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Monday, 15 December 2008

Consequences of the TCP/IP Design

Now that we have an overview of the TCP/IP formats, let's examine the consequences. Obviously, it's very easy to mask a source address by manipulating an IP header. This technique is used for obvious reasons and is employed in several of the attacks discussed below. Another consequence, specific to TCP, is sequence number prediction, which can lead to session hijacking or host impersonating. This method builds on IP spoofing, since a session, albeit a false one, is built. We will examine the ramifications of this in the attacks discussed below.

Spoofing Attacks

There are a few variations on the types of attacks that successfully employ IP spoofing. Although some are relatively dated, others are very pertinent to current security concerns.

Non-Blind Spoofing

This type of attack takes place when the attacker is on the same subnet as the victim. The sequence and acknowledgement numbers can be sniffed, eliminating the potential difficulty of calculating them accurately. The biggest threat of spoofing in this instance would be session hijacking. This is accomplished by corrupting the datastream of an established connection, then re-establishing it based on correct sequence and acknowledgement numbers with the attack machine. Using this technique, an attacker could effectively bypass any authentication measures taken place to build the connection.

Blind Spoofing

This is a more sophisticated attack, because the sequence and acknowledgement numbers are unreachable. In order to circumvent this, several packets are sent to the target machine in order to sample sequence numbers. While not the case today, machines in the past used basic techniques for generating sequence numbers. It was relatively easy to discover the exact formula by studying packets and TCP sessions. Today, most OSs implement random sequence number generation, making it difficult to predict them accurately. If, however, the sequence number was compromised, data could be sent to the target. Several years ago, many machines used host-based authentication services (i.e. Rlogin). A properly crafted attack could add the requisite data to a system (i.e. a new user account), blindly, enabling full access for the attacker who was impersonating a trusted host.

Man In the Middle Attack

Both types of spoofing are forms of a common security violation known as a man in the middle (MITM) attack. In these attacks, a malicious party intercepts a legitimate communication between two friendly parties. The malicious host then controls the flow of communication and can eliminate or alter the information sent by one of the original participants without the knowledge of either the original sender or the recipient. In this way, an attacker can fool a victim into disclosing confidential information by “spoofing” the identity of the original sender, who is presumably trusted by the recipient.

Denial of Service Attack

IP spoofing is almost always used in what is currently one of the most difficult attacks to defend against – denial of service attacks, or DoS. Since crackers are concerned only with consuming bandwidth and resources, they need not worry about properly completing handshakes and transactions. Rather, they wish to flood the victim with as many packets as possible in a short amount of time. In order to prolong the effectiveness of the attack, they spoof source IP addresses to make tracing and stopping the DoS as difficult as possible. When multiple compromised hosts are participating in the attack, all sending spoofed traffic, it is very challenging to quickly block traffic.

Misconceptions of IP Spoofing

While some of the attacks described above are a bit outdated, such as session hijacking for host-based authentication services, IP spoofing is still prevalent in network scanning and probes, as well as denial of service floods. However, the technique does not allow for anonymous Internet access, which is a common misconception for those unfamiliar with the practice. Any sort of spoofing beyond simple floods is relatively advanced and used in very specific instances such as evasion and connection hijacking.

Defending Against Spoofing

There are a few precautions that can be taken to limit IP spoofing risks on your network, such as:

Filtering at the Router - Implementing ingress and egress filtering on your border routers is a great place to start your spoofing defense. You will need to implement an ACL (access control list) that blocks private IP addresses on your downstream interface. Additionally, this interface should not accept addresses with your internal range as the source, as this is a common spoofing technique used to circumvent firewalls. On the upstream interface, you should restrict source addresses outside of your valid range, which will prevent someone on your network from sending spoofed traffic to the Internet.

Encryption and Authentication - Implementing encryption and authentication will also reduce spoofing threats. Both of these features are included in Ipv6, which will eliminate current spoofing threats. Additionally, you should eliminate all host-based authentication measures, which are sometimes common for machines on the same subnet. Ensure that the proper authentication measures are in place and carried out over a secure (encrypted) channel.

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