Infosec - Honeypot



In recent years, the Internet of Things has seen strong growth in the world of "everything connected".
We have more and more things that are connected to the Internet: our phones, our laptops, voice assistants, cameras, routers ... and this in different areas: health, social life, marketing, home automation ...

honeypot infosec
Graph showing the number of objects connected to the internet from 2015 to 2025 (in billions)

It is therefore logical to expect a massive evolution of cyber-attacks against this type of equipment based on the observations of recent years. The more objects connected to the internet, the more attack there will be.

In order to study the behavior of attackers, to discover security flaws and new types of malware, it is necessary to set up malicious behavior analysis systems.

What is a Honeypot ?

As I said before, it is necessary to set up systems to study the behavior of the attackers.
This is where a system called Honeypot comes in.

What is it ?
honeypot infosec
Realized by me

A Honeypot is a computer system for the purpose of "luring" attackers by simulating the behavior of a real system. The goal is to expose machines on the internet (often, they are virtual machines in a specially dedicated network that are used), and to "monitor" them to retrieve information about the attackers: their action, the vulnerabilities of security of exposed systems, etc.

Of course, the system should not arouse the suspicion of the attacker: They must not realize that it is a honeypot.

All communications established with a honeypot are considered suspicious: legitimate users have no reason to access them.

There are two types of Honeypot :

Honeypot with low interaction

honeypot infosec
Realized by me

Honeypots with low interaction have a low level of interaction and often consist of emulate operating systems and services. Activity is therefore limited to the degree of emulation offered by the honeypot.

Thus, these honeypots offer few privileges to the intruder who will have a limited scope. Thus a low interaction honeypot only offers false services that do not return never no answer. For example, the Honeypot can emulate an FTP service on port 21, but emulate only the login command, or emulate other commands. The pirate tries to to connect to these services and to execute orders there (such services may resemble a listening socket that only logs the different packets it receives).

The fact that the hacker does not receive an answer is not a problem in some cases because he can always see the result of his order. With this type of honeypot the hacker never really interacts with the system hosting the false services. The security of the system is maintained provided that the security rules are also applied to false services.

An evolution of low interaction Honeypots, allows emulated services to send back mostly fake answers to pirates so as to give him some leads or to confuse him without necessarily intriguing him. This implementation requires a very good knowledge of the protocols relating to fake services. It is therefore quite difficult to put in place.

Honeypot with strong interaction

honeypot infosec
Realized by me

Honeypots with strong interaction are different because they often involve the use of real operating systems and real applications. This is not about emulation, we provides the attacker with something real. The risks are many since our machine is intended to be compromised.

One of the advantages of this solution is that it is possible to obtain a lot of information, because as attackers have access to real systems, one can examine all of their behavior, and thus analyze their methods and the tools they use, whether they are new or not.

The second advantage is that this type of Honeypot does not make any assumptions about the likely behavior of an attacker and captures everything he can. This type of environment so lets discover new methods of attack that were not yet suspected.

Nevertheless there is an increased risk that the attacker can use the real systems of the Honeypot to attack other systems that are not Honeypots. These Honeypots can do anything Honeypots with low interaction can do. Moreover. On the other hand, they are more complicated to put in place and manage.

The use of a Honeypot can be applied in two different environments: production environment, and research environment.

Production environment

honeypot infosec

The main objective of a production honeypot is to verify that the security measures are applied. It also protects the real production systems: in fact, if you expose a machine with known vulnerabilities, the attacker will go more easily to it than to a production system. This allows somehow to "lure"

Generally, production-oriented honeyports are used by organizations that want to improve the protection of their network, discover vulnerabilities in their applications, and enhance their ability to detect attacks.

Research environment

honeypot infosec

Research Honeypots are a bit more complex to set up as they aim to collect as much information about attackers and their procedures as possible.
The main goal is to discover new vulnerabilities in exposed systems and services, and new malware.

What information will be collected?
The goal is to recover as much information as possible about an attack, which will be stored in a database:

  • Listening to network traffic
  • Recovery of sent files/malwares
  • Dumps: memory, hard drive, active processes at the time of the attack
  • ...
These data collections make it possible to obtain statistics:
  • What are the most attacked ports ?
  • What are the actions most often performed by the attackers ?
  • Which services are the most sought after (telnet, ftp, ...)?
  • Of which countries come the biggest attacks ?
  • What combinations of login / password are the most used ?
  • and more others...
This information will be published and will allow companies to better prepare their systems and strengthen their security by applying certain measures.

Conclusion and Infographic

The things you need to remember !

There are two types of honeypot:

  • Honeypots with low interaction (fake emulated system)
  • Honeypots with strong interaction (real system)
Which apply in two different environments:
  • In research environment (studies of attacks, statistics, prevention ...)
  • In production environment (test security measures, divert attackers ...)
Here is an infographic that I realized that summarizes what a honeypot:

honeypot infosec

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