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From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, by MultiMedia

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In computer terminology, a honeypot is a trap set to detect, deflect or in some manner counteract attempts at unauthorized use of information systems. Generally it consists of a computer, data or a network site that appears to be part of a network but which is actually isolated and protected, and which seems to contain information or a resource that would be of value to attackers. A honeypot that masquerades as an open proxy is known as a sugarcane.

A honeypot is valuable as a surveillance and early-warning tool. While often a computer, a honeypot can take on other forms, such as files or data records, or even unused IP address space. Honeypots should have no production value and hence should not see any legitimate traffic or activity. Whatever they capture can then be surmised as malicious or unauthorized. One very practical implication of this is that honeypots designed to thwart spam by masquerading as systems of the types abused by spammers to send spam can categorize the material they trap 100% accurately: it is all illicit. A honeypot needs no spam-recognition capability, no filter to separate ordinary e-mail from spam. Ordinary e-mail never comes to a honeypot.

Honeypots can carry risks to a network, and must be handled with care. If they are not properly walled off, an attacker can use them to actually break into a system.


Winnie the Pooh about to get stuck in a honey pot Winnie the Pooh about to get stuck in a honey pot

The term "honeypot" is often understood to refer to the English children's character Winnie-the-Pooh, a stuffed bear who was lured into various predicaments by his desire for pots of honey.

During the Cold War it was an espionage technique, which inspired spy fiction. The term "honeypot" was used to describe the use of sexual entrapment to gain information. In a common scenario, a pretty female Communist agent would trick a male Western official into handing over secret information.

An alternative explanation for the term is a reflection of the sarcastic term for outhouses and other methods of collecting feces and other human waste in places that lack indoor plumbing. Honey is a euphemism for such waste, which is kept in a honeypot until it is picked up by a honey wagon and taken to a disposal area. In this usage, attackers are the equivalent of flies, drawn by the stench of sewage.

Types of honeypots

Honeypots can generally be divided into different categories, low-interaction, medium-interaction and high-interaction honeypots respectively.

honeyd (low-interaction)

is a GPL licensed daemon, that is able to simulate big network structures on a single host. With one single instance of the daemon, many different hosts running different services can be simulated[1]. Services are customizable with userland scripts.

mwcollect, nepenthes (medium-interaction)

mwcollect and nepenthes are both released under the GPL license and can be used to collect autonomously spreading malware. Automated attacks are not only logged, the daemons extract information how to obtain the malware binaries from the exploit payload using known patterns and then actively download a sample. However, the whole exploitation process is simulated in a virtualized environment, so the honeypot can never be really infected with the Malware.

Spam honeypots

Spammers are known to abuse vulnerable resources such as open mail relays and open proxies. Some system administrators have created honeypot programs which masquerade as these abusable resources in order to discover the activities of spammers. There are several capabilities such honeypots provide to these administrators and the existence of such fake abusable systems makes abuse more difficult or risky. Honeypots can be a powerful countermeasure to the abuse from those who rely on very high volume abuse (e.g., spammers) .

The capabilities of value to the honeypot operator include determination of the apparent source (that is, IP address) of the abuse and bulk capture of spam (which makes possible determination of URLs and response mechanisms used by the spammers.) For open relay honeypots it is possible to determine the e-mail addresses ("dropboxes") spammers use as targets for their test messages, which are the tool they use to detect open relays. It is then simple to deceive the spammer: transmit any illicit relay e-mail received addressed to that dropbox e-mail address. That would indicate to the spammer that the honeypot was a real abusable open relay and he would often respond by sending large quantities of relay spam to that honeypot, where it stopped. This was a capability of greatest value to the (unknown and unpredictable) intended recipients of the spam. The apparent source may be another abused system: spammers and other abusers may use a chain of abused systems in order to make detection of the original starting point of the abuse traffic difficult. This in itself is indicative of the power of honeypots as anti-spam tools: in the early days of anti-spam honeypot usage spammers showed little concern for hiding their location and would test for vulnerabilities and send spam directly from their own systems. It was easy, it was safe. Honeypots made the abuse less easy, less safe.

Open relays are still used by spammers but the volume of spam sent through such open relays appears to be much smaller than it was in 2001 to 2002. Some Asian spammers relay spam to Asian e-mail addresses through open relays they find in the US. Honeypot operators in the US can detect both the relay tests from such Asian spammers and intercept whatever spam they attempt to relay through the honeypot.

Open relay honeypots include Jackpot, written in Java, smtpot.py, written in Python and honeypot.php, written in PHP. The Bubblegum Proxypot is an open proxy honeypot (or proxypot.)

E-mail trap

An e-mail address that is not used for any other purpose than to receive spam can also be considered a spam honeypot. A better term might be spamtrap, with the term "honeypot" reserved for systems and techniques used to detect or counter attacks and probes. Spam arrives at its destination "legitimately" - exactly as non-spam e-mail would arrive.

An amalgam of these techniques is Project Honey Pot. The distributed, open source Project uses honeypot pages installed on websites around the world. These honeypot pages hand out uniquely tagged spamtrap e-mail addresses. E-mail address harvesting and Spammers can then be tracked as they gather and subsequently send to these spamtrap e-mail addresses.

Honeypot detection

Just as honeypots are a weapon against spammers, honeypot detection systems are a spammer-employed counter-weapon. As detection systems would likely use unique characteristics of specific honeypots to identify, a plethora of honeypots in use makes the set of unique characteristics larger and more daunting to those seeking to detect and thereby identify them. This is an unusual circumstance in software: a situation in which "versionitis" (a large number of versions of the same software, all differing slightly from each other) can be beneficial. There's also an advantage in having some easy-to-detect honeypots deployed. Freh Cohen the inventor of the Deception Tookit even argues that every system running his honeypot should have a deception port that adversaries can use to detect the honeypot[2]. Cohen believes that this might deter adversaries.

Notes And References

External links

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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