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F-Secure's Honeypots Get Hit 3 Billion Times in First Half of 2019

Global network of honeypots measured more than triple the attack traffic of the previous period, to a total of over 2.9 billion events.

Larry Loeb

September 17, 2019

3 Min Read

F-Secure, like many security companies, uses "honeypots" to get information about attacks.

Honeypots can be thought of as decoy servers that have been set up in countries around the world to gauge trends and patterns in "what's going on" in the global cyber attack landscape. F-Secure configures them to look like actual servers, inviting the type of traffic that hits actual servers. Honeypots are said by F-Secure to be highly effective tools for collecting information on the methods and target selection processes used by modern attackers. They can also be a good source of malware samples and shell scripts.

In F-Secure's "Attack Landscape H1 2019" they look at the results of this effort for the first half of the year. It seems to have gotten rather large.

In the company's global network of honeypots they measured more than triple the attack traffic of the previous period, to a total of over 2.9 billion events. It's the first time since they have begun publishing data from the honeypot network that traffic has ever hit the billion mark.

99.9% of traffic to the honeypots was judged to be automated traffic coming from bots, malware and other tools. However, F-Secure admits in the report that, "Attacks may come from any sort of connected computing device -- a traditional computer, malware-infected smartwatch or IoT toothbrush can be a source."

The top ten list of attack source countries for H1 2019 includes the US, Russia, Germany and China. However, this is the first time F-Secure saw traffic volumes from the Chinese IP space that has overshadowed other countries to take top spot. Traffic from China ballooned to 702 million attacks.

They also say that India is a new entrant to the top ten, having scored with 44 million attacks. This may make sense if one realizes that it's also taken the distinction of being a top botnet-infected country, according to Spamhaus. Philippines, Brazil and Armenia are also newcomers.

It should be remembered that attackers can route their attacks through proxies in countries other than where they themselves are located to avoid identification by law enforcement. F-Secure is also careful to say that, "we do not mean to imply that this activity is predominantly nation state behavior."

The US heads the list as the top attack destination.

Also, of the 2.9 billion hits that F-Secure recorded, 2.1 billion were on TCP ports. Telnet, which is rarely used anymore outside the realm of IoT devices, saw the greatest volumes during the period. Traffic to port 445 was the next most prevalent, representing SMB worms and exploits such as Eternal Blue.

Attacks on SSH port 22 came in third, which may be due to brute force password attempts to gain remote access to a machine, but also IoT malware (which uses SSH as well). Russia was by far the biggest originator of SSH traffic.

ZIP, PDF, DOC and XLS files have been the most commonly used attachment type for spreading malware, but F-Secure noted an increasingly popular trend of attackers employing disc image files (ISO and IMG).

Results from this kind of report are always changing as the landscape changes, but the basic security mindset ("don't click that unknown attachment!") will always serve the user best.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

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About the Author(s)

Larry Loeb

Blogger, Informationweek

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange. His first Mac had 128 KB of memory, which was a big step up from his first 1130, which had 4 KB, as did his first 1401. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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