Deception Technology - A complete Guide

On September 29, 2022

What is Deception Technology?

Deception technology is a part of cyber defense system tactics used to detect, analyze, and defend your network, often in real time, from zero-day attacks and other advanced attacks.

It provides information about the malicious activity of a cyber-criminal who has infiltrated the network before causing any serious damage.

It works by generating decoys to trap the cyber-criminal. These decoys imitate legitimate technology in the infrastructure in order to deceive the hacker into believing it as the real one. These decoys are made to run in a virtual or real operating system.

The cyber criminals believe they have hacked into the network and can abuse privileges and steal credentials. A centralized deception server is alerted of an attack via notifications and records the intruder’s activity.

Why use Deception Technology?

There are numerous benefits associated with deception technology.

Some are detailed below:

  • Early detection - No network is 100% secure from attacks. Post a breach, deception technology triggers a false sense of security in the attackers by leading them to believe that they have infiltrated the network. While the attackers roam around in the decoy servers leaving a footprint of their attacks, the deception server quietly records the attack behavior. These records help the cyber security in understanding the attacker techniques to further strengthen the network from future attacks.

  • Reduced false positives - A false positive or alert fatigue results in a drain on not only the cyber security experts but on precious resources as well. After a while the false positives result in complacency among the security experts due to which they might miss out on real legitimate alerts. Deception technology helps reduce the noise by ensuring fewer false positives. It generates useful data with high fidelity alerts.

  • Reduced risk - Since the attacker is allowed access only to decoy servers, the legitimate assets are not in any real danger. Moreover, the security expert is alerted if the attacker attempts to use the decoy layer who is then able to take action, thus low risk is associated with this technology.

  • Easily scalable and automated - As organizations grow, the threat level also grows. At the same time, budget allocation for security might remain the same. In this scenario, deception technology works best, as it is easily scalable to meet the threat level and alerts can be automated that eliminates the need for manual effort and intervention.

  • Caters to all devices - Deception technology can be used in a vast number of devices such legacy systems, industry-driven environments, and IoT devices as well.

What is the importance of Dynamic Deception?

Deception technology will provide the best results only if the attacker is unaware of the deception. The attackers must not suspect that they are being misled, or else they will escape traps and scale up their efforts in infiltrating the network with advanced methods.

Due to machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) inbuilt into the security solutions, they are able to create dynamic deception techniques to evade the attackers. These further help in reduction of operational overheads and free the security teams from having to constantly create dynamic deception environments for the attackers.

How are modern deception techniques different to traditional ones?

Deception techniques have been modeled after the traditional honeypot security systems which were used to lure attackers away from the legitimate assets. The movements inside the decoy systems were used to gather intelligence about the adversaries’ identity, methods, and motivation.

The main difference lies in the fact that now the systems are more automated which requires minimal set-up which further results in reduced maintenance costs. Deception technology has sensors distributed across various endpoints, network, application, and data which mimic the enterprise applications.

Due to automation, the operational capabilities have increased to deceive the attackers which also helps in buying security experts much needed valuable time to devise effective solutions. Once the intrusion is detected, the security professionals are able to deflect and isolate the attackers’ access and waste their time and resources.

What are the benefits of deception technology?

Once the intruder is locked away in the decoy network, the cyber security professionals have enough time to understand the intentions of the attacker and prepare counter strategies to effectively thwart their efforts.

Some major benefits of deception technology are as listed below:

  1. Increased Business Risk Awareness - The traditional security tools often don’t take into account the growing security needs of the organization as it expands. Unlike deception which has the ability to create deception measures around the new entry points or new attack surface wherever the risk is high.

  1. Improvement in Threat Detection - There are two extremes on an accuracy scale. Either the detection is highly accurate but is threat-specific such as in signature-based detection or the threats have broad coverage but can result in numerous false positives such as in behavior analysis. Deception achieves both; high accuracy with broad threat coverage.

  1. Greater Coverage - Deception covers all environments such as the perimeter, end points, the application layers, cloud, IoT devices and blind spots as well. It covers all stages of the kill-chain from reconnaissance to the exploitation stage.

  1. Very Low False-Positives - Too many false positives result in alert fatigue among the cyber security experts. Since only an attacker interacts with a decoy, the chances of false positives are very slim. Deception works on a zero-activity baseline that gives details of compromise and context around an attacker’s intent.

  1. Automated Response - Deception alerts are highly specific and provide context to the incident. Thus, it is easy to automate or orchestrate responses according to the scenario however complex they may be.

Why should security teams use deception technology?

The idea is to turn the tables on the attacker by keeping them embroiled in a decoy network with false data and applications. This type of defense is in one sense a form of prevention, as it protects the legitimate assets from being tampered with.

It makes the process so laborious and unappealing that the attackers cannot steal the data let alone find it.

It is important to set up decoys at the entry points which helps protect the attack surface. In this way the front-line of the network is secured. Even if the attack surface is breached, the intruders will face hurdles at every point in the network.

As a defensive strategy, deception technology provides valuable insights into the attackers and unparalleled detection capabilities. The icing on the cake is that it spots only genuine malicious attacks.

This means a drop in the number of false positives and reduction in alert fatigue, often faced by security teams as a result of receiving high volumes of traffic inundated with false positives during testing and vulnerability scans or assessments.

What are the leading cyber security tools in cyber deception?

The various tools used for cyber deception are:

  1. Honeypots - A honeypot appears to have valuable and legitimate data but in essence it is a trap set to deflect attackers and lure them away from the real assets. The attackers’ actions are then isolated and studied. Valuable insights are gained about the attackers’ tactics and techniques. This helps in strengthening the network from future attacks or breaches. A collection of honeypots is referred to as honeynets.

  1. Masking - The trick is to mask the real and legitimate data without raising suspicion among the attackers. The first step is to effectively remove legitimate data from the vicinity of the breach.

  1. Mimicking - In this case, the assets are hidden with decoys that look real. This makes the attack surface attractive to the cyber criminals. The key is to mimic the assets to look real to the attacker.

  1. Inventing - In this case, new assets are created to appear real which in actuality don’t even exist. It is used to divert attention from the real entry points into the network.

  1. Repacking - It is different from mimicking and inventing which make the assets attractive, whereas repacking makes the assets as unappealing and irrelevant as possible. It is useful in cases where masking is not possible, they are then repacked to hide their true value.

  1. Dazzling - It is usually used against and is effective while used in less powerful threats. It uses the tactic of flooding the attacker with so much information that makes it difficult for them to distinguish real from fake.

How to choose a deception provider?

Ideally you must choose a provider who can customize solutions and optimize them based on your needs.

Some factors you must consider are:

  • Scalability - As the company grows, the number of entry points and servers also increase leading to multiple cloud locations. These open up new vulnerabilities. Thus, the platform must know how to scale solutions to suit the changing requirements and be used across multi-geographical environments.

  • Coverage - The coverage needs to be whole. That is the entire kill-chain has to be protected right from the reconnaissance stage to the exploitation stage securing all key entry points along the way. It will also create fake data in all relevant areas.

  • Experience - An experienced provider will have knowledge and skills to custom-make solutions to threats that might not even have existed while the company was launched. This is primarily due to the fast-evolving nature of cyber threats. Adaption is pivotal when it comes to deception.

  • Decoy Design Quality - Since decoys are the main component keeping attackers at bay, it is crucial that they be high-end in nature while working successfully on both humans as well as malware.

How often should you use cyber deception?

Cyber deception from an experienced provider will be effective as long as it is implemented well. Since cyber threats come unannounced, it pays to be prepared all the time.

What cybersecurity attacks can be detected by threat deception technology?

  1. Lateral movement attacks - A lateral movement is when the attacker moves from East to West laterally across the network. They gain entry into one system and attempt to enter other connected systems. Their primary target is all the interconnected assets within the network.

  1. Credential theft - The hackers attempt to steal credentials to use later to retrieve data and information.

  1. Account hijacking attacks - Using stolen credentials, the attacker attempts to hijack someone’s account.

  1. IoT attacks - In this case, the hacker uses weak access credentials such as default passwords to target Internet-of-Thing’s devices to access an organization’s network.

  1. Spear phishing - The attacker targets a single person or groups of people and tricks them into revealing sensitive information. Deception technology helps prevent these types of attacks.

What are the three key components of deception technology?

A technology comes with a number of components but here we focus only on the three most important ones: visibility, realism, and fingerprinting - the deception trifecta.

  • Visibility - The decoy must be visible only to the adversary for the deception technology to be successful. This ensures that there are no false positives.

  • Realism - The decoy must be so real and mimic the legitimate assets to the extent that the attackers can’t distinguish real from fake.

  • Fingerprinting - The decoy should ensure that it’s true nature is not revealed so as to mislead the attacker into interacting with them.

Although an ideal scenario is when the cyber deception technology exhibits all three components in total, in reality it might be difficult to achieve. Simply for the reason that there could be internal limitations or sometimes it just may not be the right strategy. A trade-off is made in such cases to achieve optimum benefit.

Frequently asked questions

1. What are the requirements for successful deception technology implementation?

Deception technology will be successful only if it remains new and indistinguishable to the attacker. The idea behind deception is to lead the attackers to believe that they are not being tracked. If the attackers are alerted then they will scale up their efforts and evade traps. Machine learning and artificial intelligence at the core of the deceptive solutions keeps the deception dynamic thereby not only reducing operational costs but also freeing up the security teams from having to constantly create new deception strategies.

2. How is deception better than honeypots?

Honeypots were initially designed to lure attackers into areas that they were not originally interested in. But now they have become wary of that fact and are not falling for that trap anymore. Deception, on the other hand, remains as inconspicuous as possible. Deception technology is not to be viewed as a one-time investment but an ongoing solution as the attacks are evolving at a fast pace giving rise to new vulnerabilities.

3. How does cyber deception help CISOs?

CISOs are under tremendous pressure to secure their organization’s network and systems. Traditional security systems such as firewall and antivirus software have no standing against the sophisticated attacks by the hackers. Cyber deception helps by fooling the hacker into thinking they have breached the network whereas they have accessed a simulated environment. This is then monitored by the CISOs and gives them time to identify and deflect or respond to the attack. CISOs are also able to gather cyber intelligence from this form of deception and study the tactics, techniques, and procedures adopted by the attackers. CISOs need to study the needs of their organization and opt for vendors who provide the best possible defense be it on-premise or cloud-based solutions against the attacks.

4. What are the categories of deception use cases?

1. Perimeter deception defense -

It is impossible to monitor all incoming traffic for threats. Thus, only public facing assets are set up for deception to monitor incoming traffic and identify who is targeting you.

2. Network deception defense -

Decoys are planted across the network that is usually not accessed by legitimate users, but may be perused by attackers.

3. Endpoint deception defense -

This ensures that the decoys are planted in the endpoints which are then monitored for suspicious behavior.

5. What are the factors that determine an effective deception technology?

Ask these questions about deception technology. Is the deception credible or believable? Are you able to gather sufficient intel about the attackers? Can you gather this intel without showing yourself? The answers to the above questions will determine credibility, instrumentation, and data exfiltration which are necessary for an effective deception technology.


Deception technology nullifies the threats or breaches thus enabling teams to detect, analyze, and respond to malicious activity effectively.

Deception techniques work independently as well with traditional security measures such as honeypots. It not only lures attackers away but also create confusion in their minds thereby slowing the attacks.

The attackers end up wasting precious time and resources on the decoy server. Furthermore, it gives a chance to the cyber security professionals to study attacker behavior, tactics and techniques for the purpose of strengthening the network systems.

The cyber security professionals ironically use the same deception techniques the hackers use to infiltrate the network.

Deception technology works best on all scenarios be it protecting your network from outside threats or from rogue employees or just to gather threat intelligence.