September 22, 2006
Outsourced honeypots, anyone?
Managed security services firm Endeavor Security is offering services based on a network of honeypots, including a service that generates new signatures for IDS/IPS vendor clients such as Clavister AB and D-Link.
The honeynet, originally funded by the National Security Agency (NSA), also provides services for businesses, universities, and government agencies that want to monitor and adjust to threats on their networks without having to build out and run their own honeypots. (See Enterprises Still Not Sweet on Honeypots.)
And not all IDS/IPS vendors want to create their own signatures, according to Christopher Jordan, CEO of Endeavor. The company's so-called XML Signature Service uses the honeypots to detect new attacks and automatically generate new signatures for the exploits. Its IDS/IPS vendor clients then use them in their products.
"They look at us as a way to get an instant knowledge base to support signatures," says Christopher Jordan, CEO of Endeavor. It also gets signatures out faster, he says. "We generate signatures one to two weeks prior to when [IDS/IPS] vendors do."
Endeavor so far has created a total of 2,541 new signatures for its vendor clients that use its service, says Barnaby Page, senior vice president at Endeavor, which can't reveal any of its other IDS/IPS vendor clients.
The commercial honeynet grid originally got off the ground with funding from the NSA's Disruptive Technology Office for new technology initiatives. The honeypot product Endeavor built with the funding generated signatures, but Endeavor later expanded on it with a "grid" of these sensor devices combined with its own pattern-recognition and signature technology, plus security researchers who help with the analysis of attack attempts.
Endeavor also offers the Early Warning System (EWS) service, basically an outsourced honeynet for enterprises. Most enterprises won't touch honeypot technology because of its inherent risks as well as the manpower and expense it takes to manage it. The Honeynet Project, meanwhile, plans to roll out a free data-analysis tool to simplify that part of the process. (See Free Tool Will Help Analyze Attacks.)
"If an enterprise wants to use a honeypot, it's expensive," Jordan notes. It takes at least two dedicated people to run the honeypot plus sift through all the data it generates, he says. "Most companies can absorb the [honeynet] equipment costs, but not the two people" it requires.
Texas A&M University and CSCI, a Defense contractor, are among Endeavor's EWS customers.
Each client gets an appliance- or Linux-based honeypot that sits outside its firewall and is connected to the EWS infrastructure. The decoy server or honeypot is a low-risk, "shallow" device, meaning it can't be used to launch an attack. That differs from an interactive honeypot, which lets you see what attackers do after they get into the system. "We care about how they got in and what they were going to put on" the system, Jordan says.
The advantage of honeypots is that they give you a look at previously unknown attack threats, he says. EWS also includes trend reports so a company can compare its threat levels with clients', anonymously.
IDS/IPS vendors -- as well as other clients such as banks or utilities that want a jump on signatures -- just download the XML-based signatures from the honeynet network. "A lot of critical infrastructure organizations like these have so many devices they want a signature update" process, Jordan says.
But so far, the managed security services provider's main business is the security vendors, which account for about 75 percent of its revenues. Endeavor's XML Signature Service is $600 per device (IPS or firewall, for example) and EWS runs $18,000 per year.
— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading
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