Exploring Honeypots: Understanding, Implementing, and Securing Your Network

What is a Honeypot?

A honeypot, often referred to as a "trap" or "deception technology," is a specialized cybersecurity mechanism deployed within a network infrastructure or system. Its primary purpose is to attract, monitor, and analyze malicious activity initiated by cyber attackers. While traditional security measures focus on fortifying the perimeter and detecting threats as they occur, honeypots take a proactive approach by deliberately enticing attackers into engaging with decoy resources.

These decoy resources can simulate various elements of a network, such as servers, applications, services, or even entire network segments, depending on the specific objectives of the honeypot deployment. By mimicking legitimate assets and vulnerabilities, honeypots create an environment that appears enticing to potential attackers, encouraging them to interact with the decoy systems.

Once an attacker engages with the honeypot, its sensors capture detailed information about the attacker's behavior, including the methods used, tools employed, and potential vulnerabilities exploited. This data is then analyzed by cybersecurity professionals to gain insights into the attacker's tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), as well as their motivations and objectives.

Honeypots can be classified into several categories based on their deployment and functionality:

  1. Research Honeypots: These honeypots are designed for academic or research purposes, providing cybersecurity researchers with valuable data for analyzing emerging threats and developing defensive strategies.
  2. Production Honeypots: Production honeypots are deployed within operational networks to complement existing security measures and enhance threat detection capabilities. They are often used to monitor specific assets or network segments for suspicious activity.
  3. High-Interaction Honeypots: High-interaction honeypots fully emulate the behavior and functionality of genuine systems, allowing attackers to interact with them as they would with legitimate targets. While these honeypots provide the most comprehensive insights into attacker behavior, they also carry a higher risk of compromise and require careful management.
  4. Low-Interaction Honeypots: Low-interaction honeypots simulate only the surface-level behavior of target systems, typically responding to predefined stimuli or commands. While less resource-intensive and easier to manage than high-interaction honeypots, they provide limited visibility into attacker behavior.

Overall, honeypots serve as a valuable tool for organizations seeking to augment their cybersecurity defenses and gain a deeper understanding of the ever-evolving threat landscape. By leveraging the insights provided by honeypot deployments, cybersecurity professionals can enhance their incident response capabilities, develop more effective defensive strategies, and better protect critical assets against cyber threats.

How Honeypots Work

Honeypots work by creating simulated targets or resources within a network that mimic genuine systems or services. These decoys are deliberately crafted to look appealing to would-be attackers, enticing them to interact with the honeypot. Once an attacker engages with the decoy, the honeypot's sensors come into action, closely monitoring and recording the attacker's activities. These sensors capture various aspects of the interaction, such as commands issued, tools used, and data accessed. This information is then analyzed by cybersecurity professionals to gain insights into the attacker's tactics, techniques, and motivations. By observing these interactions, organizations can better understand emerging threats, identify vulnerabilities in their defenses, and bolster their security posture accordingly. Honeypots serve as an early warning system, allowing for proactive defense measures and informed incident response strategies, ultimately helping organizations stay one step ahead of cyber threats.

Visualization of Honeypot Data using Elastic

To visualize honeypot data using Elasticsearch, you can use various visualization tools like Kibana. Here's a basic guide to get started:

  1. Setting up Elasticsearch and Kibana: Ensure you have Elasticsearch and Kibana installed and running. Elasticsearch will store your data, while Kibana will help you visualize it. You can install them separately or as part of the Elastic Stack.
  2. Indexing Honeypot Data: Index your honeypot data into Elasticsearch. You can do this using various methods, including Logstash, Beats, or directly indexing data via APIs.
  3. Creating Index Patterns: In Kibana, go to "Management" and then "Index Patterns." Define an index pattern that matches your honeypot data indices. This step allows Kibana to understand your data structure.
  4. Creating Visualizations:some text
    • Discover: Go to "Discover" in Kibana to explore your data interactively. You can search, filter, and view raw documents here.
    • Visualize: In Kibana, navigate to "Visualize" and then choose the type of visualization you want to create. For example:some text
      • Line Chart: Visualize trends over time, such as attack frequency.
      • Bar Chart: Display top attackers or attacked ports.
      • Pie Chart: Show the distribution of attack types.
      • Heatmap: Identify patterns in attack timings.
      • Map: If your data contains geolocation information, you can plot attacks on a map.
    • Configure each visualization based on your data fields and the insights you want to derive.
  5. Building Dashboards: Combine multiple visualizations into a dashboard for comprehensive insights. Go to "Dashboard" in Kibana, create a new dashboard, and add your visualizations to it.
  6. Interact and Analyze: Once you have your visualizations and dashboards set up, you can interact with them, apply filters, and analyze your honeypot data effectively.

Some of Honeypot Sensors

Database Honeypots

  • Delilah - Elasticsearch Honeypot written in Python (originally from Novetta).
  • ESPot - Elasticsearch honeypot written in NodeJS, to capture every attempt to exploit CVE-2014-3120.
  • ElasticPot - An Elasticsearch Honeypot.
  • Elastic honey - Simple Elasticsearch Honeypot.

Web honeypots

  • Express honeypot - RFI & LFI honeypot using nodeJS and express.
  • EoHoneypotBundle - Honeypot type for Symfony2 forms.
  • Glastopf - Web Application Honeypot.
  • Google Hack Honeypot - Designed to provide reconnaissance against attackers that use search engines as a hacking tool against your resources.

Service Honeypots

  • ADBHoney - Low interaction honeypot that simulates an Android device running Android Debug Bridge (ADB) server process.
  • AMTHoneypot - Honeypot for Intel's AMT Firmware Vulnerability CVE-2017-5689.
  • ddospot - NTP, DNS, SSDP, Chargen and generic UDP-based amplification DDoS honeypot.
  • dionaea - Home of the dionaea honeypot.
  • dhp - Simple Docker Honeypot server emulating small snippets of the Docker HTTP API.

Distributed Honeypots

  • DemonHunter - Low interaction honeypot server.

Get and install T-Pot

  1. Clone the GitHub repository: $ git clone https://github.com/telekom-security/tpotce or follow the TL;DR and skip this section.
  2. Change into the tpotce/ folder: $ cd tpotce
  3. Run the installer as non-root: $ ./install.sh

Depending on your Linux distribution of choice the installer will:

  • Change the SSH port to tcp/64295
  • Disable the DNS Stub Listener to avoid port conflicts with honeypots
  • Set SELinux to Monitor Mode
  • Set the firewall target for the public zone to ACCEPT
  • Add Docker's repository and install Docker
  • Install recommended packages
  • Remove packages known to cause issues
  • Add the current user to the docker group (allow docker interaction without sudo)
  • Add dps and dpsw aliases (grc docker ps -a, watch -c "grc --color=on docker ps -a)
  • Add la, ll and ls aliases (for exa, a improved ls command)
  • Add mi (for micro, a great alternative to vi and / or nano)
  • Display open ports on the host (compare with T-Pot required ports)
  • Add and enable tpot.service to /etc/systemd/system so T-Pot can automatically start and stop
  1. Follow the installer instructions, you will have to enter your user (sudo or root) password at least once
  2. Check the installer messages for errors and open ports that might cause port conflicts
  3. Reboot: $ sudo reboot

Benefits of Honeypots

  1. Threat Intelligence: Honeypots provide real-time intelligence on emerging threats and attack vectors, enabling organizations to proactively strengthen their defenses.
  2. Early Warning System: By detecting and analyzing malicious activity at its inception, honeypots serve as an early warning system, allowing security teams to respond swiftly and effectively.
  3. Enhanced Incident Response: The data gathered from honeypots can inform incident response strategies, helping organizations mitigate the impact of security breaches and prevent future incidents.
  4. Deception and Deterrence: Honeypots deceive attackers into wasting their time and resources on non-existent or low-value assets, ultimately deterring them from targeting genuine systems.

Securing Honeypots

While honeypots can be valuable assets in a cybersecurity arsenal, they also pose certain risks if not properly secured. Here are some essential security measures to consider:

  1. Access Controls: Restrict access to honeypots to authorized personnel only, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access or misuse.
  2. Network Segmentation: Segregate honeypots from critical network infrastructure to contain potential breaches and limit their impact.
  3. Encryption: Encrypt data collected from honeypots to protect it from interception or tampering by malicious actors.
  4. Regular Auditing: Conduct regular security audits to identify and remediate vulnerabilities in honeypot configurations and deployments.
  5. Incident Response Plan: Develop and maintain a comprehensive incident response plan tailored to honeypot deployments, ensuring swift and effective action in the event of a security incident.


Honeypots represent a powerful tool in the fight against cyber threats, offering organizations invaluable insights into the tactics and strategies employed by malicious actors.


Research Paper:

Schedule a Pentest:

Penetration Testing

Start a Free Trial:

Vulnerability Scanner