Honeyd General Information

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Honeyd is a small daemon that creates virtual hosts on a network. The hosts can be configured to run arbitrary services, and their personality can be adapted so that they appear to be running certain operating systems. Honeyd enables a single host to claim multiple addresses - I have tested up to 65536 - on a LAN for network simulation. Honeyd improves cyber security by providing mechanisms for threat detection and assessment. It also deters adversaries by hiding real systems in the middle of virtual systems.

It is possible to ping the virtual machines, or to traceroute them. Any type of service on the virtual machine can be simulated according to a simple configuration file. Instead of simulating a service, it is also possible to proxy it to another machine.

annotate "AIX 4.0 - 4.2" fragment old
# Example of a simple host template and its binding
create template
set template personality "AIX 4.0 - 4.2"
add template tcp port 80 "sh scripts/"
add template tcp port 22 "sh scripts/ $ipsrc $dport"
add template tcp port 23 proxy
set template default tcp action reset

bind template

The different TCP personalities are learned from reading a nmap fingerprint file. The configured personality is the operating system that nmap or xprobe will return. Personalities can be annotated to determine if they allow FIN-scans for open ports or to select the preference in which they reassemble fragmented IP packets.

Honeyd can be used to create a virtual honey net or for general network monitoring. It supports the creation of a virtual network topology including dedicated routes and routers. The routes can be attributed with latency and packet loss to make the topology seem more realistic.

Because Honeyd interacts with potentially malicious adversaries, you should sandbox it with Systrace. Systrace prevents an adversary from exploiting bugs in your Honeyd scripts.


Honeyd supports a variey of features that make the daemon very flexible for creating both host based and netword based virtual honeypots. The following list gives a brief overview of the different features that Honeyd supports:

  • Simulates thousands of virtual hosts at the same time.
  • Configuration of arbitrary services via simple configuration file:
    • Includes proxy connects.
    • Passive fingerprinting to identify remote hosts.
    • Random sampling for load scaling.
  • Simulates operating systems at TCP/IP stack level:
    • Fools nmap and xprobe,
    • Adjustable fragment reassembly policy,
    • Adjustable FIN-scan policy.
  • Simulation of arbitrary routing topologies:
    • Configurable latency and packet loss.
    • Assymetric routing.
    • Integration of physical machines into topology.
    • Distributed Honeyd via GRE tunneling.
  • Subsystem virtualization:
    • Run real UNIX applications under virtual Honeyd IP addresses: web servers, ftp servers, etc...
    • Dynamic port binding in virtual address space, background initiation of network connections, etc.

Subsystem Virtualization

Honeyd supports service virtualization by executing Unix applications as subsystems running in the virtual IP address space of a configured honeypot. This allows any network application to dynamically bind ports, create TCP and UDP connections using a virtual IP address.

Subsystems are virtualized by intercepting their network requests and redirecting them to Honeyd. Every configuration template may contain subsystems that are started as separated processes when the template is bound to a virtual IP address. An additional benefit of this approach is the ability of honeypots to create sporadic background traffic like requesting web pages and reading email, etc.

Internet In The Box

Honeyd supports assymetric routes and the integration of physical machines into the virtual network topology. As a result, it is possible to use Honeyd for simple network simulations: Physical hosts can be exposed to high latency or packet loss, arbitrary routing infrastructures, etc.

route entry network
route link
route add net tunnel "thishost" "honeyd-b"
route add net latency 55ms loss 0.1
route add net latency 20ms loss 0.1
route add net latency 20ms loss 0.1
route link
route link
route add net latency 10ms loss 0.1
route link
route add net latency 10ms
route add net latency 5ms
route link
route link
route add net latency 40ms loss 0.5 
bind to fxp0
bind to fxp0

Using GRE tunneling allows the creation of distributed setups that allow Honeyd to scale to larger networks. It also allows virtual machines to be spread across separate address spaces as GRE tunnel selection can be based on the source addresses.