IP address spoofing

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In computer networking, the term IP address spoofing or IP spoofing refers to the creation of Internet Protocol (IP) packets with a forged source IP address, called spoofing, with the purpose of concealing the identity of the sender or impersonating another computing system.

Contents

Background

The basic protocol for sending data over the Internet network and many other computer networks is the Internet Protocol ("IP"). The header of each IP packet contains, among other things, the numerical source and destination address of the packet. The source address is normally the address that the packet was sent from. By forging the header so it contains a different address, an attacker can make it appear that the packet was sent by a different machine. The machine that receives spoofed packets will send a response back to the forged source address, which means that this technique is mainly used when the attacker does not care about the response or the attacker has some way of guessing the response.

In certain cases, it might be possible for the attacker to see or redirect the response to his own machine. The most usual case is when the attacker is spoofing an address on the same LAN or WAN. Hence the attackers have an unauthorized access over computers.

Applications

IP spoofing is most frequently used in denial-of-service attacks. In such attacks, the goal is to flood the victim with overwhelming amounts of traffic, and the attacker does not care about receiving responses to the attack packets. Packets with spoofed addresses are thus suitable for such attacks. They have additional advantages for this purpose—they are more difficult to filter since each spoofed packet appears to come from a different address, and they hide the true source of the attack. Denial of service attacks that use spoofing typically randomly choose addresses from the entire IP address space, though more sophisticated spoofing mechanisms might avoid unroutable addresses or unused portions of the IP address space. The proliferation of large botnets makes spoofing less important in denial of service attacks, but attackers typically have spoofing available as a tool, if they want to use it, so defenses against denial-of-service attacks that rely on the validity of the source IP address in attack packets might have trouble with spoofed packets. Backscatter, a technique used to observe denial-of-service attack activity in the Internet, relies on attackers' use of IP spoofing for its effectiveness.

IP spoofing can also be a method of attack used by network intruders to defeat network security measures, such as authentication based on IP addresses. This method of attack on a remote system can be extremely difficult, as it involves modifying thousands of packets at a time. This type of attack is most effective where trust relationships exist between machines. For example, it is common on some corporate networks to have internal systems trust each other, so that users can log in without a username or password provided they are connecting from another machine on the internal network (and so must already be logged in). By spoofing a connection from a trusted machine, an attacker may be able to access the target machine without an authentication.

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