What is a Honeypot Trap and How to Bypass It
Have you ever run into a honeypot trap while scraping a website and wondered what hit you? Well, we too, in the past at least. They are often used as a security measure against web crawlers and cyber criminals.
This tutorial will discuss what honeypot traps are, their types, use cases 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 the system look vulnerable. It's a security measure to understand possible vulnerabilities in a system. Businesses and web developers often use honey pot traps to keep a system secured from hackers, cyberattacks, cybercriminals, spammers, ransomware and bots.
How Honeypots works
Honeypot traps work by mimicking a service or network being protected in order to lure in the spammers. Payment gateways are rich resources for most cyber attackers since they consist of sensitive and personal data like transactions, cards, accounts or bank details.
You can put hidden form fields on your web page and the bots of these attackers would fill them out. Once they do so, the IP address is filed into your system and you can treat the address accordingly.
Depending on their goal, honey pots can be categorized into two main groups: production honeypots and research honeypots.
A production honeypot trap is set up in addition to actual production servers, it detects system intrusions and diverts the attacker's focus away from the main system.
While research honeypots compile data on cybercriminal assaults. Security teams may evaluate and analyze the data that these honeypots collect 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 have mainly been classified into three types which are: low-interaction honeypots, high-interaction honeypots and pure honeypots.
1. Low-Interaction Honeypots
A low-interaction honey pot might not be able to provide you much in terms of insights on spammers and bots, but it can help your system deceive them by simulating a limited amount of services and functionality that are mostly attacked by the spammers.
Low-interaction honeypot traps are not complex, easy to maintain and inexpensive, but at the same time don't provide enough information about the attacks or attack vectors, just the origin and the type of honeypot attack.
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 an attacker realizing the honey pot traps are very low, yet it takes time to build and is very expensive to maintain.
3. Pure Honeypots
These are systems which are completely mimicking the behavior of the full-scale production system which also involves sensitive data to entice cybercriminals so that they indirectly assist the cybersecurity team. Pure honeypots are complex and very hard to maintain but the insights and information they provide are priceless.
What kind of Honeypot Should You Invest in?
Before you jump into securing your operating systems, endpoints and systems with honeypot security and deploying one, there are some calculations you need to keep in front of you because it's possible to over-secure or even under-secure your systems without the calculations.
Take the average of incidents or attacks your system faces in a month and divide it with the resources or man-hours you put in for the development, management and maintenance of your honeypot system. If it's less than 1, then you're over-securing your system and vice-versa.
Where are Honey Pot Traps used?
There are different honey pot traps used for different purposes, some of which include database honeypots, spam honeypots, malware honeypots, client honeypots and honeynet honeypots.
1. Database Honeypots
These honeypot traps use decoy databases to entice the attack, like SQL injection. This decoy database will pile up the techniques and credential abuse by the attacker hence helping you to build better system defenses and take security measures.
2. Spam Honeypots
Spammers and attackers would test your open mail relay by forwarding an email to themselves at first and once they are successful in this step, the bulk of spam emails are sent out resulting in the exploitation of mail relays and open proxies.
Spam honeypots set up spam traps that can detect the initial testing mail by the spammer and log the real-time IP address of the attacker so that the address can be blocked. They are very useful when it comes to avoiding bulk emails and makes life difficult for spammers.
3. Malware Honeypots
This type of honeypot trap mimics services, networks, or software apps to lure in malware attacks. The malware's features can then be examined in order to create anti-malware software or to address API vulnerabilities.
4. Client Honeypots
This kind of honey pot trap portrays themselves as clients and digs in to find any malicious servers attacking other clients. They are also called observables since they gather information on how these malicious servers are attacking the client servers.
There will be times when you'd want to protect a real network from cyber threats, gather information and take security measures to protect the network security. This is where honeynet comes in.
A honeynet consists of one or more honeypots that act like computer systems on the internet. A honeynet is decorated and set up in a manner so that it looks like a production network and a jackpot to the attackers.
Honeypot Traps and Web Scraping
Websites utilize honeypot traps to identify and prevent harmful web scraping activities such as copyright infringement. They are often incapable of distinguishing between good and malicious bots. As a result, excellent web scraping bots that capture only publically available data can also be discovered. Here are some of the ways to crawl data from a web page without getting caught by the 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 networks and you could jump into one without even knowing.
2. Be a responsible scraper
Make sure you check the terms of services of a business or web page that you wish to scrape. Make sure you scrape during off-peak hours so that it doesn't affect the performance of the system for other users.
Make sure you are using a legitimate proxy provider. Make sure your scraper is giving the system some breathing space between requests and not overloading it. Don't be greedy for data, outline your requirements and collect only that data.
3. Use headless browsers
Browsers without a graphical user interface are used for web scraping and automated testing. These browsers are controlled programmatically and gather results for you faster.
4. Skip hidden links
Some web applications have code that is meant to be read by bots and web scrapers since they are not visible to human users. Your web scraper can be programmed to skip such links which have properties like
display: none or
5. Ready-to-use web scraper
ZenRows is a software that can help you get rid of the hassle involved in web scraping by handling all scraping operations with a single API call. Take advantage of the free trial available.
This article covered the basics and all there is to know about what a honeypot trap is, the types, use as well as some common methods to bypass honey pot traps during web scraping. Although they are effective in detecting malicious intents, they can also flag ethical web scraping.
Honeypot traps are for the greater good and if you are scraping a website legally, you can make use of ZenRows to easily scrape data from any web page with a simple API call. Take advantage of the free trial currently available.
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