August 9, 2023

Goldilock Honeypot Network: An Analysis of SMBv1 Exploits, Global Exposure, and Strategic Insights

Goldilock Honeypot Network: An Analysis of SMBv1 Exploits, Global Exposure, and Strategic Insights

In my previous post, I embarked on a journey through the Goldilock honeypot network's first week of deployment, unveiling a striking landscape dominated by attacks on Server Message Block (SMB). With the spotlight on port 445, we explored the geographical origins, attack priorities, and the hidden battles lurking beneath the surface of the internet. Now, two weeks into this venture, it's time to delve deeper. Building on that foundation, we'll dissect the complex world of SMBv1, explore known exploits, assess global exposure, and reflect on lessons learned. Join me as we continue to unravel the mysteries and challenges of our interconnected digital world.

Historical Context of SMBv1

Server Message Block (SMB) is more than just a protocol; it's a vital part of the history of computing. Introduced in the 1980s, SMBv1 was groundbreaking, enabling shared access to files, printers, and serial ports across a network. Its implementation allowed for unprecedented collaboration and efficiency.

However, with progress comes complexity. The evolution of technology has left SMBv1 with known vulnerabilities, some of which have been exploited in high-profile cyberattacks. Despite the risks, SMBv1 persists in many systems, primarily due to legacy applications that still rely on it. The continued use of SMBv1 serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between embracing technological advancement and maintaining compatibility with existing systems. Its existence underscores a critical question in cybersecurity: When does a technology's value become overshadowed by its vulnerabilities?

Unraveling the SMB Mystery: Insights from the Goldilock Honeypot Network

With 283,215 attacks and 10,236 unique IPs, the data from our honeypot network offers a detailed snapshot of the cyber landscape. The predominance of SMBv1 is not merely a statistical observation; it's a reflection of broader cybersecurity challenges.

Attacks by Country

The geographical spread reveals a complex web of origins:

  • Brazil: 23%
  • Russia: 15%
  • Vietnam: 12%
  • India: 12%
  • Turkey: 8%

These numbers, though indicative, may mask the true source, as attackers often use proxies. It doesn't necessarily mean that individuals from these locations are the true source of the attack.

Global Exposure of SMB: A Shodan Perspective

Shodan, the search engine for internet-connected devices, provides a unique perspective on the global exposure of SMB. The numbers are startling:

  • Total Known SMB Services Exposed: 944,732
  • Of Which are SMBv1: 601,916

The exposure spans across various operating systems and countries, with the United States, Russia, Pakistan, Hong Kong, and Germany leading the way.

What does this mean for cybersecurity? The widespread exposure of SMBv1 is more than a statistical anomaly; it's a reflection of the challenges in securing a protocol that is both essential and vulnerable.

The data prompts us to consider not just the prevalence of exposed services but also the potential consequences. It highlights the shared responsibility of organizations, governments, and individuals in securing our interconnected world.

Note: A small fraction percentage of those exposed SMB drive numbers may also be honeypots!

Payload Analysis: Insight into Exploits Deployed

Through an analysis of nearly 2 million TCP packets and careful examination of Suricata logs, we discerned calculated attempts to exploit and compromise our honeypot, uncovering the deployment of the following exploits:


EternalBlue is more than an exploit; it's a symbol of a new era in cybersecurity. Targeting a specific vulnerability in Microsoft's implementation of SMBv1, it allows attackers to execute arbitrary code on the victim's system. EternalBlue was the catalyst for the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, which infected more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries. The rapid spread and devastating impact of WannaCry showcased the power of an exploit that could leverage a common protocol like SMBv1.

Note: There is a fascinating episode of Darknet Diaries which delves further into the origin and exploitation of EternalBlue.


Petya and NotPetya are malware strains that leverage SMBv1 to encrypt systems, rendering them inoperable. While Petya was initially considered ransomware, NotPetya took a more destructive turn, with no real means for victims to recover their files. The use of SMBv1 allowed these strains to spread quickly across networks, affecting major corporations and government entities. Their impact serves as a stark reminder of how a single vulnerability can escalate into a global crisis.


SMBGhost, a critical vulnerability discovered in 2020, allows remote code execution, potentially giving an attacker full control over a victim's system. What makes SMBGhost particularly alarming is its "wormable" nature, meaning it can spread across networks without user interaction. Patching SMBGhost became a priority for system administrators, highlighting the ongoing challenge of securing SMB in a constantly evolving threat landscape.

Mitigation Strategies: A Proactive Approach

Addressing SMBv1 vulnerabilities requires a multifaceted and proactive approach. It's not merely about patching a flaw; it's about understanding the underlying risks and creating a resilient and adaptive security posture. Here's a detailed exploration of key strategies:

1. Patching and Updating

Regularly updating systems to patch known vulnerabilities is the first line of defense. Timely application of patches can thwart many attacks, but it requires continuous monitoring and a commitment to security hygiene.

2. Disabling SMBv1

In environments where SMBv1 is not required, disabling it altogether can significantly reduce exposure. This action reflects a broader principle of minimizing the attack surface by only enabling necessary services.

3. Network Segmentation

Isolating systems using SMBv1 minimizes the potential spread of malware. By creating barriers within the network, an infection in one segment is less likely to propagate to others. This aligns with the philosophy of adaptive security, where defenses are tailored to unique needs and threats.

4. Monitoring and Response

Implementing continuous monitoring and a robust response mechanism can detect and mitigate threats in real time. The goal is to recognize patterns, anomalies, and potential threats before they escalate into full-blown attacks.

5. Embracing Adaptive Security Principles

The principles of adaptive security, akin to those found in Goldilock's Drawbridge, offer a broader perspective. Security is not a static endeavor; it's a continuous process of adaptation, learning, and innovation. By understanding the unique challenges of SMBv1 and aligning defenses accordingly, organizations can create a security posture that is both resilient and responsive.

6. Assessing the Necessity and Timing of SMB Exposure

One of the fundamental questions in securing SMB is whether it should be exposed to the internet at all. The risks associated with SMBv1, in particular, prompt us to reconsider the necessity of internet accessibility for certain assets.

If exposure is required, a more controlled and scheduled approach may be the answer. Limiting the time SMB is accessible and implementing scheduled access can add a layer of protection. This concept aligns with some of the functionalities found in products like Goldilock's Drawbridge, where scheduled physical access controls enable a more strategic exposure of services.

By thoughtfully determining when and how SMB is exposed, organizations can achieve a balance between functionality and security, reflecting a holistic approach to risk management.

Conclusion: Reflecting on a Complex Cyber Landscape

The journey through the Goldilock honeypot network, the dissection of SMBv1, the examination of global exposure, and the understanding of common exploits have illuminated a complex and multifaceted cyber landscape. What emerges is a picture not merely of threats and vulnerabilities but of an evolving ecosystem where technology, strategy, and human insight intertwine.

Our exploration of SMBv1 serves as both a historical reflection and a current challenge, prompting us to consider not just the immediate risks but the broader implications of our interconnected world. The mitigation strategies uncovered reinforce the importance of a nuanced approach that goes beyond mere technical defenses. It's about asking the right questions, understanding the context, and embracing principles of adaptive security and thoughtful exposure.

As we close this chapter, we look ahead to the next intriguing exploration. Next week, we'll be digging into our SSH honeypot, dissecting the types of malware deployed, and taking a closer look at the common username/password combinations used. It promises to be another captivating dive into the unseen battles and relentless attempts to uncover vulnerabilities in our digital world.

Stay tuned, engage with us, and be part of this ongoing journey into the heart of cybersecurity.

Richard Bate

Richard Bate

Chief Technology Officer at Goldilock