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Free Tool Will Help Analyze Attacks

The HoneyNet Project is working on a free tool that parses and analyzes honeypot data to help organizations plan their IT defenses

Ever wondered exactly who was attacking your network and why? A new freebie tool from the HoneyNet Project will provide a dashboard of data that may help you get to the bottom of attack attempts.

The new HoneySnap data analysis tool, which will be released before Thanksgiving, is aimed at enterprises as well as the traditional research types, Dark Reading has learned. Honeypot technology hasn't been widely deployed among mainstream enterprises because it's perceived as inviting trouble and most companies don’t have the resources to manage such a project. (See Enterprises Still Not Sweet on Honeypots.)

But Ralph Logan, vice president of the HoneyNet Project, says some of the largest ISPs, financial institutions, and software development companies -- including antivirus vendors -- all use Honeynet's existing HoneyWall data capture tool already. "It's everywhere," he says. "But everyone doesn't admit they have it... It's a black-radar technology."

Logan says HoneySnap will make honeypot technology more palatable for enterprises because it gives them more than just a sandbox to catch potential culprits or malware. "We've been hearing for the past two years that it's great that they [organizations using HoneyNet tools] can collect all this information, but parsing it is the biggest problem," Logan says.

The data analysis tool will collect all data gathered by HoneyWall, including pcapture files, Argus data, and Snort IDS alerts, Logan says. "Now we have the technology to correlate all attacker information so a security person can sit down and look at all of the data," he says. "One of the largest problems in security is we now have gigabytes and terabytes of log files, and no one knows how to analyze it."

It's more than log correlation, he says. "And 'who' and 'why' is more important when it comes to the insider attack... Was this a disgruntled employee? Or someone hired by a rival company?"

It would help to have HoneyNet data "correlated with other logs -- firewalls, syslog, host-based IDS, etc.," says Albert Gonzalez, a senior security specialist for Acxiom who works with honeypots for research purposes.

Gonzalez, whose own company has resisted honeypots because of concerns about risk, says honeypot technology must provide ease of installation, data interpretation, and management if it is to gain acceptance among enterprises. That's assuming, of course, that a company has the resources to run a honeypot: "Having a honeypot with no one able to interpret or even decipher the data -- what use is it to you?"

HoneySnap will run on Unix and Windows, and can be used by any pcap file, Logan says. "You can load a pcapture file and extract the information you want from it, or an IRC conversion, or Web request, and do an analysis on it."

The second piece will be a graphical user interface that will be available before Christmas, he says. It will be modularized so it works with any future tools HoneyNet develops, he says, and researchers or developers can also hook their own tools to it.

Logan compares honeypot data analysis to a general going into battle. "He has to know who he's fighting and why they are attacking certain areas. And based on those answers, he can place himself in the correct defensive posture."

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Honeynet Project Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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