Shadow figment technology foils cyberattacks

June 23, 2021 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Shadow figment technology foils cyberattacks
Make-believe shadow world is designed to sidetrack hackers, then stop them from doing damage by feeding them illusory tidbits of success.

Scientists have created a cybersecurity technology called Shadow Figment that is designed to lure hackers into an artificial world, then stop them from doing damage by feeding them illusory tidbits of success.

The aim is to sequester bad actors by captivating them with an attractive — but imaginary — world.

The technology is aimed at protecting physical targets — infrastructure such as buildings, the electric grid, water and sewage systems, and even pipelines. The technology was developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The starting point for Shadow Figment is an oft-deployed technology called a honeypot – something attractive to lure an attacker, perhaps a desirable target with the appearance of easy access.

But while most honeypots are used to lure attackers and study their methods, Shadow Figment goes much further. The technology uses artificial intelligence to deploy elaborate deception to keep attackers engaged in a pretend world — the figment — that mirrors the real world. The decoy interacts with users in real time, responding in realistic ways to commands.

"Our intention is to make interactions seem realistic, so that if someone is interacting with our decoy, we keep them involved, giving our defenders extra time to respond," said Thomas Edgar, a PNNL cybersecurity researcher who led the development of Shadow Figment.

Shadow Figment is a cybersecurity technology designed to protect critical infrastructure like buildings and the electric grid. The technology developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is designed to lure hackers. Animation courtesy of Sara Levine, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.


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