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Definition: A honeypot is a decoy computer system, network, or piece of data designed to attract and ensnare potential cyber attackers. It simulates real resources of an organisation's IT environment to lure attackers away from legitimate targets and study their tactics.

A honeypot is a proactive defense, serving several purposes such as detecting threats, learning about enemy tactics, and distracting adversaries from more valuable systems or data. They are intentionally made to appear as attractive targets with seemingly low security, tempting the attacker into committing their resources to exploit this vulnerability. Once attracted to the honeypot, the attacker’s behaviour can be monitored and analysed, without them realising that they are not compromising a real target.

A honeypot can help organisations understand how attacks are conducted and provide critical insights into the techniques, procedures, and intentions of threat actors. This knowledge can inform security strategies and bolster an organisation’s defense mechanisms against real attacks. Additionally, honeypots can assist in law enforcement efforts to track and apprehend cyber criminals.

It is essential that a honeypot is expertly designed to be convincing yet isolated enough to prevent attackers from discovering their true nature or using them as a launchpad for further attacks. Deployment requires careful planning to avoid legal and ethical repercussions and ensure that honeypot activity does not inadvertently affect legitimate users or operations.

Key Characteristics:

  • Decoy system to lure and entrap cyber attackers
  • Simulates a real IT environment to attract malicious activities
  • Enables monitoring and analysis of attacker behaviour
  • Isolates the threat from genuine systems and data


  • Real-World Example: A university’s IT department sets up a honeypot masquerading as an open research database to attract hackers. The system captures several intrusion attempts, and the data gathered is used to enhance the university’s actual network security.
  • Hypothetical Scenario: A financial institution deploys a series of honeypots resembling online banking systems to distract attackers from their real infrastructure and collect data on novel attack vectors and malware types.

Related Terms:

  • Threat Intelligence: Information an organisation uses to understand the threats targeting its environment, often derived from monitoring honeypot activities.
  • Deception Technology: A broader term encompassing various tactics, including honeypots, used to deceive attackers and lead them away from valuable assets.
  • Attack Surface: The sum of the different points where an unauthorised user can try to enter data to or extract data from an environment, which honeypots aim to protect.

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