What is Honeypot?

If you’ve wondered how ethical hackers are continually trying to catch the black hats from making your life miserable, one way is something known as a honeypot. Also, the security countermeasures that you might take to protect your system or network, diverting attackers away from your device, honeypots do the exact opposite, which is why they attract the bad guys.

A honeypot is a computer system that is used to lure in cybercriminals and learn their ways of how they exploit systems or networks. It can be used to detect and deflect attacks from a legit target.

You might not be aware of them but, honey honeypots have been around for quite some time now. The concept behind a honeypot attack is to not go after the bad guys but to lure them into your network. Prepare something that would attract hackers to trace you, and in this case, a honeypot is that specified thing that will lead the bad guys into.

Cybercriminals are always looking out for honeypots because it attracts them in launching an attack though, it would be a simulated computer system that he might not be aware of. The bait includes all computer system applications and data for the hacker to use and the white hat to learn about its operational ways.

Definition of Honeypot

A honeypot is simple words is a trap utilized by many cybersecurity specialists as a way to let in hackers into your system that provides a way to gather intelligence. It’s one of the oldest security measures adopted by these cybersecurity experts in IT. However, the use of honeypots can sometimes backfire since you are luring hackers in your system, and can be a dangerous puzzle to look out for.

A honeypot will be intentionally filled with vulnerabilities that crave attackers from accessing the system into thinking that the system is genuine to exploit payloads and malicious scripts. A honeypot won’t contain legitimate traffic on your network since that’s what will enable you to see what’s happening inside the traffic when you are not the one to be using it.

Honeypots act as a legitimate monitoring platform to monitor the attacker’s activity and prepare for countermeasures to tighten network security.

How do Honeypots Work?

If you, for example, In charge of your organization’s network security, you would likely want to set up a honeypot network that projects itself as a real one in front of attackers, to allow hackers to access it. Then you would want to know how these hackers operate, their source of origin, and what do they want. This will enable you to tighten your security layers and identify what security gaps need to be filled to close all access to hackers.

Types of Honeypots

Honeypots are categorized under two schemes: one is based on how they are made, and the other is what they are for. Now let’s take a look at the honeypot definition and honeypot security types on how they can be implemented

  • A pure honeypot is any physical server configured in a way to make it look realistic for attackers to lure them in. A special monitoring software checks the connection between the honeypot and the established network connection. Since these are full-fledged networks, they make it seem genuine to attackers, but sometimes honeypots might backfire to the original operators and use it to stage server for attacks. They require a lot of manual labor to set up and manage.
  • A high interaction honeypot uses virtual machines and has the responsibility to isolate compromised systems in a sandbox, not to allow hackers to crawl up the sleeve any further. Multiple virtual honeypots can be staged on a single physical server. This makes it easier to create numerous honeypots and to keep compromised systems aside and shut them down and restart them to their original state. However, each virtual machine is a full-time working server, with all driven costs.
  • A low interaction honeypot, run only a few limited services that represent the most common attacks, or attack vectors that the operators building the honeypot are interested in. This type of honeypot is easier to develop and maintain moreover, making it look fake to the attackers out there.

Another way to distinguish honeypots is through the intentions of who built them: there are research honeypots and production honeypots. There is some difference between the two types of what are honeypots are stated in the section below. Learn about production systems and production honeypots.

Examples of Honeypots and their Benefits

In the year 2015, Norton’s parent company had configured a honeypot to attract attackers on the internet of things. These are interconnected devices, such as TVs, Routers, Lights, and many other devices. Symantec’s honeypot had worked successfully. Well after the attack there were some statistics gathered after the attack and the firm was able to learn a lot from their gathered data including these things

  • Countries from which the attacks originated were identified with the top-most being Russia, China, Germany and some others as well
  • Attempted passwords- “admin” was number one, and “123456” was the last one used
  • Identified the need to create a baseline for their IoT devices- making them less vulnerable to an attack

Another example was that Honeypots were set up at railway stations as bait. The primary objective was to find out how cybercriminals would attack in open public areas. The only drawback to this research was a model train that had been set up at a German tech conference, where that train faced 2.7 million attacks.

What is at Stake for Setting up Honeypot Traps?

Stealing personal information from an intended target is just one thing. Beyond IoT devices, researchers have used honeypots for identifying vulnerabilities in systems such as medical devices. Train stations, electrical power grids, and many other areas. Giving the bad guys all the ways for them to access these honeypot traps, it’s good to know that operators can learn a lot from these black hat hackers who are continually trying to infiltrate systems and networks, can help fight against cybercrime altogether.

As more and more devices get interconnected, the importance of those bad guys who use the internet as a weapon will only rise, and honeypots would then prove to be advantageous in those situations.

Ather Owais Ather Owais is a tech and cybersecurity enthusiast. He is a strong advocate for online privacy and security, following technological trends and their impact on today's digital era.

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