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Startup to Ship Sweetened Honeypot

New, real-time, AI-based forensics appliance uses virtualized honeypot technology and interfaces with IDS/IPSes

LAS VEGAS -- Interop -- A security startup here is demonstrating technology that could make honeypot technology more manageable and practicable for security teams in large organizations.

NeuralIQ says it will begin shipping its real-time forensics appliance, which uses virtual honeynets and artificial intelligence, late next month.

One of the biggest drawbacks to deploying honeypots in the enterprise is the labor and complexity associated with sifting through all the data they can generate. That heavy sifting and lifting -- not to mention the risk of inviting trouble into your network with a promiscuous decoy -- have made enterprises wary of honeypot technology. (See Sweetening the Honeypot and Enterprises Still Not Sweet on Honeypots.)

But the new NeuralIQ Q5 appliance uses a so-called "high-interaction" virtual honeypot -- one where you can interact with the attacker, rather than just watch him -- as well as a pattern-matching engine that feeds attacker behavioral methods to Cisco, Enterasys, IBM/ISS, Juniper, Nokia, Sourcefire, Snort, and Symantec IDS/IPS products.

"As a hacker connects to the honeypot, we look at what it's doing on your network. We give you the anatomy of a hack," says Alen Capalik, founder and CTO of the privately funded, Santa Monica, Calif.-based NeuralIQ.

Capalik says the appliance watches attack patterns on the network, the OS, and on applications, and it serves as a customized view of the threats and attacks your network or applications are susceptible to. Some banks, for instance, are interested in using the appliance to test the security of their internally developed applications before they go live, he says.

The appliance also gives IDS/IPS devices real-time attack-pattern information that then can be used to create new signatures in those products to help protect against attacks. And unlike some honeypots, the Q5 doesn't have any monitoring software or other obvious honeypot characteristics, so it appears to really be part of the network.

There's been a concerted effort over the past few months to make honeypot technology more appetizing to the enterprise, such as the Honeynet Project's free tools for building honeynets more easily. "Honeynet and honeypot technologies have been ready for enterprise deployment," says Ralph Logan, principal with The Logan Group and vice president of the Honeynet Project. "Products like this one are valuable to any enterprise environment, as it answers the 'who and why' of network attacks, which is one of the most valuable functions of Honeynet [Project] technology."

NeuralIQ's Capalik says the Q5 basically customizes intrusion and attack trends: "It's customized to your network, and you learn from the hackers" on how to better protect yourself, he says, rather than running prepackaged industry-driven signature detection tools alone.

The Q5 isn't the first commercial honeypot offering. Managed security services firm Endeavor Security last fall began offering honeynet services for organizations that don't want to build out and run their own honeynets. (See Endeavor Sweetens the Honeynet.)

The Q5 has two blade servers: one that runs virtualized honeypot decoys and a Sentinel surveillance module; and another that acts as a dedicated processor for a relational database, the AI signature-generation engine, and a visualization interface.

The product doesn't come cheap: It lists at $44,900. So far, government agencies, banks, ISPs, and consulting firms have been the early adopters, says Capalik.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

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