Beneficial side effects of running a honeypot

Posted at 11:42 pm in Uncategorized

Spam (the non-electronic version)

I’ve been running a honeypot for quite a while now, it started out as a pure SSH honeypot – first with Kippo and then I migrated to Cowrie. Some time later I added more honeypot services to the unit in the form of InetSim. The InetSim software provides multiple plaintext services like HTTP, FTP, and SMTP, as well as the encrypted versions.

HTTP and FTP are services where the intruders will try to download something from the honeypot, and InetSim will serve them a predefined set of standard sample documents. The HTTP and FTP also allow uploads, in which case any submitted content will be saved for future analysis by the honeypot administrator.

However, the funniest side effect of running InetSim – at least so far – is with its SMTP service. Spammers will happily use this, what they will think is a newly discovered “open relay”, for distributing annoying spam and/or more malicious phishing mail. All the spam they push through the service acting like an MTA will of course be sinkholed (and saved locally), while they most likely believe that they have distributed their content.

As the below table listing the last two weeks’ top 10 most active spammer IPs shows, the most active spammer “successfully delivered” no less than 300 000 spam messages through (or rather to) the honeypot SMTP. The honeypot itself will obviously drop those mails to the ground, and if the software hadn’t done it (or if the attacker had found a way to break out of the honeypot), the honeypot resides in a very strictly controlled environment ensuring that no spam would’ve found its way out anyway.

IP addressNumber of spam mails

While neither spam, phishing mails nor open mail relays are normally laughing matters, I truly enjoy knowing that the spammers have wasted their time with a non-functional mail server believing that they got their job done. One can also hope that the people behind the spam/scam pays for their service.

Written by admin on July 13th, 2016

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