In Network Security, What Is a Honeypot, and How Is It Used?

In Cybersecurity Layman’s Terms

The word “honeypot” may conjure images of something sweet and innocent (think Winnie the Pooh’s honeypot). Words can be deceiving, however; and in network security, a honeypot represents an especially relevant cybersecurity measure that can have a significant impact on the overall security of a business or organization’s data. A honeypot is essentially a trap that lures hackers to a decoy computer system that looks like a real computer system in an effort to identify and fend off attempts at unauthorized use of the organization’s information systems.

How It Works

Suppose a hacker identifies a honeypot on a business network that appears to be a legitimate computer system containing valuable information (but isn’t). The cybercriminal may then make an attempt to access it, while at the same time unknowingly being tracked. The hacker is then providing the business with an understanding of their techniques, where they are coming from, threat level, their primary objective; and in general, how they operate. This knowledge can help the business understand its vulnerabilities and inform the development of its future cybersecurity strategies and develop network security solutions to better defend against real cyberattacks using real intelligence.

Two Main Types Of Honeypot Designs In Network Security

Production Honeypots: 

These are the most common type of honeypot decoys, and they collect cybersecurity-related information within the organization’s network. If an attack happens, they deflect cybercriminals away from real systems while analyzing the tactics and data of the hackers. They are generally favored by businesses due to their ease of use and deployment, and they require fewer resources.

Research Honeypots: 

The main difference with research honeypots is that they are typically used in educating and informing the network security measures of research and governmental organizations. Unlike production honeypots, they are usually deployed on multiple networks and are, therefore, more complicated to deploy; however, this results in their ability to provide more detail around potential attacks and threats. Research honeypots require more IT resources than production honeypots, although outsourced cybersecurity services can fill the resource gap without a significant increase in a business or organization’s IT infrastructure, potentially increasing the return on investment.

Types of Honeypot Deployment

Low-interaction Honeypots: 

These are the simplest and fastest to deploy, require fewer resources, and offer a basic understanding of data from blind attacks, as they represent look-alike targets of common cybersecurity threats. The downside is that they offer only a low level of engagement from hackers and so less detailed information on their techniques is obtained.

High-interaction Honeypots: 

Designed for added stickiness for cybercriminals, their set-up is more complicated, behaving more like real internal databases, systems and processes. The more engagement by the hacker, the more valuable the insights an organization may be able to gain in terms of its network security and vulnerabilities. They are, however, more labor-intensive and may require additional technologies to maintain.

The Bottom Line About Honeypots

Honeypots can be a critical tool in an organization’s arsenal of network security defense by exposing vulnerabilities and threats from cyberattacks, something that is increasingly weighing on virtually everyone’s mind. Honeypots are not fool-proof, however; and they are not without risk. It may be wise – and cost-effective – to consider working with an external managed cybersecurity service when navigating this often complicated path. 

ITque can provide your business with comprehensive managed security services and sound network security solutions. We provide guidance on everything you need to take control of and feel secure about your network security and data, 24/7.