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Learn from your attackers – SSH HoneyPot – Robert Putt

Copy the sample configuration files into position.

Edit the honssh.cfg file using your favourite editor, update the variables below accordingly.

(honssh_env) honssh@honssh:~$ vi ~/honssh/honssh.cfg

Internet facing IP address of HonSSH Gateway server.

SSH Port for running the HonSSH server.

Instructs HonSSH server to use default route to contact the Honey Pot

honey-static / sensor_name

Defines a friendly name for your Honey Pot.

The internal network IP for the Honey Pot.

honey-static / honey_port

The port the Honey Pots SSH service listens on the internal network.

Leave all other variables blank or with their default value. If you want to use the extended functionality of HonSSH feel free to customise as required later.

Next SSH from the HonSSH server to the HoneyPot as root using the password you previously set when configuring the host. Next set the password to some value which is easy to guess for example p455w0rd this will allow the attacker to gain access without trying too hard and then we can watch what they are up to.

(honssh_env) honssh@honssh:~$ ssh root@
The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established. ECDSA key fingerprint is 91:fb:67:8e:5d:68:76:67:23:30:bc:1e:59:78:92:77. Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts. root@'s password:
root@honeypot:~# passwd
Enter new UNIX password:
Retype new UNIX password:
passwd: password updated successfully

Once completed disconnect from the HoneyPot SSH session to return to the HonSSH host. Change directory into the HonSSH folder and generate some keys for HonSSH to use for cryptography. Note when using ssh-keygen we override the default path with a relative file id_rsa / id_dsa.

(honssh_env) honssh@honssh:~$ cd honssh
(honssh_env) honssh@honssh:~/honssh$ ssh-keygen
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/honssh/.ssh/id_rsa): id_rsa id_rsa already exists.
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
Enter same passphrase again:
Your identification has been saved in id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in
The key fingerprint is: 85:11:45:f4:00:83:b6:d9:fb:d5:8a:56:23:a3:f9:81 honssh@honssh
(honssh_env) honssh@honssh:~/honssh$ ssh-keygen -t dsa Generating public/private dsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/honssh/.ssh/id_dsa): id_dsa Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
Enter same passphrase again:
Your identification has been saved in id_dsa.
Your public key has been saved in
The key fingerprint is: 64:5c:8f:3c:6d:fd:a9:b8:26:83:75:4c:f9:cb:af:16 honssh@honssh

Next start up the HonSSH server, this will start the server up and give a very verbose output, hopefully you should see something similar to the below…

(honssh_env) honssh@honssh:~/honssh$ twistd -y honssh.tac -p n & 2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [-] Log opened.
2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [-] twistd 16.1.1 (/home/honssh/honssh_env/bin/python 2.7.9) starting up.
2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [-] reactor class: twisted.internet.epollreactor.EPollReactor.
2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [-] HonsshServerFactory starting on 2220
2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [-] Starting factory 
2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [HonsshSlimClientTransport,client] [CLIENT] - Got SSH Version String: SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_6.7p1 Debian-5
2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [HonsshSlimClientTransport,client] Disconnecting with error, code 10
reason: user closed connection
2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [HonsshSlimClientTransport,client] connection lost 2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [HonsshSlimClientTransport,client] [HONSSH] - HonSSH Boot Sequence Complete - Ready for attacks!
2016-05-10 19:53:01+0000 [-] Stopping factory 

Open a new terminal window and try SSHing to the HonSSH Gateway server on the listening port of HonSSH, hopefully you should get a connection, try logging in with the password you previously set on the Honey Pot host.

$ ssh root@ -p2220
Warning: Permanently added '[]:2220' (RSA) to the list of known hosts. root@'s password:
The programs included with the Debian GNU/Linux system are free software; the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.
Debian GNU/Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by applicable law.
Last login: Tue May 10 19:45:56 2016 from root@honeypot:~#

Congratulations, this is your first connection to your Honey Pot, this is the same as what would happen with an attacker. Go back to your previous terminal window and issue an ls command, you should see a sessions directory, in here should be another directory with your sensor name as set in the configuration file. Within this directory are for each client IP which has connected and has a session on the Honey Pot, these directories contain log files for each session. Try catting out one of the logs so we can see what the user got up to…

(honssh_env) honssh@honssh:~/honssh$ cat sessions/my_honeypot/ 20160510_195912_678718 - [POT ] my_honeypot - 20160510_195912_678718 - [SSH ] Incoming Connection from - United Kingdom
20160510_195914_325358 - [SSH ] Login Successful: root:p455w0rd 20160510_195914_503284 - [TERM0] Opened Channel 20160510_195915_262392 - [TERM0] Command Executed: ls 20160510_195918_048578 - [TERM0] Command Executed: cd / 20160510_195918_368344 - [TERM0] Command Executed: ls 20160510_195919_461375 - [TERM0] Closed Channel 20160510_195919_466126 - [SSH ] Lost Connection with
(honssh_env) honssh@honssh:~/honssh$

However, configuration is sadly not complete, unfortunately SSH servers do not usually listen on port 2220 and you may have noticed that when you are connected to the Honey Pot you are unable to do anything with the internet, try a ping to a website. Also in the case of the Honey Pot above you may have noticed its host name is set to honeypot. It is likely with these tell-tale signs and strange configuration not many hackers will stumble across the host, and if they do theyll probably quit our right away. Lets get to work on fixing these items, leave the honssh users account on the HonSSH Gateway server and ensure you have a root shell.

(honssh_env) honssh@honssh:~/honssh$ exit
root@honssh:~# whoami

Next lets configure iptables to forward port 22 to 2220 on the host and also allow outbound nat for the Honey Pot to gain internet access, we also install the iptables persistence package to ensure the rules survive a reboot.

root@honssh:~# sed -i 's/#net.ipv4.ip_forward=1/net.ipv4.ip_forward=1/g' /etc/sysctl.conf
root@honssh:~# sysctl p
root@honssh:~# echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward
root@honssh:~# iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE
root@honssh:~# iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -i eth0 -p tcp --dport 22 -j REDIRECT --to-port 2220 
root@honssh:~# apt-get install iptables-persistent

When asked if youd like to save the current rules reply with yes. Your configuration is now complete. Remember if you want to login to the Honey Pot connect via Port 22, if you want to administer the gateway connect on port 2222, su to the honssh user and checkout the sessions directory if you want to see whats been going on on the Honey Pot.

You probably need to update a few items on the Honey Pot server to get the internet connectivity working and to set a more reasonable hostname. SSH to the Honey Pot and edit the /etc/network/interfaces file, add the default gateway to the eth0 block of the Honey Pot server.

root@honeypot:~# vi /etc/network/interfaces auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static

Next edit the /etc/resolv.conf file to have some valid name servers and set the hostname to something more appropriate.

root@honeypot:~# vi /etc/resolv.conf
root@honeypot:~# hostname
root@honeypot:~# echo "" > /etc/hostname
root@honeypot:~# ping -c 3
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=45 time=9.71 ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=45 time=9.70 ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=45 time=9.79 ms
--- ping statistics ---
3 packets transmitted, 3 received, 0% packet loss, time 2003ms rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 9.702/9.738/9.798/0.091 ms

What Now?

Congratulations you now have an SSH Honey Pot listening on the internet, soon some attackers should start scanning your IP range and perform dictionary attacks as soon as they realise your running an SSH server with password authentication enabled. You should check back periodically and see if there were any active sessions and see what they have been up to, remember be highly suspicious of anything an attacker places on your Honey Pot host and take care when handling these files. It is likely from time to time you will need to rebuild the Honey Pot host as attackers are usually quite brutal with them, and you may also receive complaints from your ISP if an attacker starts doing bad stuff from your Honey Pot. In this case you should proactively manage all of these events. You can always put IPTables rules in place on the HonSSH server to ensure commonly abused outbound ports are limited, its also nice to run tcpdump on the HonSSH server so you can capture network traffic for analysis.

You may have noticed its rather cumbersome to collate and manage logs and session data via SSH to the HonSSH Gateway, you can make life a little easier by installing MySQL and configuring MySQL logging within the honssh.cfg file. You can then make some clever queries to make sense of the data.

Reply in the comments if you have any exciting findings from running your own Honey Pot, in the future I may publish another article covering more advanced analysis techniques for the Honey Pot.

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