Honeypots are systems on your network that attract and reroute hackers away from your servers, trapping them to identify malicious activities before they can cause harm. The perfect decoy, they often containing false information, without providing access to any live data. Honeypots are a valuable tool for uncovering information about your adversaries in a no-risk environment. A more sophisticated honeypot can even divert attackers in real-time as they attempt to access your network.
How Does Honeypot Security Work?
The design of the honeypot security system is extremely important. The system should be created to look as similar as possible to your real servers and databases, both internally and externally. While it looks like your network, the actual honeypot is a replica, entirely disparate from your real server. Throughout an attack, your honeypot is able to be monitored closely by your IT team.
A honeypot is built to trick attackers into breaking into that system instead of elsewhere. The value of a honeypot is in being hacked. This means that the security controls on your honeypot need to be weaker than on your real server. The balance is essential. Too strong, and attackers won’t be able to make a move. Too weak, and they may suspect a trap.
Your security team will need to decide whether to deploy a low-interaction honeypot or a high-interaction honeypot. A low-interaction solution will be a less effective decoy, but easier to create and manage, while a high-interaction system will provide a more perfect replica of your network, but involve more effort for IT. This could include tools for tricking returning attackers or separating external and internal deception.
What Can a Honeypot Cyber Security System Do?
Your honeypot cyber security system should be able to simulate multiple virtual hosts at the same time, assign hackers with a unique passive fingerprint, simulate numerous TCP/IP stacks and network topologies, and set up HTTP and FTP servers as well as virtual IP addresses with UNIX applications.
The type of information you glean depends on the kind of honeypot security you have deployed. There are two main kinds:
Research Honeypot: This type of honeypot security is usually favored by educational institutions, researchers and non-profits. By uncovering the motives and behavior of hackers, research teams such as Guardicore Labs can learn the tactics the hacking community are using. They can then spread awareness and new intelligence to prevent threats, promoting innovation and collaboration within the cyber security community.
Production Honeypot: More often used by enterprises and organizations, production honeypot cyber security measures are used to mitigate the risk of an attacker on their own network, and to learn more about the motives of bad actors on their data and security.
These honeypots have one particular element in common: the drive to get into the mind of the attacker and recognize the way they move and respond. By attracting and tracking adversaries, and wasting their time, you can reinforce your security posture with accurate information.
What are the Benefits of Honeypot Security?
Unlike a firewall, a honeypot is designed to identify both internal and external threats. While a firewall can prevent attackers getting in, a honeypot can detect internal threats and become a second line of defense when a firewall is breached. A honeypot cyber security method therefore gives you greater intelligence and threat detection than a firewall alone, and an added layer of security against malware and database attacks.
As honeypots are not supposed to have any traffic, all traffic found is malicious by its very existence. This means you have unparalleled ease of detection and no anomalies to question before you start learning about possible attacks. This system provides smaller datasets that are entirely high-value, as your IT and analytics team does not have to filter out legitimate traffic.
Honeypot security also puts you ahead of the game. While your attackers believe they have made their way into your network, you have diverted their attacks to a system with no value. Your security team is given early warning against new and emerging attacks, even those that do not have known attack signatures.
Making Valuable Use of Honeypot Security
More recently, sophisticated honeypots support the active prevention of attacks. A comprehensive honeypot security solution can redirect opportunistic hackers from real servers to your honeypot, learning about their intentions and following their moves, before ending the incident internally with no harm done.
Using cutting-edge security technology, a honeypot can divert a hacker in real-time, re-routing them away from your actual systems and to a virtualized environment where they can do no harm. Dynamic deception methods generate live environments that adapt to the attackers, identifying their methods without disrupting your data center performance.
You can then use the information you receive from the zero-risk attack to build policies against malicious domains, IP addresses and file hashes within traffic flows, creating an environment of comprehensive breach detection.
It’s important to remember that a high-interaction honeypot without endpoint security could be used as a launch pad for attacks against legitimate data and truly valuable assets. Honeypots are intended to invite attackers, and therefore add risk and complexity to your IT ecosystem. As with any tool, honeypots work best when they are integrated as part of a comprehensive solution for a strong security posture. The best cyber-security choice for your organization will incorporate honeypots as a detection and prevention tool, while utilizing additional powerful security measures to protect your live production environment.
Virtualization and Cloud review comment that while honeypots and other methods of intrusion detection “are usable in a classical environment, they really shine in the kinds of highly automated and orchestrated environments that make use of microsegmentation.”
Honeypot security systems can add a valuable layer of security to your IT systems and give you an incomparable chance to observe hackers in action, and learn from their behavior. You can gather valuable insight on new attack vectors, security weaknesses and malware, using this to better train your staff and defend your network. With the help of microsegmentation, your honeypot security strategy does not need to leave you open to risk, and can support an advanced security posture for your entire organization.