Defending Against Cyberattacks Using Honeypot
A honeypot is a decoy system that lures cyber attackers into committing attacks against it. It is used to study an attacker’s tactics, skillset and network behaviors. Using honeypots in your organization will make it harder for malicious actors to access your real systems. It also helps you identify security issues.
Although the concept behind honeypots is relatively simple, they require ongoing management. Organizations must constantly monitor the traps, update their defenses and remove potentially compromised data. With careful management, cyber honeypots can be effective and safe. Unlike a firewall, which only protects against attackers that have breached the network perimeter, honeypots detect attacks in progress. It enables organizations to analyze hacker behavior and improve their security strategy in response to real-world threats.
A good honeypot server, including a virtual machine and fake data, should look as realistic as possible to lure hackers into the trap. It is also critical that it has a dedicated login account that does not exist on the organization’s production system.
In addition to identifying malware, honeypots can also reveal the techniques used by attackers. For example, they can locate other systems in the target network through system fingerprinting. It is information that would be impossible to obtain through a traditional IDS. In some cases, gathering this information about hackers could put organizations at risk of violating privacy laws or anti-hacking regulations. It is why it’s important to be extremely cautious when implementing a cyber honeypot and carefully review all the risks and ramifications before proceeding.
Detecting Insider Threats
When a threat actor accesses a honeypot network environment, they are lured in, and their activity is secretly monitored. It allows security teams to understand their methods and motives for accessing an organization’s infrastructure, data, systems and applications. In addition to tracking attackers’ progress and activity, a honeypot can help identify and correct software vulnerabilities that enable unauthorized insider access. These can include unsecured passwords and weak administrative controls. Honeypots can also provide a good alternative to traditional intrusion detection systems (IDS), which are often prone to false positives, which can cause administrators to ignore alerts that could be useful.
The most advanced honeypots are designed to mimic the behavior of a real system that hackers would be interested in targeting, such as a financial network, internet of Things devices or a utility or transportation system. They are usually placed in a network’s demilitarized zone (DMZ), away from the main production network and behind a router facing the internet.
While most organizations focus their cybersecurity efforts on defending the perimeter of their networks to ensure outsiders can’t breach them, they need to do more to protect against internal threats or address vulnerabilities that allow insiders to exploit systems and data. A cyber honeypot can monitor these vulnerabilities and detect malicious insider activity, which is invaluable in seeing rogue employees or contractors who may be stealing valuable information.
A honeypot must look like a legitimate system and must run the same processes as a production network. Ideally, it must also contain decoy files to draw in attackers and lure them away from real systems they could steal or corrupt. Cybersecurity experts can observe their behavior as attackers spend time with fake data and applications. They can then use the information to create security strategies and prevent attacks before they happen. For example, a power company might set up a honeypot to appear as a system that uses its data to decide on sourcing electricity from different power plants. They can then monitor the attackers trying to penetrate the power plant database to understand how they access this critical information. This information can then be used to protect the actual power grid from threats.
The key to a successful honeypot is the careful implementation. It’s not something you want to do without expert support, as one mistake can backfire and expose the organization to more serious attacks. In addition, privacy concerns must be taken into consideration. Unless properly implemented, attackers may be able to gather personal data from the honeypot and share it with the world, putting client trust in jeopardy. For this reason, a honeypot should be positioned in the network’s demilitarized zone (DMZ) and monitored from there with a firewall separating it from the main production network.
Detecting Advanced Threats
A honeypot can help cybersecurity teams identify and respond to threats, whether targeting a specific system or testing different attack methods. This information can be used to strengthen a company’s security infrastructure and thwart attacks before they escalate. Unlike intrusion detection systems (IDS), which may create many false alerts, honeypots only detect activity directed at them, making it easier to spot malicious activity. In addition, honeypots can be designed to mimic the actual network setup of an organization, which can help IT teams identify vulnerabilities in their real-world systems.
High-interaction honeypots are more expensive and complex to set up, but they can provide a wealth of intelligence on hackers as attackers spend time inside them. It allows IT security professionals to understand an attacker’s motivations and strategies, which can lead to more effective countermeasures. While deploying a honeypot, weighing legal and ethical considerations is important, particularly if the data collected is personal or confidential. Sharing this data with the public could expose a company to privacy lawsuits, especially if the attackers are business clients. It is why IT experts recommend implementing a honeypot only with the assistance of an experienced security expert.