What Is a Honeypot in Network Security?

Honeypot

Have you ever wondered if you could outsmart hackers and beat them at their own game? There is, and network security honeypots are the ideal bait. A security honeypot server is a tool that can be used to entice cybercriminals to target what they believe is the organization’s real network but is actually a ruse.

Honeypots in network protection are a way to trick attackers into putting time and effort into exploiting deliberate vulnerabilities while still alerting the internal security team. The details you get by using security honeypots to observe a live attack is much more accurate than what you get from other intrusion detection systems. It also aids in the prevention of cybercriminals targeting your legitimate targets.

We’ll answer questions like “what is a honeypot server?” in this post. “What are the various kinds of honeypots?” and “What are the different types of honeypots?” as well as discussing their advantages

Honeypot Explanation & Definition: How Does a Honeypot Work?

When we discuss security, we frequently discuss how to keep cybercriminals out of your network. Security experts do the exact opposite of honeypot traps. But, exactly, what is a honeypot? A honeypot is a decoy technology that is open or otherwise deliberately vulnerable and is used to divert cyber attacks away from vital IT systems. It accomplishes this by imitating those systems and providing fictitious files and data.

In addition, a honeypot is a computer device that allows IT security professionals to track and learn from cybercriminals’ attacks in real time. It basically aids organisations in detecting unauthorised device use or access. It also assists them in obtaining critical information about attackers and their methods of operation. All of this happens, of course, with the attacker completely unaware of what is going on. It may include a variety of elements, such as:

  • Network devices,
  • Keyloggers,
  • Monitoring tools,
  • Packet analyzers, and
  • Alerting tools.

What Honeypots Do

In a nutshell, honeypots support organisations in the following ways:

Assess the most recent trends in cyber-attacks, gain a better understanding of where cyber-attacks occur, and better frame security strategies to reduce potential risks.

This deception technology can be hardware-based (like an appliance) or software-based virtual honeypots that scale and can be set up to imitate a legitimate network.

How Honeypots Work

Honeypots are a way for companies and organisations to track, deflect, and combat cybercriminals seeking unauthorised access. Honeypot traps entice bad guys to attack these fictional networks, servers, or other devices by containing applications and data that are close to those found on legitimate targets.

Have you ever watched Discovery Channel’s Shark Week? Sharks are lured into attacking decoys with chum and bait by marine biologists and other scientists, who record the attack with video, pressure sensors, and speed-monitoring technology. This is part of their study to learn more about sharks by watching how they hunt and strike. Honeypots are similar to shark traps, but they are used to detect cyber threats rather than shark attacks.

But wouldn’t a hacker be aware that they’re attempting to break into a bogus system? Certainly not. Honeypots are designed to imitate real-world structures. In reality, they often contain a variety of fictional data in order to appear legitimate. As a result, when the bad guys strike, their attempts tend to be fruitful. This allows you to log and record more information about their attack by keeping them on your system for longer.

What Is a Honeypot vs Honeynet

A honeypot network (honeynet) may be positioned in a number of places, such as outside the firewall, in the DMZ, or inside the internal network. A honeynet is made up of servers, networking devices, and systems that look like a real network but contain fictitious data. Placement of a honeynet on the internal network is risky business unless the attack can be trapped inside it, as the aim is to trick attackers into manipulating deliberately compromised networks in order to track and study their activities.

Installing a honeypot with proper configurations to track user activity on the internal network is also worth the risk, given that insider threats account for more than 75% of security incidents. On the internal network, a honeypot can detect misconfigured firewall settings as well as zero-day exploits. Overall, deploying honeypots will greatly improve your organization’s network security posture.

What Are the Different Types of Honeypots?

Honeypots are usually classified in one of two ways: by their degree of contact or by the types of threats they can detect. Before discussing honeypots based on their intent, we’ll take a quick look at the various types of honeypots based on their interactivity levels.

Types of Honeypots Based on Interaction Level and Complexity

The hacker’s level of interaction with the systems they’re attempting to breach is described by interaction levels. Pure honeypots run on servers with live, fictitious “sensitive” data, simulating the full-scale production climate. They’re the most difficult to set up and manage of all the honeypot systems. Other possibilities include:

High-Interaction Honeypots

These honeypots are designed to look like real-world systems and applications, complete with real-world utilities, features, and operating systems (though less than pure honeypots). Setting up honeypots with a high level of interaction is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. It contains a lot of information about how an attack works and how payloads execute in a network. However, since real operating systems and utilities are involved, the risk of contamination is greater if the honeypots are compromised and used to gain access to your organization’s real production environment.

Medium-Interaction Honeypots

Medium-interaction honeypots fall somewhere between high and low interaction honeypots, as their name suggests. They have more capabilities than low interaction honeypots but less complication in implementation than high interaction honeypots. They emulate the application layer but lack an operating system of their own. Honeypots of this kind are often used by businesses to stall attackers and allow them time to react to attacks.

Low-Interaction Honeypots

Low-interaction honeypots allow limited interaction with systems because they run limited emulated services with limited functionality, similar to what would be expected from a server. While they are the simplest to set up and manage, they run the risk of appearing to potential attackers as inauthentic targets. Honeypots of this kind act as an early detection tool, and they’re widely used in production environments.

Some Other Types of Honeypots

  • Honeypots for Malware Detection — These honeypots detect malware using well-known replication techniques and propagation vectors.
  • Database Honeypots — Since database attacks, such as SQL injections, are fairly popular, you may use database honeypots to divert an attacker’s attention away from your valid database servers by creating decoy databases.
  • Client Honeypots — These honeypots typically operate as servers, listening for inbound connections. Malicious servers that target clients are actively engaged by client honeypots. They pretend to be a customer in order to monitor and report any changes.
  • Email Honeypots — A list of email addresses used by email service providers to track spammers is known as an email honeypot. This is usually done for accounts that have been inactive for a long time.
  • Spider Honeypots — These honeypots trap web crawlers by creating fake web pages and links that only crawlers can access. Blocking bot behaviour can be as simple as detecting these crawlers.

Types of Honeypots Based on Purpose

What motivates you to set up a honeynet in your workplace? Honeypots come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own feature. Do you need information to investigate attack methodologies or to effectively respond to active internal security threats? Or are you merely attempting to prevent attackers from hitting their intended targets?

Research Honeypots

Researchers instal and use honeypots to gain a deeper understanding of attack tactics, motivations, knowledge about wild malware strains, and security vulnerabilities. This is achieved so that the information acquired can be used to make informed decisions about:

Defense strategies,\s Patching prioritizations,\s Future security investments, and\s Identifying and developing new security solutions.

Production Honeypots

Production honeypots are installed alongside other production servers on the organization’s internal network. Though the aim is the same in terms of learning about active attacks, research honeypots with less data are usually less complex. Its main objective is to detect active attacks on the internal network and redirect or misdirect hackers away from the legitimate servers.

Benefits of Honeypots

Such conventional security measures, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), firewalls, and so on, are not replaced or fulfilled through installing a honeypot in your network. Instead, it serves as a supplement to existing systems by offering extremely accurate data. A honeypot:

  • Cybercriminals are deterred from attacking legitimate networks. The more time and effort they put into the honeypot, the less time and effort they have to devote to targeting your actual network and systems.
  • Gives you a clearer understanding of attacks when they happen. During a session, it logs an attacker’s keystrokes and sends out instant warnings if the system is attempted to be accessed.
  • Monitors an attacker’s behaviour and looks for zero-day flaws. An IDS/IPS, on the other hand, identifies an attack using signatures that have already been written.
  • This exercise puts the company’s incident management capabilities to the test. Is the team aware of how to implement effective countermeasures to prevent the attacker from accessing legitimate servers?
  • Assists in enhancing the overall security of your business. A honeypot illuminates the types of adversaries and attacks that occur in the wild, enabling you to devise successful defensive strategies.

Disadvantages of Honeypots

Although there are many advantages of using a honeypot, it is not without danger. High-interaction honeypots, for example, can be resource intensive and difficult to maintain.

  • One of the most important drawbacks of using honeypots is that it can introduce new risks into your environment. A hacked honeypot that isn’t properly isolated might be used to launch an assault on the real network.
  • Another important downside of using honeypots is that they can only detect intrusions when they are directly targeted. If an intruder recognises the honeypot for what it is, however, they may bypass the device and gain access to the network.
  • Furthermore, attackers may be able to fingerprint (or identify) honeypots based on unique characteristics such as misspelt error messages and so on. They can initiate fake attacks to divert administrators’ attention away from actual attacks, and while the company is chasing these warnings, the attacker can concentrate on planning a real attack.

Wrapping Up on Honeypots

You now know what a honey pot is and why it’s a valuable tool for both analysis and cyber security protection in an enterprise. Depending on the service or programme you’re trying to protect, there are a range of honeypot tools to choose from. Honeyd is an open-source application that, as the name implies, can be used as a honeypot. It can create multiple virtual hosts, each of which can be configured to emulate a different server.

Honeypots can be highly helpful to organisations that are able to take a constructive approach to improving their defences. Other security mechanisms are needed to detect attacks that evade the honeypot network (for example, if an intruder is alerted to its presence).

Melina Richardson is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cybers Guards & w-se. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.