How Honeyfiles and Honeypots Protect You from Ransomware

THE AUTHOR

Keith Ward
August 25, 2022

How Honeyfiles and Honeypots Protect You from Ransomware

Honeyfiles and honeypots are becoming an increasingly important strategy against ransomware.  

This is because ransomware attacks continue to surge, and new ways of extorting payments are constantly being developed. Because of this, honeypots and their close cousin, honeyfiles, help root out the bad guys before they compromise your network.

A bit of history helps here. When ransomware attacks first surfaced, hackers relied on emails and phishing attempts to steal credentials and infiltrate systems, often bringing business operations to a halt. Their efforts caused losses in the billions (USD).

Despite the noted infiltration of crucial infrastructure companies in recent years, ransomware attacks don’t always lead to a financial loss. More than half the time, hackers walk away with nothing for their efforts.

Investing in software and technology that makes their work more complicated and time-consuming is one way to prevent ransomware attacks within your organization. Using honeypots and honeyfiles is another.

What Is a Honeyfile?

While honeypots are traps designed to draw hackers into your systems for capture, honeyfiles serve as the bait.

By intentionally creating files a threat actor might seek—such as “logins.txt” or a document filled with dummy passwords or customer payment information—you compel the hacker to act. Honeyfiles lets you monitor and assess your network with minimal impact on normal operations.

What Is a Honeypot?

A honeypot is a system created to draw in hackers so you can evaluate their processes and identify the methods they employ to strike. You can then use this information to further strengthen your internal security controls.

The goal is to create vulnerabilities you know hackers can’t resist, such as misconfigured databases or unsecured payment gateways. For a honeypot to be successful, you must make the decoys appealing without being obvious in your intent.

Dangers Associated with Honeypots

Although honeypots are beneficial in identifying threats and catching hackers in the act, their use is not without risk. If hackers suspect you’re using a honeypot, they could become more aggressive in their attacks.

Further, if your honeypots aren't configured properly, you could inadvertently provide access to other elements of your network. If these areas aren’t secured with firewalls or other intrusion-prevention tools, you could open yourself up to further intrusion.

Honeyfiles and Honeypots = Proactive Protection

As more people turn to digital tools and services for their work and personal routines, ransomware attacks show no sign of easing. In 2021, these attacks represented almost three-quarters of the malware breaches reported.

Using honeypots, honeyfiles, and even honeynets, which are nothing more than dummy networks created to fool hackers, as part of your InfoSec strategy can help you be more proactive in minimizing attacks and protecting your valuable infrastructure.

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