What Is A Honeypot and How Does It Work?

Flipnode on Apr 20 2023


In the present-day data-centric landscape, numerous companies depend on vast quantities of publicly available data to make critical decisions. To acquire this data, web scraping through Python is a common practice that involves extracting information from websites across the internet.

Despite its utility, web scraping encounters certain obstacles, including the issue of honeypot traps. This article aims to elucidate what honeypots are, their common usage, and effective strategies to circumvent them during web scraping.

What is a honeypot?

In the modern world of data-driven decision making, many businesses depend on vast amounts of public data that they obtain from various websites across the internet using Python for web scraping. Nonetheless, web scraping can present several obstacles, such as honeypot traps. This article will examine what honeypots are, their applications, and how to prevent them when web scraping.

A honeypot is an artificial system designed to appear as a genuinely compromised system, used to entice cybercriminals. Honeypot systems divert attackers from their actual targets while attracting them. Security teams commonly employ honeypots to examine malicious activities, enabling them to better manage vulnerabilities.

There are three primary types of honeypots, which differ in complexity depending on the needs of the organization deploying them. The three types are pure honeypots, low-interaction honeypots, and high-interaction honeypots.

Pure honeypots are complete production systems that seem to have sensitive or confidential data. They monitor the attacker's actions through a bug tap installed on the link between the honeypot and the network. While pure honeypots can be complicated, they provide valuable information about attacks.

Low-interaction honeypots mimic only the systems and services that attackers often target. Therefore, they are not resource-intensive and are simpler to deploy and maintain. These honeypots collect information on the type of attack and its origin and are frequently used as early detection mechanisms by security teams.

High-interaction honeypots are intricate systems that operate a range of services, similar to real production systems. These honeypots offer attackers multiple potential targets to infiltrate, allowing researchers to observe their techniques and behaviors while gathering extensive cybersecurity insights.

While high-interaction honeypots can be resource-intensive and expensive to maintain, they offer significant insights. Multiple high-interaction honeypots are commonly hosted on a single machine using virtual machines, ensuring that attackers do not gain access to the actual production system.

How do honeypots work?

There are two main categories of honeypots based on their purpose: production honeypots and research honeypots. Production honeypots are deployed alongside actual production servers and detect intrusions into the system while diverting the attacker's focus away from the primary system.

Research honeypots, on the other hand, collect information about cyber attacks from attackers. Security teams can use this data to analyze and study attacker trends and improve their defense mechanisms. These honeypots provide valuable insights into attacker behavior and tactics.

Where are honeypot traps used?

To discuss honeypot traps and their applications, various types of honeypot traps are used, including malware honeypots, spam honeypots, client honeypots, database honeypots, and honeynets.

Malware honeypots are used to emulate USB flash drives and invite malware attacks to analyze and address vulnerabilities. Spam honeypots identify spammers who abuse open mail relays and proxies by masquerading as them and blocking their IP addresses or notifying ISPs.

Database honeypots are decoy databases set up to detect database-specific attacks such as SQL injection and divert attackers from the actual database. Client honeypots act as clients and observe how malicious servers modify client servers during attacks in virtualized environments.

Honeynet is a network of honeypots used to monitor large, complex networks that contain multiple systems. They are implemented as part of a larger intrusion detection system, and a honeywall gateway leads incoming traffic to honeypot instances to gather information about attackers while diverting them from the actual network. Honeynets aid in the study of various types of cybersecurity attacks, including DDoS and ransomware attacks, and protect the organization's corporate network.

Client honeypots are a type of honeypot that simulate the behavior of a client to attract malicious servers that target clients. Essentially, they act as decoys to lure attackers and allow security teams to observe their tactics and techniques. By analyzing the behavior of malicious servers, security experts can gain valuable insight into how they operate, as well as the types of threats that are most likely to target clients. Typically, client honeypots are run in virtualized environments, which allow security teams to create a safe and isolated space in which to observe attacks. This is important because attackers can sometimes cause real damage to client servers, and it is essential to prevent such damage from spreading to other systems in the network. By running honeypots in a virtualized environment, security teams can mitigate the risk of real-world damage and still gather valuable data on the behavior of malicious servers.

Honeypot traps and web scraping

Websites use honeypot traps to prevent malicious web scraping, which can result in the theft of copyrighted content. However, these traps cannot differentiate between good and malicious bots, leading to the possibility of catching legitimate web scraping bots. These traps, commonly known as spider honeypots, are often included in website links that are only accessible to web crawlers.

It is crucial to be aware of honeypot traps as websites can easily detect and take action against web scraping activity. Some honeypot links are hidden through CSS styles such as "display: none," while others blend with the background color. It is important to follow best practices when web scraping, respecting website rules and ensuring that crawlers only follow visible links to minimize the risk of being blocked.


Although honeypot traps are useful for detecting and preventing cyber attacks, they can also hinder legitimate web scraping activities. For example, if you intend to scrape public data for purposes such as price monitoring or market research, you need to be cautious of spider honeypot traps and avoid them altogether.

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