What is Honeypot? How it Protects Against Cyberattacks?

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By Hiba Akbar

Cyber attacks occur every 39 seconds on average. These malicious activities can be decoded and tracked down using a honeypot. 

At Comparitech, cyber security researchers have managed to record an astounding number of over 100,000 attacks within a 24-hour period. They achieved this by strategically deploying honeypots on the internet, effectively enticing potential attackers and capturing their actions for analysis and documentation.


In this article, we will discuss what a honeypot is, its types, and how enterprises can defend and secure their data from lethal cyber threats.

What is a Honeypot?

In cyber security, a honeypot is a cyber security tool strategically placed within a network to act as a deceptive decoy, enticing potential cyber attackers. By mimicking legitimate systems, its purpose is to identify, divert, and analyze unauthorized access attempts, thus providing an additional layer of security for information systems.

How Does a Honeypot Work? 


A honeypot is a simulated system designed to lure cybercriminals with enticing applications and sensitive data. 

Though it is placed separately in the network system, it is closely monitored by security experts who analyze traffic to grasp attacker origins, methods, and motivations, evaluating security measures for enhancements. 

Furthermore, its outside firewalls’ placement effectively foils external attempts to breach internal networks. Moreover, the addition of deliberate vulnerabilities, like responsive ports and weak passwords, make honeypots more attractive to attackers, granting insight into their techniques while fortifying overall network security.

How are Honeypots Classified?

Honeypots can be classified in various ways. According to their deployment complexities, which allow threat actors to engage in varying levels of malicious activity, they can be categorized as;

1. Pure Honeypots 

These honeypots completely mimic production systems, monitoring network links and appearing realistic to attackers with mock sensitive data. They are unsophisticated yet demanding to maintain.

2. High-Interaction Honeypots 

They imitate real production systems, tempting attackers to gain root access for monitoring. They’re complex, revealing extensive cyber security insights but need expertise and virtual machines for their protection against cyber attackers’ access.

3. Low-Interaction Honeypots 

They simulate common attack vectors on the network, preferred by attackers. Less risky, easier maintenance, avoid root exposure, and detect bots and malware effectively.

Honeypots can also be classified on the basis of the various types of threats they detect and address;

4. Database Honeypots 

These honeypots monitor software vulnerabilities and detect attacks on insecure system architecture, such as SQL injection, exploitation, and privilege abuse. Decoy databases mislead attackers, complementing firewall protection.

5. Email Honeypots/ Spam Traps

They insert a fake email address in a concealed field, detectable only by automated harvesters or site crawlers. Correspondence sent there is labeled as spam, allowing monitoring and blocking of spammers and their methods.

6. Malware Honeypot 

These honeypots imitate malware-prone areas like software apps and APIs, inviting attacks for analysis to develop anti-malware solutions and secure APIs.

7. Spider Honeypot

This type of honeypot is designed to lure web crawlers by generating exclusive pages and links. Identifying crawlers aids in blocking harmful bots and ad-network crawlers.

Why Should You Employ Honeypots For Your Organization? 

Honeypots bring a multitude of advantages that will be beneficial for the security of your business. Some are as follows;

Real-Time Data Collection

The significant advantage of honeypot security lies in its ability to collect real-time data from actual attacks and unauthorized activities. This enables easy identification of malicious addresses amidst high levels of legitimate traffic on the core network, simplifying the detection of attacks.

Reduced False Positives Results

Honeypots result in fewer false positives compared to traditional intrusion-detection systems. Legitimate users have no reason to access honeypots, reducing unnecessary alerts. By correlating honeypot data with other logs, intrusion-detection systems (IDS) can be fine-tuned for more relevant alerts, enhancing overall cyber security effectiveness.

Economical and Easy Deployment

Honeypots prove cost-effective by focusing solely on malicious activities, eliminating the need for resource-intensive processing of extensive network traffic for attack detection. They are resource-light, allowing the use of old computers. Ready-made honeypots available online reduce setup efforts significantly.

Overcoming Encryption Barriers

Honeypots can intercept encrypted malicious activities, acting as decoys to divert attackers from valuable assets. As predators scan networks for weaknesses, attackers may interact with honeypots, enabling investigation and containment. This disrupts the attack chain, safeguarding sensitive targets while gathering valuable insights into attacker behavior.

Are There Any Risks and Limitations Involved with Honeypots? 

Deploying honeypots can enhance data security, but neglecting maintenance may lead to risks and compromise the database. Organizations must employ monitoring, detection, remediation tools, and preventive measures to safeguard against threats effectively. 

Some of the risks involved with honeypots are mentioned below;

Safeguarding Limited Data

Honeypots gather data during an attack, and no attempts mean no data to analyze. They capture only targeted activity. The absence of a specific threat doesn’t guarantee its absence elsewhere. Staying updated with IT security news is crucial; honeypots alone aren’t sufficient for threat awareness.

Isolated Network Protection

Honeypots operate in an isolated network, collecting data when targeted. If attackers sense a honeypot, they avoid it. Remember, honeypots are just one part of a comprehensive cyber security plan. Used alone, they won’t safeguard the organization against diverse threats and risks.

Easy Recognition by Threat Actors

Experienced hackers can distinguish honeypots from real systems through fingerprinting, allowing them to focus on attacking genuine targets. They may also deceive honeypots with false data or flood them with intrusion attempts to divert attention from actual attacks on legitimate systems, evading analysis tools.

Production System Vulnerability

Production systems may have vulnerabilities when connecting to honeypots for data collection. High-interaction honeypots risk granting root access to hackers. Misconfigured decoy environments allow lateral movement, compromising the network. Employing a honey wall to control honeypot traffic and using prevention techniques like firewalls and cloud-based monitoring is essential for quick intrusion detection.

Finally, honeypots complement security efforts but can’t replace them. They aid threat research but shouldn’t substitute standard IDS. Incorrectly configured honeypots risk exploitation for accessing real systems or launching attacks on other targets.

To learn more about how to respond to such cyber threats, visit our blog Daily Digital Grind.


What is a honeypot in cyber security?

In cyber security, a honeypot is a decoy computer system baiting hackers, mimicking a real target to gather insights or divert their attention from actual assets.

How does a honeypot differ from a honeynet?

A honeypot acts as a decoy on a network, trapping attackers, while a honeynet is a network of multiple honeypots used to study attackers’ activities across many decoys.

What is the main objective/ purpose of deploying a honeypot?

The primary purpose of implementing a honeypot is to improve an organization’s intrusion detection system (IDS) and response to threats, thereby strengthening its ability to manage and thwart attacks.