure and research tool both for small and big industries. And in client honeypots opinion, this security system is very difficult to penetrate. But if the attacker knows about such a system or passes it, then the whole cyber security efforts are meaningless. And this fact should be considered to develop honeypot cyber security in such a way that the attacker will definitely believe that it is the original system, not a trap. 

However, the focus should be on making honeypot cyber security more simple and easy to deploy because people who have almost no knowledge in this sphere can't access and use them. What's more, the persistent attackers keep on developing their skills. That is why we need to constantly research honeypots, and development needs to be performed in order to always keep the devices and servers safe.

Compared to other detection systems, these ones do not generate incorrect alerts or log files like others because no productive components are running on the system. There is no need to manage a database of intrusion signatures or definitions as the trap system logs every byte that flows through the network. This data helps a researcher to draw a full picture of an attacker. Traps definitely have their advantages and disadvantages. But they are clearly a useful tool ๐Ÿ’ช for trapping attackers, capturing information, and generating alerts when someone is interacting with them. The activities of attackers provide valuable information for analyzing their attacking techniques and methods. And because the traps only capture and archive data and requests coming into them, they do not add a burden to existing network bandwidth.

Final words

Given the growth of work via the Internet, the level of cyber crime is also constantly growing. That is why it is important to know what is a honeypot. It can help protect your business from cyber attacks.

The threat intelligence system using cyber traps will help your honeypot company identify vulnerabilities in the information systems.

In addition, honeypot cyber security will provide a detailed view of threat evolution, while spam traps will provide insight into spammers. While criminals are constantly developing their methods, the production honeypots will help you to find new threats and intrusions. Properly using traps, you can eliminate the blind spots of the cyber security system.

Honeypot cyber security is also a great simulator that people use. The security teams can safely study the methods of criminals and various types of threats in a controlled environment. At the same time, they can fully focus on attacks without being distracted by real traffic.

What's more, honeypot cyber security will help to cope with internal threats. Most organizations are engaged in protecting the perimeter from outside intrusions. But the production honeypots will not only provide valuable information about internal threats but also show vulnerabilities.

To sum up, by setting honeypot security, you will help the users. The longer the hackers are busy with the bait, the less time they have to break into real systems and the less damage they will do to you and your business.

Vladislav Podolyako
Vladislav Podolyako
Founder & CEO
Vladโ€™s decades of entrepreneurial wisdom and business building experience have allowed him to successfully mentor a diverse group of business owners, entrepreneurs in growing their companies. A recognized expert in the areas of transforming organizational culture and leadership development, B2B Sales, Marketing, spent more than 10 years building technology products, with a background in communication networks and electronic device engineering.

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