IP Spoofing and Defenses

IP spoofingIP address spoofing is the creation of IP packets with a source IP address with the purpose of concealing the identity of the sender or impersonating another computer system. The basis of spoofing involves masquerading as a trusted system in order to gain unauthorized access to a secure environment. IP spoofing involves modifying data to make it appear to originate from the IP address of a system that is trusted by a server or firewall. Using this approach, a host is able to pass through the IP filtering that would otherwise serve to prevent access.

The objective of IP spoofing in most, but not all cases, is to gain unauthorized access to a server or service. DNS spoofing differs from IP spoofing in that the objective is to send users to a different location than the one to which they thought they were going. For example, assume a user wants to login to Facebook. He enters the URL of Facebook into his browser. The browser contacts a Domain Name Server (DNS) which looks up the IP address which matches the URL. The user is then taken to the site located at that IP address, where he enters his login name and password. DNS spoofing involves the DNS server being compromised such that the Facebook URL is set to point to the IP address of a malicious party where a web site that looks like Facebook has been set up. Now when the user enters the URL in a browser, he is taken to the fake web site where his login name and password are captured and stored. The web site might then report that Facebook is offline for maintenance. The user decides to try again later. In the meantime, the attacker uses the victim’s credentials to log into his Facebook account and gain a foothold in committing identity theft. Even more nefarious would be if the attacker used DNS spoofing to point to a fake bank web site or another site where the attacker may be able to gain access to sensitive data.

IP spoofing is not, however, always carried out with malicious intent. In performance testing of websites, hundreds or even thousands of virtual users may be created, each executing a test script against the web site under test, in order to simulate what will happen when the system goes live and a large number of users log on at once. Commercial testing products can use IP spoofing, allowing each user its own IP address.

IP Spoofing: Defenses

There are several possible defenses against IP spoofing. Packet filtering is one defense against IP spoofing attacks. The gateway to a network usually performs ingress filtering, which is blocking of packets from outside the network with a source address inside the network. This prevents an outside attacker spoofing the address of an internal machine. Ideally, the gateway would also perform egress filtering on outgoing packets, which is blocking of packets from inside the network with a source address that is not inside. This prevents an attacker within the network performing filtering from launching IP spoofing attacks against external machines. In addition, many firewalls (pfSense included) practice bogon filtering, which means that IP packets from the Internet that claim to be from an area of the IP address space reserved, but not yet allocated or delegated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) or a delegated Regional Internet Registry (RIR), are blocked.
Some upper layer protocols provide their own defense against IP spoofing attacks. For example, Transport Control Protocol (TCP) uses sequence numbers negotiated with the remote machine to ensure that arriving packets are part of an established connection. Since the attacker normally cannot see any reply packets, the sequence number must be guessed in order to hijack the connection.

Implementing encryption and authentication will also reduce spoofing threats. Both of these features are included in Ipv6, which will eliminate current spoofing threats. Additionally, a system administrator should eliminate all host-based authentication measures, which are sometimes common for machines on the same subnet. You should ensure that the proper authentication measures are in place and carries out over a secure, encrypted channel.

IP spoofing is a common problem without a simple solution, since it is inherent in the design of the TCP/IP protocol suite. Understanding how and why spoofing attacks are used, along with a few simple prevention methods, can help protect your network from these nefarious techniques.

External Links:

IP spoofing on Wikipedia

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