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Operation Honeypot: How Bitdefender Gets Malware To Come In From The Cold

The term ‘honey pot’ may well have been invented by ex-British intelligence man and spy novelist John le Carre, but it’s a term that’s stuck – and is equally applicable in today’s virtual world. Cyber security specialists and researchers at Bitdefender[1] regularly set up honeypots of their own, as part of their ongoing efforts to spot and analyse how new and emerging types of malware operate. Broadly speaking, digital honeypots work like this; a piece of code imitates a node on the Internet but makes itself deliberately vulnerable, so people wanting to defraud, hack into or otherwise damage the intellectual property infect it – or a program written to specifically infect such vulnerabilities does what it’s designed to do.

Security companies like Bitdefender[2] leave these honeypot nodes around and record data on how viruses behave, then secure them again once they’ve gleaned enough information. Importantly, the recorded data will tell Bitdefender whether an attack is routine or something more unusual and innovative, requiring a new approach in defense – all of which helps in the ever-evolving war against cybercrime[3]. This has never been more important because criminal actors have a new way of getting into people’s networks[4]: the Internet of Things (IoT) is offering them more poorly-guarded points of entry than ever before.

IoT, in case you’re not familiar with the buzzphrase, is a term for a huge amount of items that are connected to the Internet but which may not have a display. If you have security cameras, baby monitors you can ‘see’ through your phone, fire sensors, a connected thermostat, lightbulb, smart home or office hub, then congratulations, you’re part of the Internet of Things. And it’s not as secure as you might have hoped. “Many times, these devices are battery powered and feature lightweight CPUs that barely can handle the things the IoT device has been designed to do,” says Bogdan Botezatu, senior e-threat analyst at Bitdefender[5].

Security, he says, would be an extra ‘feature’ which would complicate the design or increase the cost of the device which would then become more complex to set up. “For instance, not forcing a rule for complicated passwords or not forcing the user to change the default username and password can leave them vulnerable to outsiders,” he says. The lack of regulation in this sector combined with market forces inevitably means mistakes get made. In lieu of robust regulation[6], the best thing for users to do is remain vigilant.

For the security industry, vigilance extends to the digital equivalent of missions behind enemy lines, with honeypots forming a great first line of defence. “While a honeypot at the office or at home is nice, honeypots placed in financial, education, military or other sensitive verticals can attract a wider range of cyber-criminals with fixed, specific goals in mind,” says Botezatu. “A honeypot in a financial institution can inform us in real time about a potential digital robbery from within the bank’s network and so on.” None of this is about abandoning your automated home system or disconnecting your smart electricity and gas meters from the Internet.

It is about taking basic preventative measures – changing your username and password – and closing the door on people who will walk through and help themselves if it’s been left open. Meanwhile Bitdefender’s honeypots will go a long way to catching the more sophisticated attempts on security of banks and other vital bodies. You can browse and sign up for Bitdefender products, including the award-winning Bitdefender Internet Security product, here[7].

Le Creuset Honey Pot, Alessi Glass Family goblet[8]” by Didriks[9] is licensed under CC BY 2.0[10].


  1. ^ Bitdefender (
  2. ^ Bitdefender (
  3. ^ in the ever-evolving war against cybercrime (
  4. ^ have a new way of getting into people’s networks (
  5. ^ Bitdefender (
  6. ^ In lieu of robust regulation (
  7. ^ You can browse and sign up for Bitdefender products, including the award-winning Bitdefender Internet Security product, here (
  8. ^ Le Creuset Honey Pot, Alessi Glass Family goblet (
  9. ^ Didriks (
  10. ^ CC BY 2.0 (

The SimuLife Diaries, part eight: I killed myself to save two worlds

At SXSW 2018, I was invited to take part in a four-day immersive story experience called a SimuLife. Mounted by the Austin-based creative lab Interactive Deep Dive, SimuLife is meant to blur the line between fantasy and reality by letting me interact with the story as part of daily life. It’s like David Fincher’s movie The Game, executed in the real world.

Other than those broad edicts, I wasn’t given any advance information about the experience. I’m documenting my journey through the story — wherever it leads.

The story starts with Part 1: I’m a transdimensional doppleganger.

My four-day story adventure ended with a rave on Tuesday morning, after I blew up Cooter & Cooter’s acquisition of OpenMind in a protestor-filled press conference. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that the story wasn’t entirely finished.

After all the meetings, scheming, and dimension-hopping, Bishop was still on the loose, able to wreak havoc whenever and wherever he wanted.

Back at my hotel, I discussed my questions about the show’s final moments with The Verge‘s Film & TV Editor, Tasha Robinson. Alternate-reality games and other immersive shows have left me with a healthy dose of paranoia, and I told her I still expected a twist ending. The Deep Dive immersive group that had planned this experience had a firm grasp of story, and I couldn’t believe they’d leave unsatisfying loose ends.

Maybe the strange noise I’d heard after I ripped up the C&C contract at the press conference had been the dimension-swapping sound, I told her, and I’d simply warped right into the middle of that dance party as the culmination of the narrative. But I had one meeting left, supposedly a post-story debrief with the Meow Wolf producer I’d missed on the show’s first day. I suspected it was a setup, and there was more to come.

But I was also aware this was wishful thinking.

I just wasn’t ready for the story to be over.

At 5:45PM, I headed over to a saloon in Austin for my meeting. I was still holding out some last-minute hopes for a surprise character visit, but eventually, the producer showed up. I shot Tasha a disappointed text: “Okay, this appears to legitimately just be a debrief with a Meow Wolf producer.”

And at first, it was a normal meeting.

We talked about the festival, and the scavenger hunt that Meow Wolf was running during the festival, the one “sponsored” by OpenMind. Then she excused herself to go to the restroom. And once she was gone, I heard the familiar, warbling sound of a dimension-hop.

My heart leapt. The story hadn’t ended after all. Game on.

I turned around and saw Jules, the driver from the resistance.

She held a small metal box covered in dials and buttons: the gizmo that made all this inter-dimensional travel possible.

She told me we had to go, fast. Bishop had come back to his timeline and had pushed the acquisition deal through in spite of my display at the press conference. Cooter & Cooter now owned OpenMind, and Faith and the resistance were holed up trying to figure out their next steps.

We headed for the door.

I had an open tab at the bar, and for a brief moment, I thought I should close out before we left. Then I realized that didn’t matter. I was in the OpenMind timeline.

The bar tab was Bishop’s problem, now.

We piled into Jules’ SUV and headed out. We had to pick up a member of the resistance — they called themselves the PFR, or Poker-Faced Resistance, I finally learned — and then we’d meet everyone at the rendezvous. I was beating myself up for thinking everything was over; I’d wasted a day I could have spent trying to contact Kai, or hunting down intel about Bishop’s movements.

That option was gone now, but at least we had the gizmo. Jules had grabbed it out of Bishop’s hand as he started to rift, and with the device in our possession, he was stuck in my world until we let him come back.

We picked up the PFR member, Noah, a tall man in a baseball cap, and headed for our final destination. Noah asked for the download about the current state of affairs, and I ran down the last few days.

But we still needed a plan, some way to solve the Bishop issue while still protecting both of our worlds. I considered the conversation I’d had with Marilyn’s grandmother the night before, and how shaping the growth of a tree had created a physical symbol that persevered through generations. I wondered if there were echoes between the two dimensions that did the same thing.

If we took bold steps in this world, would it have an impact on the next?

Jules wondered whether we knew anybody who could answer that question, and I realized I had someone: Bishop’s collegiate mentor, Dr. Everett. The man who came up with the wild multiverse theory in the first place.

I had been turned upside down so many times at this point that I initially thought I would have to swap dimensions to get hold of Everett. “Nobody’s rifting in my car!” Jules said.

Also, she reminded me that I was already in the OpenMind timeline. What can I say? At that point, my life had become pretty confusing.


Everett picked up after the first few rings. I didn’t tell him what was going on, or why I wanted to know, but I posed a simple question: If something happens in this timeline, can it impact the other? He said yes, but that it was tied to the person who was swapping between worlds.

It was similar to something we’d discussed in our first meeting. I have a scar on my shoulder due to a surgery, for example; Bishop has that same scar, but for a different reason. What physically happens to one Bryan Bishop also happens to the other.

The simple logic of it led to an inevitable question.

I was terrified to ask because of the possible conclusions. But I had to know: Does that mean if one of us dies, so does the other?

Everett hesitated. The SUV bumped along the road as I waited in silence.

He finally said he didn’t know whether he felt comfortable giving an answer to that question. I told him he just had.

Dr. Everett said Bishop had been a good man.

I told him I knew, but that the device had changed him. It had made him erratic and dangerous. I didn’t know that the core element of Bishop’s personality in those early days — that he’d wanted to help people with OpenMind — was even there anymore.

Jules pulled into the driveway of a beautiful home overlooking the Colorado River, and she and Noah got out.

It was just me, Everett, and the dreadful sense of inevitability burrowing into my chest.

You’re a good man,” he told me. My vision started to swim. I thanked him and asked that if he could think of any other possible way to deal with these problems, to please let me know.

There was a long pause. “I’m just a theorist,” he said, and the line went dead.

We walked into the house. Faith was in a sitting room, coming apart in the wake of everything that had happened. When I mentioned that Jules had the dimension-hopping device, she was elated — it meant I could simply stay in her world.

But I explained that there were two problems we had to solve. We had to undo the C&C deal so they couldn’t use OpenMind, but we also had to find a way to deal with Bishop, because he was in my timeline now, and free to do whatever he wanted.

I shared what I’d learned from Everett — not as a course of action, but as information to be aware of. Faith wouldn’t stand for it, and brought me into the living room so we could all discuss our options.

By that point, Max, the leader of the resistance, had arrived and when Faith tried to lead the conversation, he bristled, as hotheaded as ever.

Tensions were high. I shouted. Faith revealed what she told me the day before — that she had been the secret source funneling intel to the resistance, in an effort to stop Bishop.

That quieted things down, but Faith’s assistant showed up with a bottle of her anti-anxiety pills, just in case.

Max turned the focus to me: Was I willing to stay in this world to undo the C&C deal, and make sure Bishop could never come back? It wasn’t that easy, I said, because Bishop was running loose in my world. Max didn’t care much about that, but I guess given all that had happened, I couldn’t really blame him.

I confessed there was another option: if Bishop were to die, I would die — and vice versa.

Nikita stared me down cooly: “So are you willing to do that?”

I wasn’t even close to that point, I told them. I had my wife, family, and friends in my world. Hell, even Paige.

At that point, Jules came in to warn us that something was up with the dimension-swapping device. A red light was flashing, and it appeared to be running out of charge. I was short on time and options.

Faith took me upstairs to her aunt’s bedroom so we could talk things through.

The room opened out onto the roof, and we walked outside to take in the spectacular view north over the river. I tried to think through the impossible situation, searching for some avenue or way to solve things, but continually came up empty.

The idea of staying was enticing. Faith and I had connected from that first night, and more than once, she’d expressed hope that maybe I would stay with her when all of this was over.

But I had a wife of my own that I love, and parents and friends and people I care about. Leaving them in a world doomed to some horrifying tech dystopia at Bishop’s hands simply wasn’t an option — and yet me leaving everyone seemed like the only way I could stop him.

I stared off into the horizon. “Everybody has to go, right?” I said. “Maybe saving two worlds at the same time isn’t such a bad way to do it.”

Faith and I walked inside and got her pills and Bishop’s device. She ran downstairs to get a glass of water, and I sat down at a table and looked at the strange metal box.

So much disruption, so much turmoil and loss, all because of this one tiny gadget.

Faith returned with the water. We hugged fiercely as I tried to psych myself up for what came next. I told her that she couldn’t let this moment happen in vain.

She had to use it to say I did it because I was distraught about OpenMind falling into C&C’s hands and being used to control people. She needed to use her platform and her gifts to change people’s hearts and minds, like I’d always said she could.

And then I took the pills. Three, four, five at a time, until the bottle was completely empty.

I’d like to say that in the moment, I was aware that this was just a story, and that I was making a calculated decision to reach some anticipated dramatic outcome.

That I didn’t really take the pills I was offered, or that I thought through the trust I was placing in Deep Dive, or the pros and cons of doing such a thing. But none of that is true. I was in the moment.

I was just experiencing the feeling of being in an impossible situation and doing the unthinkable because it was the only way to protect the people I cared about.

The scenario itself was fiction, but the moment — and the emotions — were real.

Now there was nothing left to do but wait for the pills to do their work. I walked over to the bed, intending to lie down and fall asleep. Faith said she wanted to show me something first.

She took my arm and guided me back out onto the roof.

We stood there together, breathless. The trees, the river below, the sky that seemed to stretch forever; I tried to take it all in. To make the moment last forever.

I never wanted it to end.

As I stood at the edge of the roof, the slow build of clapping pulled me out of my reverie.

On the balcony below, the cast and crew of my SimuLife revealed themselves. The curtain call had come at last.

In the conversations that followed, I learned I hadn’t been the sole participant at all. The woman I’d known as Nikita had been one as well.

Her real name is Imani Dabney, and she had experienced her own unique narrative with its own incredible twists and turns.

Even after the final scene, the show still had surprises.

Bishop, however, is presumed dead.

In the final installment of The SimuLife Diairies, I’ll be talking to Deep Dive Austin director Jeff Wirth for a behind-the-scenes look at my experience, and exploring his thoughts on the power, purpose, and long-term potential of SimuLife, and immersive and interactive entertainment in general.

The Best Smart Locks of 2018

A Smart Approach to Security

A smart lock is arguably the most important part of a truly smart, connected home. Not only will it allow you to come and go as you please, it will also monitor who is entering and leaving your home while you’re away. Some models simply let you use your phone to open and close doors.

Some let you assign special privileges to friends, family members, or maintenance staff. Others can be activated using voice commands or triggers from other smart home devices[1] and services. Here are a few things to consider when deciding on a smart lock, along with reviews of the top models we’ve tested.

What to Look For

One of the first things you’ll want to consider is how much it will cost to upgrade your traditional lock.

After all, a smart lock costs a heck of a lot more than the standard-issue lock you can pick up at the local hardware store. You can find a few smart locks out there in the £100 range (not many of which made the cut for this list), but if you want a lock that you can control from anywhere, with features such as voice commands, push and email notifications, and tamper alarms, expect to pay somewhere in the £200-£300 price range. Many smart locks offer a mobile app that allow you to lock and unlock doors with a simple icon tap.

Some offer a web app that lets you control things from your desktop or laptop PC. Most apps let you add permanent and temporary users and set access schedules for specific days and times.

If the lock is Bluetooth-enabled, you’ll have to be within range (around 40 feet) to communicate with it, while locks with built-in Wi-Fi circuitry or a Wi-Fi bridge can be controlled from almost anywhere as long as they are connected to your home router[2]. Make sure your smart lock offers activity logs so you can go back in time to see who has entered or exited your home and when the activity took place.

The latest smart locks offer things like voice activation, geofencing, and auto-locking features. With voice activation, locking and unlocking doors is as easy as it gets; simply tell your phone to “unlock the front door,” and the lock will disengage. With geofencing, you’ll never have to worry if you locked up before you left the house; just use the mobile app to set up a perimeter around your house, and use your phone’s location services to pinpoint your exact location.

When you leave the perimeter, you can have the lock automatically engage behind you. Similarly, an auto-lock feature will have the lock automatically engage after it has been unlocked for a specific period of time. Other features to look for include keyless touchpads for those times when you don’t have your phone or your keys, tamper and forced entry alarms that warn you of a possible break-in, and push, text, and email notifications that let you know who is coming and going in real-time.

Easy to Install

None of the locks we’ve tested are especially difficult to install, but some are easier than others.

If your new lock comes with both an interior escutcheon (the housing you mount on the inside of your door) and an exterior component (usually a touchpad or a keyed cylinder), you’ll probably have to completely remove your old lock, including the deadbolt mechanism and strike plate, before you can install the new device. This is simply a matter of removing the two bolts that attach the interior escutcheon to the exterior component and removing both pieces. The deadbolt is also held in place by two screws.

The good news is that most smart locks use the standard pre-drilled holes so you don’t have to worry about drilling new ones. Additionally, there are smart locks available that attach to the inside of your door and are designed to use your existing keyed cylinder and deadbolt hardware, which means you only have to remove the interior escutcheon. Either way, you can count on spending anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes removing your old lock and installing your new smart one.

Smart Home Integration

Some locks integrate with other connected home devices, like the Nest Protect[3] smoke alarm, and services, like Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and If This Then That (IFTTT)[4].

For example, you can have your doors unlock when a smoke or CO alarm is triggered, or have certain smart lights[5] turn on when a door is unlocked. Depending on your home automation setup, you can even pair your lock with a video doorbell[6], like the Skybell HD[7], so you can see who is at the door before you unlock it, or have an interior camera begin recording when a door is unlocked. Just remember: The more features you get, the more you can typically expect to spend.

Other Kinds of Smart Locks

Keep in mind, there are also smart locks out there that aren’t necessarily door locks.

Master Lock’s 4400D Indoor[8] and 4401DLH Outdoor[9] are both Bluetooth-connected padlocks, for instance. They’re built to be as tough as any standard lock, but use Bluetooth to unlock with the tap of a button when you’re nearby. They also let you grant temporary or permanent guest access on your terms simply by using an app.

For more in smart home safety, see our picks for The Best Smart Home Security Sytems[10] and The Best Home Security Cameras[11].


  1. ^ smart home devices (
  2. ^ router (
  3. ^ Nest Protect (
  4. ^ If This Then That (IFTTT) (
  5. ^ smart lights (
  6. ^ video doorbell (
  7. ^ Skybell HD (
  8. ^ 4400D Indoor (
  9. ^ 4401DLH Outdoor (
  10. ^ The Best Smart Home Security Sytems (
  11. ^ The Best Home Security Cameras (

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