The Ultimate Guide to Honeypot Traps: Everything You Need to Know
If you’ve ever dealt with web scraping, you’ve encountered honeypot traps at one point. Even if you didn’t, you surely know what they are. The number of cyber-attacks keeps growing, so protection has to keep up. Hence, website owners develop new security measures to protect their content from theft and other nefarious purposes.
Honeypot traps play a crucial role in online data protection. Unfortunately, they also can’t differentiate between ethical and unethical web scrapers. In this article, we’ll explain what honeypot traps are, how they work, and how you can avoid them.
What Are Honeypot Traps and How They Work
In short, honeypots are a security measure websites use to detect and counter malicious activities and web scraping efforts. These virtual traps are often intentionally compromised systems. As such, they’re easy to attack.
But there’s a catch.
As the attacker starts gathering data from a honeypot trap, the website gathers information about the attacker. All this information helps businesses and organizations improve their protection, recognize attack patterns, and respond to threats adequately.
Essentially, honeypots can be any computer system - from software to networks, routers, and file servers. They’re all a decoy that aims to convince the attacker they’ve accessed a legitimate resource. The attacker is encouraged to spend as much time as possible in this environment for the purpose of observation.
In other words, honeypot traps are a great way to protect a website from any abuse. More importantly, they’re very effective at catching attackers in the act.
Most Common Types of Honeypot Traps
There are several types of honeypot traps. Each one of them aims to accomplish a different task. Although they often vary based on deployment and design, all honeypots are nothing but decoys. They’re designed to look like legitimate (and vulnerable) computer systems that contain valuable data. Here are the most common ones:
- Passive honeypots
The primary purpose of a passive honeypot is to gather information. Once an attacker finds and starts exploiting one, it gathers IPs, packet captures, attack signatures, and other data. This data is then used to improve security. Passive honeypots are very simple to set up and easy to maintain. However, they’re also not as effective as attackers can’t easily detect them.
- Malware honeypots
As the name suggests, malware honeypot traps encourage malware attacks . Once an attack occurs, security professionals can study the attack patterns and enhance the system’s malware detection and protection measures.
- Database honeypots
Since the web’s early days, SQL injection and other malicious code attacks have been a problem for webmasters worldwide. These honeypot traps are essentially decoy databases. The website owners log all access attempts to detect and neutralize any flaws and exploits.
- Client honeypots
Unlike other honeypot traps, these are placed on client devices (phones and PCs) instead of servers. Their goal is to recognize and log all access attempts by unauthorized users and other malicious activity (phishing, malware, and denial-of-service attacks). This type of honeypot trap is often less effective than server-side types as it’s fairly easy to discover. However, it’s also harder to bypass.
- Spam honeypots
These are also known as email honeypots. Spammers often use bots to gather email addresses, and an email honeypot is a source of fake email addresses. The goal is simple - gather information on spammers. Once they study this data, companies can block spam IPs, redirect emails, and protect users from spam.
How to Avoid Honeypot Traps
A honeypot trap protects data from misuse. Unfortunately, it usually can’t differentiate between cyber criminals and legitimate web scrapers which gather data ethically . Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid these traps while scraping data from the web:
- Using headless browsers
Headless browsers work like regular web browsers, but without GUI (graphical user interface). They’re fast and easy to control, so they’re very popular tools for web scraping, automated testing, and similar scenarios. More importantly, they make it hard for websites to detect bot activity, so you can use them to avoid honeypot traps.
- Using proxy servers
The most effective way to keep your web scraping efforts protected is by using good proxies. Residential proxies are the most reliable since they’re devices used by real people. In other words, your request comes from genuine desktop or mobile devices. A website “sees” them as regular visitors and has no way of tracing them back to your scraping setup.
- Using reliable web scraping tools
Along with web scrapers and proxy servers, the web scraping tools you use are just as important. Generally, there are countless options here - from no-code tools like Parsehub , to different frameworks you can use to create your own web scraping solutions .
Honeypot traps are a great way to combat cyber criminals and malicious website activity. However, they’re often a great challenge for legitimate web scraping efforts. Even if you’re only scraping publicly available data, avoiding honeypots is a must. Always make sure to use the right tools and protect your scraper with authentic proxy servers you can rely on!