What is a Honeypot Operation in Cybersecurity?

What is a Honeypot Operation in Cybersecurity
Honeypot and honeynet are computer systems or network components designed to attract targeted attackers. They can be used to study attack methods, distract from other systems, or trap hackers.

What is a honeypot?

It is a computer system designed to attract targeted attacks. Figuratively speaking, the attacker is supposed to stick to it as if to a honeypot. The goal of the honeypot is to mislead the attacker, distract him from the actual attack target, log and analyze his attack methods, or identify the attacker. The dummy target can be software, a PC, a server, or a network component. It presents itself to the outside world as an interesting target for attack and may knowingly have security vulnerabilities.

The honeypot is isolated from productive IT systems and networks so that no damage can be caused by an attacker’s intrusion. With the help of the attacks analyzed on a honeypot and the knowledge gained from them, the productive systems can be better protected. When a honeypot is attacked, the deployer receives a message, and the recording of activity begins. Attackers cannot easily distinguish a honeypot from regular systems.

Honeypots often make themselves artificially attractive for attacks by pretending to provide access to special data or services. Multiple honeypots can be connected to form a honeynet. The honeynet represents an attackable complete network that serves as a lure.

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How a honeypot works

A honeypot or honeynet should behave like a real computer or network to the outside world. To the inside, the systems are isolated and specially monitored. By installing special software on the systems, it is possible to detect attacks, record activities, and trace the origin of the attacks. The purpose of this software is to identify a hacker or to gather experience on the different attack methods.

To make a honeypot look as real as possible to the attacker and attractive for attacks, real services and applications or fake data can be found on the system. However, since these applications are not used by normal users, it can be assumed that any contact with the services or any use of the applications is very likely to have an abusive background.

A virtual honeynet is implemented on a single server that behaves like a complete network to the outside world. This means that only one system is needed to simulate a vulnerable network, rather than multiple systems.

Advantages and disadvantages of a honeypot or honeynet

The following are the advantages of using a honeypot or honeynet:

  • Distraction of attackers from real targets
  • Collection of data about different attack methods
  • Reusable security knowledge through analysis of attack methods
  • Traceability of attackers
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These are the disadvantages that honeypots and honeynets can cause:

  • Danger for productive systems due to lack of isolation of the honeypot
  • Large effort for installation and monitoring of the system as well as analysis of the attacks
  • Honeypots and honeynets can attract hackers who then try to attack productive systems