This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download "Information Security magazine: Comparing seven top integrated endpoint security suites."
Download it now to read this article plus other related content.
Honeyclients are creating a buzz in the security world, giving malicious Web sites the sharp end.
Detecting these sites and collecting and countering exploits has been somewhat like playing Whack-A-Mole, but security researchers are finding effective ways to fight back. Microsoft and open source advocates are pursuing two of the more promising initiatives, aggressively hunting for exploits using honeyclients, an active variation of honeynet techniques.
While honeynets have been around for some time, they are passive collectors, sitting on some random network on the Internet, waiting for a hacker to connect to and leave evidence. Typically, they consist of a Web server and a stripped-down operating system with tracking software that registers when a hacker tries to compromise the system. While they are great at documenting exploits, they have one big disadvantage: They can't go out and actively search for the bad guys who are running Web sites designed to infect unsuspecting
Honeyclients, however, are hunters, not decoy victims; they run Web browsers and actively seek dangerous sites.
"Browsers and other client-side applications have become more and more the weakest link in the security chain," says Thorsten Holz, one of the founders of the German Honeynet Project and coauthor of Virtual Honeypots: From Botnet Tracking to Intrusion Detection. "The vendors now take a closer look at hardening the OS, but client-side applications still have tons of vulnerabilities."
There are several reasons for this shift from server to browser attacks.
This was first published in November 2007