Kyle A. Girtz

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Cyber Operations


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Barry E. Mullins, PhD.


Attacks on industrial control systems and critical infrastructure are on the rise. Important systems and devices like programmable logic controllers are at risk due to outdated technology and ad hoc security measures. To mitigate the threat, honeypots are deployed to gather data on malicious intrusions and exploitation techniques. While virtual honeypots mitigate the unreasonable cost of hardware-replicated honeypots, these systems often suffer from a lack of authenticity due to proprietary hardware and network protocols. In addition, virtual honeynets utilizing a proxy to a live device suffer from performance bottlenecks and limited scalability. This research develops an enhanced, application layer emulator capable of alleviating honeynet scalability and honeypot inauthenticity limitations. The proposed emulator combines protocol-agnostic replay with dynamic updating via a proxy. The result is a software tool which can be readily integrated into existing honeypot frameworks for improved performance. The proposed emulator is evaluated on traffic reduction on the back-end proxy device, application layer task accuracy, and byte-level traffic accuracy. Experiments show the emulator is able to successfully reduce the load on the proxy device by up to 98% for some protocols. The emulator also provides equal or greater accuracy over a design which does not use a proxy. At the byte level, traffic variation is statistically equivalent while task success rates increase by 14% to 90% depending on the protocol. Finally, of the proposed proxy synchronization algorithms, templock and its minimal variant are found to provide the best overall performance.

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