What Is a Honeypot Trap and How to Bypass It

November 17, 2022 ยท 5 min read

Have you ever run into a honeypot trap while scraping a website and wondered what hit you? It's perfectly common: they're often used as a security measure against crawlers and cyber attacks.

Today, you'll learn what honeypot traps are and how to bypass them while web scraping.

Let's dive right in!

What Is a Honeypot Trap?

A honeypot trap is a system established and posted side by side with production servers to attract cybercriminals by making it look vulnerable.

It's a security measure to understand possible vulnerabilities in a structure. Businesses and web developers often use honeypot traps to protect their systems from hackers, cyberattacks, cybercriminals, spammers, ransomware, and bots.

How Honeypots Works

Honeypot traps mimic a service or network under protection to lure in the spammers. Payment gateways are rich resources for most cyber attackers since they contain sensitive and personal data like transactions, cards, accounts, or bank details.

You can put hidden form fields on your page, and those bots will fill them out. Once they do, the IP address gets filed into your system, which enables you to treat the matter accordingly.

Depending on their goal, honeypots can be categorized into two major groups: production and research.

A production honeypot trap is set up in addition to actual production servers. It detects system intrusions and diverts the attacker's focus from the primary system.

Research honeypots compile data on cybercriminal assaults. Security teams may analyze the information collected on attacker tendencies to strengthen their defenses.

Types of Honeypot Traps

Honeypots of various types and complexities can be deployed by a cybersecurity team. They're classified into three primary types:

1. Low-Interaction Honeypots

A low-interaction honeypot can't provide much insight into spammers and bots. However, it can help your system deceive them by simulating a limited amount of services and functionality commonly attacked by spammers.

These traps aren't complex but are easy to maintain and inexpensive. They might provide little information about the attack itself but will help you with data about the attack's origin and type.

2. High-Interaction Honeypots

Instead of mimicking a handful of services, high-interaction honeypot traps provide the attacker's real systems or a production honeypot to spam, which makes it easier to deceive them. The chances of them realizing it's a deception are low, yet this option takes time to build and is expensive to maintain.

3. Pure Honeypots

These systems entirely mimic the behavior of the full-scale production system. This involves sensitive data to entice cybercriminals, which leads to them indirectly assisting the cybersecurity team. Pure honeypots are pretty complex and hard to maintain but the insights and information they provide are invaluable.

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What Kind of Honeypot Should You Invest in?

Before you jump into securing your system with honeypot security, there are some things you should know. It's possible to over- or even under-secure your systems without some valuable calculations. Take these into consideration:

Take the average incidents and attacks your system faces in a month and divide those by the resources and manhours you put in to develop, manage, and maintain your honeypot system. If the result's less than one, then you're over-securing, and vice-versa.

Where Are Honeypot Traps Used?

There's a variety of honeypot traps that can cover many different purposes and needs. Let's examine some of the most commonly used ones:

1. Database Honeypots

These use decoy databases to entice the attack, such as an SQL injection. This decoy database piles up the attacker's techniques and credential abuse, helping you build better system defenses and take security measures.

2. Spam Honeypots

Spammers and attackers test your open mail relay by emailing themselves. Once they're successful, a bulk of spam messages are sent out, resulting in the exploitation of mail relays and open proxies.

These honeypots set up spam traps that can detect the initial testing mail and log the attacker's real-time IP address so that it can be blocked. They're beneficial when avoiding bulk emails, making life difficult for spammers.

3. Malware Honeypots

This honeypot trap mimics services, networks, or software apps to lure in malware attacks. The malware's features can then be examined to create anti-malware software or to address API vulnerabilities.

4. Client Honeypots

These kinds portray themselves as clients and dig in to find any malicious servers attacking real users. They're also called observables since they gather information on how these malicious servers are attacking the client servers.

5. Honeynet

Sometimes you want to protect an entire network from cyber threats, gathering information and taking the necessary security measures. This is where honeynet comes in.

It consists of one or more honeypots that act like computer systems on the web. A honeynet is decorated and set up to look like a production network, thus a real jackpot to attackers.

Honeypot Traps and Web Scraping

Websites utilize honeypot traps to identify and prevent harmful scraping activities, e.g., copyright infringement. However, they're often incapable of distinguishing between good and malicious bots. As a result, even ethical spiders focusing only on public data can also be captured and blocked.

Here are some tips to help your web data crawling efforts without getting caught by honeypot detection:

1. Avoid Public Networks

Public networks are full of risks and are often used by attackers to access sensitive data. Honeypots can be set up on shared ones, and you could jump into them without knowing.

2. Be a Responsible Scraper

Make sure you check your target's terms of services. Also, perform scraping during off-peak hours, so it doesn't affect the system performance for other users.

Use a legitimate proxy provider and give the system some breathing space between requests. Don't be greedy for data: outline your requirements and collect only that.

3. Use Headless Browsers

Browsers without a graphical user interface (GUI) are called headless and are commonly used for web scraping and automated testing. They're controlled programmatically, bringing results faster and avoiding restrictions.

Some apps add code that's invisible to human users and is to be explicitly read by bots and scrapers. Your crawler should be programmed to skip those that come with the display: none and visibility: hidden properties since they're often a trap.

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Congratulations! Today, you learned all the essential information you need about honeypot traps: what they are, how they work, and how to bypass them while scraping. Although they are effective in detecting malicious intents, they can also flag ethical crawlers.

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