We have been talking to you about honeypots very recently on our blog, specifically in the post in which we explain how to avoid spam registrations in WordPress, but today we are going to delve into the subject a bit more. We will see what a honeypot system is, how it works, and how it can help you improve the security of your website.
What is a honeypot?
We can define a honeypot system as a trap or bait that is used to detect threats, vulnerabilities, or problems related to web security. In addition, this system allows us to discover new attack modalities to stay one step ahead of hackers, or rather, cybercriminals.
The objective? It is clear. If we are able to know where they attack or how these cybercriminals work, we can take the necessary measures to prevent them from doing so in a real environment. This also allows us to know much better the vulnerabilities of our system, the weak points, and how we should protect it.
In short, a honeypot is still a system that acts as a bait for cybercriminals. It allows us to know how they attack and what aspects of our real system we must improve.
Honeypot, are they all advantages?
One of the biggest advantages of implementing a honeypot is that it carries a few risks: we are talking about not exposing real software or hardware tools, so we do not compromise our system. Although not all the forest is oregano…
Yes, a honeypot system also involves risks. If not properly configured, it can serve as a gateway to the actual system. And you can imagine the consequences if something like this happens, right?
In addition to posing a risk to the security of your website, it can also pose an economic risk if you do not have the expert staff to implement it. Bear in mind that you need real hardware and software equipment and all this is a great cost if you are not going to get the performance you expected.
Types of honeypots
Not all honeypots are the same. Some can be so simple that their sole objective is to analyze your website traffic, while there are others that are much more complex and involve entire networks, such as honeynets.
Depending on the objective of the implementation or commissioning of the honeypots, we can differentiate between:
Production honeypot: it is a very simple system and the one most used by companies to make sure they protect their system and divert and mitigate the action of cybercriminals.
Research honeypot: in this case, non-profit organizations, research centers, or universities are in charge of setting the traps for cybercriminals. These tend to be much more complex systems and the main objective is to investigate and document the activity of cybercriminals and understand their motivations. Here honeynets play a very important role, below we explain what they are.
Honeynets, what are they?
Honeynets are a special type of highly interactive honeypots that try to simulate a totally real environment for cybercriminals. This encompasses the entire network and for this real hardware equipment, real programs, real operating systems are used … All with the aim of gathering as much information as possible.
What must be taken into account when implementing a honeypot?
Technology has advanced so much that sometimes we are no longer just talking about honeypots, but about entire networks like honeynets. Of course, cybercriminals have also learned a lot, so it is necessary to take into account some considerations when implementing a system like this:
Honeypots or honeynets have to simulate a totally real environment. There are tools capable of identifying them, so if cybercriminals detect it, all your investment and effort will have been for nothing.
Try to make it as attractive as possible to cybercriminals. That is, make the honeypot live up to its name and make it a honey pot for the attackers, you have to get them to fall into the trap. Many times you can sin by creating a system so simple that they detect it instantly. In contrast, a system that is too complex could cause criminals to lose all interest, so the result is the same.
And sandboxing? How is it different from honeypots?
Both sandboxing and honeypots are two concepts that refer to preventive action in terms of web security.
While honeypots expose a “dummy” system to attract attackers and find out what vulnerabilities or security gaps the real system may have, in sandboxing it is already known (or suspected) which software or hardware tool has malware, so it isolates it completely so that it does not affect the rest of the systems.
In other words, we can say that sandboxing is a slightly less risky technique since its only objective is only to run and work on those systems that are suspected of being infected by malware or malicious content. The infected program or tool is completely isolated from the process and all possible entry doors are closed to ensure security and not affect the rest of the system.
Honeypots are a very powerful tool to know how secure a system is, detect vulnerabilities, and learn from errors in order to make it more robust.
This bait or trap for cybercriminals is a great learning for companies or organizations, but a bad configuration or any small mistake can put the security of the real environment at risk, as well as put the economic investment made at risk.