Entries Tagged "TCP"

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Fox-IT has a blog post (and has published Snort rules) on how to detect man-on-the-side Internet attacks like the NSA’s QUANTUMINSERT.

From a Wired article:

But hidden within another document leaked by Snowden was a slide that provided a few hints about detecting Quantum Insert attacks, which prompted the Fox-IT researchers to test a method that ultimately proved to be successful. They set up a controlled environment and launched a number of Quantum Insert attacks against their own machines to analyze the packets and devise a detection method.

According to the Snowden document, the secret lies in analyzing the first content-carrying packets that come back to a browser in response to its GET request. One of the packets will contain content for the rogue page; the other will be content for the legitimate site sent from a legitimate server. Both packets, however, will have the same sequence number. That, it turns out, is a dead giveaway.

Here’s why: When your browser sends a GET request to pull up a web page, it sends out a packet containing a variety of information, including the source and destination IP address of the browser as well as so-called sequence and acknowledge numbers, or ACK numbers. The responding server sends back a response in the form of a series of packets, each with the same ACK number as well as a sequential number so that the series of packets can be reconstructed by the browser as each packet arrives to render the web page.

But when the NSA or another attacker launches a Quantum Insert attack, the victim’s machine receives duplicate TCP packets with the same sequence number but with a different payload. “The first TCP packet will be the ‘inserted’ one while the other is from the real server, but will be ignored by the [browser],” the researchers note in their blog post. “Of course it could also be the other way around; if the QI failed because it lost the race with the real server response.”

Although it’s possible that in some cases a browser will receive two packets with the same sequence number from a legitimate server, they will still contain the same general content; a Quantum Insert packet, however, will have content with significant differences.

It’s important we develop defenses against these attacks, because everyone is using them.

EDITED TO ADD (5/14): Detection for QI was recently released for Bro, Snort and Suricata.

Posted on May 4, 2015 at 6:17 AMView Comments

Steganography Using TCP Retransmission


Hiding Information in Retransmissions

Wojciech Mazurczyk, Milosz Smolarczyk, Krzysztof Szczypiorski

The paper presents a new steganographic method called RSTEG (Retransmission Steganography), which is intended for a broad class of protocols that utilises retransmission mechanisms. The main innovation of RSTEG is to not acknowledge a successfully received packet in order to intentionally invoke retransmission. The retransmitted packet carries a steganogram instead of user data in the payload field. RSTEG is presented in the broad context of network steganography, and the utilisation of RSTEG for TCP (Transport Control Protocol) retransmission mechanisms is described in detail. Simulation results are also presented with the main aim to measure and compare the steganographic bandwidth of the proposed method for different TCP retransmission mechanisms as well as to determine the influence of RSTEG on the network retransmissions level.

I don’t think these sorts of things have any large-scale applications, but they are clever.

Posted on May 28, 2009 at 6:40 AMView Comments

A Security Assessment of the Internet Protocol



The TCP/IP protocols were conceived during a time that was quite different from the hostile environment they operate in now. Yet a direct result of their effectiveness and widespread early adoption is that much of today’s global economy remains dependent upon them.

While many textbooks and articles have created the myth that the Internet Protocols (IP) were designed for warfare environments, the top level goal for the DARPA Internet Program was the sharing of large service machines on the ARPANET. As a result, many protocol specifications focus only on the operational aspects of the protocols they specify and overlook their security implications.

Though Internet technology has evolved, the building blocks are basically the same core protocols adopted by the ARPANET more than two decades ago. During the last twenty years many vulnerabilities have been identified in the TCP/IP stacks of a number of systems. Some were flaws in protocol implementations which affect only a reduced number of systems. Others were flaws in the protocols themselves affecting virtually every existing implementation. Even in the last couple of years researchers were still working on security problems in the core protocols.

The discovery of vulnerabilities in the TCP/IP protocols led to reports being published by a number of CSIRTs (Computer Security Incident Response Teams) and vendors, which helped to raise awareness about the threats as well as the best mitigations known at the time the reports were published.

Much of the effort of the security community on the Internet protocols did not result in official documents (RFCs) being issued by the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) leading to a situation in which “known” security problems have not always been addressed by all vendors. In many cases vendors have implemented quick “fixes” to protocol flaws without a careful analysis of their effectiveness and their impact on interoperability.

As a result, any system built in the future according to the official TCP/IP specifications might reincarnate security flaws that have already hit our communication systems in the past.

Producing a secure TCP/IP implementation nowadays is a very difficult task partly because of no single document that can serve as a security roadmap for the protocols.

There is clearly a need for a companion document to the IETF specifications that discusses the security aspects and implications of the protocols, identifies the possible threats, proposes possible counter-measures, and analyses their respective effectiveness.

This document is the result of an assessment of the IETF specifications of the Internet Protocol from a security point of view. Possible threats were identified and, where possible, counter-measures were proposed. Additionally, many implementation flaws that have led to security vulnerabilities have been referenced in the hope that future implementations will not incur the same problems. This document does not limit itself to performing a security assessment of the relevant IETF specification but also offers an assessment of common implementation strategies.

Whilst not aiming to be the final word on the security of the IP, this document aims to raise awareness about the many security threats based on the IP protocol that have been faced in the past, those that we are currently facing, and those we may still have to deal with in the future. It provides advice for the secure implementation of the IP, and also insights about the security aspects of the IP that may be of help to the Internet operations community.

Feedback from the community is more than encouraged to help this document be as accurate as possible and to keep it updated as new threats are discovered.

Posted on August 20, 2008 at 7:48 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.