Exploring Current E-mail Cyber Threats using Authenticated SMTP Honeypot

Lukáš Zobal, Dušan Kolář, Jakub Křoustek

Abstract

Today, spam is a major attack vector hackers use to cause harm. Let it be through phishing or direct malicious attachments, e-mail can be used to steal credentials, distribute malware, or cause other illegal activities. Even nowadays, most users are unaware of such danger, and it is the responsibility of the cybersecurity community to protect them. To do that, we need tools to gain proper threat intelligence in the e-mail cyber landscape. In this work, we show how an e-mail honeypot requiring authentication can be used to monitor current e-mail threats. We study how such honeypot performs in place of an open relay server. The results show this kind of solution provides a powerful tool to collect fresh malicious samples spreading in the wild. We present a framework we built around this solution and show how its users are automatically notified about unknown threats. Further, we perform analysis of the data collected and present a view on the threats spreading in the recent months as captured by this authentication-requiring e-mail honeypot.

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