Fake identities from honeypots

At the National Cyber Leap Year Summit last week, I heard an interesting story. I haven’t found a reference that talks about this yet, so I’m still thinking of it as a rumor instead of a fact. The story that I heard was that information stolen from honeypots is starting to take on a life of its own.

Honeypots are fake targets that are designed to attract hackers. By watching how hackers attack the honeypots, the theory goes, we learn about how the attackers operate and learn how to counter them in the future. To make a target that looks interesting to hackers, researchers populate honeypots with fake data that’s designed to look as real as possible. The fake data might include names, addresses, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and so on. All of it fake.

The rumor that I heard was that hackers have taken the bogus information from honeypots and used it to create fake identities, and that these fake identities are now opening bank accounts, getting credit cards, and so on. It’s not hard to imagine fake identities getting preapproved credit card offers at their fake addresses, but nobody actually mentioned that that’s happening.


To be an attractive target for hackers, a honeypot has to contain lots of bogus data, because few hackers are going to take the time and effort to hack a system steal a few identities. So if hackers have millions of fake identities from honeypots and these fake identities are actually taking on lives of their own, I have to wonder how many times this has happened. I’d guess that if it actually happened once it could just as easily happen a million times.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if some of these fake people were actually working for the government right now. That might explain a lot.

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