Image courtesy of wondermonkey2k via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic.
Here’s how honeypots and other forms of Internet traps work to ensnare web users like you.
In a technical sense, a honeypot is when a decoy computer system is used to identify hackers and their methods, usually in order to configure security to block them.
The web is full of Internet traps, honeypot or otherwise, used to exploit the gullibility and desires of millions of users. Whether you’re trying to hack someone, find a date, or buy something, rest assured that there are plenty of pots you could fall into if you’re not careful.
Internet Trap 1: Honeypots, fishing for intel
Like controversial comedy the Interview demonstrated, honeypots are investigative traps used mainly to bust wrongdoers or gather intelligence by mimicking what they desire. Online, this is in most cases a vulnerable IP. Examples include:
- Decoy honeypots: As large-scale cyber attacks become more common and probable, honeypots built to appear as attractive targets (like Target or Sony) can be used as “canaries” to sound the alarm
- Honeynets: Lots of honeypots together makes a honeynet. The Honeynet Project uses volunteers’ honeypots around the world to fight against malware with a net of traps
- The sexy honeypot: A group aligned with the Syrian regime disguised themselves as women on Skype and social media to collect data on terrorist insiders, including personal information and battle plans
Internet Trap 2: Scams, fishing for dolla bills
Scams, of which there are many types, aren’t after your identity as much as they are your wallet. They appeal to web users’ material and physical desires rip them off:
- Dating scams: There are plenty of legitimate dating websites out there, some for free and some that charge monthly fees. As the recent Ashley Madison hack made clear, the extra-marital affair website essentially duped millions of men into paying for a bot-filled website with very few real women on it
- Impersonation scams: Emails alleging to be from the FBI, the IRS, disaster funds relief, Nigerian Princes, friends in need, and much more dupe people out of huge amounts of money regularly
- Shopping & rental scams: From diet pills to apartment complexes, some scams offer great deals and then, in the buying or renting process, overcharge buyers indefinitely over time
Internet Trap 3: Catfish, fishing for your heart
Catfish is a term used for those who lie about their identities to get into emotional, sexual, or romantic relationships online. It happens frequently enough to merit a reality TV show.
Types of catfish include:
- Romantic catfish: The typical catfish uses a fake identity, whether out of malice, boredom, or insecurity, to fool individuals into opening up and developing a relationship online
- Pity catfish: Some individuals have been known to fake diseases or other situations to get pity and support online. Some even fake their own deaths
- Celebrity catfish: Individuals that fein celebrity, especially with registered social media accounts, to fool others into thinking they are rich, powerful, and worthy of many likes and follows
The solution? Trappers gonna trap, but the best way to avoid getting stuck is to always verify, verify, verify before making decisions that could drain you legally, financially, or emotionally.
Rule of thumb is that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is — and the last thing you need is to fall for an Internet trap designed to get you hooked or sticky.