You may have heard the term “honeypot” from your managed service provider before, but what does the term really mean?
In cybersecurity, honeypots prevent attacks by providing a false target for attackers instead of legitimate production systems. These smart decoys have identified the United States as experiencing the second-highest number of spam and harvesting attacks in the world.
These computer systems, or networks, are designed to attract malicious actors and detect, deflect, or study attempts at unauthorized access. They can be used to monitor the behavior of attackers and collect information about them, or be a form of deception to divert attention away from more valuable targets. Then, instead of providing valuable data or resources, it turns the tables and records the activity of the attacker themselves.
Honeypots are becoming increasingly important in today’s digital world, as they provide an additional layer of protection against cyber attacks.
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How They Deflect Criminal Activity
Honeypots do more than just misdirect cyber-criminals on the hunt. The name refers to the alluring nature of the facade the honeypot casts, presenting as a valuable target. That intentionally draws in threat actors, so that the owner of the honeypot can log and track attempted break-ins. Results will show how and where cybercriminals are trying to access the honeypot, which can be a useful basis to start preparing cyber defenses on your real systems or networks.
The attacks leveraged against the honeypot tell you things like who is targeting you, how often, what they want, and how powerful their weapons are. All that will mirror the kind of security posture you construct.
Honey Attracts Bees
Of course, one of the natural challenges therein is that honeypots can be hacked to gain information on the organization or individual who constructed it. That is closer to the network, and with more information, than you want anyone to have. Therefore honeypots need to be disconnected from the network, appear a good and easy target, and still have strong enough protections to prevent unauthorized access.
It’s not just a matter of having your honeypot hacked. Misdirected networks can also be used against hapless web surfers.
This is one of the risks you take when using public WiFi or computers. Hackers could set up false networks and be tracking everything you do online, potentially exposing your log-in information for sites that you use every day. They might also use them to spy or spread misinformation on the network that they’re mimicking.
Setting up these misdirections can be used for good or evil. It’s important to stick to private, secured networks and systems so that honeypots are always working for you, instead of you falling into their trap.
Honeypots aren’t a new technology, but they are one of the many useful tools available to help defend your network against cyber-attackers. Get a behind-the-scenes sneak peek into what cybercriminals want and how they plan to get it from you. Then you can take care to shore up the most vulnerable parts of your security posture to keep them out of your real systems.