A network analyst received a number of reports that impersonation was taking place on the network. Session tokens were deployed to mitigate this issue and defend against which of the following attacks?
D. Ping of Death
Correct Answer: A
Section: Threats and Vulnerabilities
A replay attack (also known as playback attack) is a form of network attack in which a valid data transmission is maliciously or fraudulently repeated or delayed. This is carried out either by the originator or by an adversary who intercepts the data and retransmits it, possibly as part of a masquerade attack by IP packet substitution (such as stream cipher attack).
For example: Suppose Alice wants to prove her identity to Bob. Bob requests her password as proof of identity, which Alice dutifully provides (possibly after some transformation like a hash function); meanwhile, Eve is eavesdropping on the conversation and keeps the password (or the hash). After the interchange is over, Eve (posing as Alice) connects to Bob; when asked for a proof of identity, Eve sends Alice’s password (or hash) read from the last session, which Bob accepts thus granting access to Eve.
Countermeasures: A way to avoid replay attacks is by using session tokens: Bob sends a one-time token to Alice, which Alice uses to transform the password and send the result to Bob (e.g. computing a hash function of the session token appended to the password). On his side Bob performs the same computation; if and only if both values match, the login is successful. Now suppose Eve has captured this value and tries to use it on another session; Bob sends a different session token, and when Eve replies with the captured value it will be different from Bob’s computation.
Session tokens should be chosen by a (pseudo-) random process. Otherwise Eve may be able to pose as Bob, presenting some predicted future token, and convince Alice to use that token in her transformation. Eve can then replay her reply at a later time (when the previously predicted token is actually presented by Bob), and Bob will accept the authentication.
One-time passwords are similar to session tokens in that the password expires after it has been used or after a very short amount of time. They can be used to authenticate individual transactions in addition to sessions. The technique has been widely implemented in personal online banking systems.
Bob can also send nonces but should then include a message authentication code (MAC), which Alice should check.
Timestamping is another way of preventing a replay attack. Synchronization should be achieved using a secure protocol. For example Bob periodically broadcasts the time on his clock together with a MAC. When Alice wants to send Bob a message, she includes her best estimate of the time on his clock in her message, which is also authenticated. Bob only accepts messages for which the timestamp is within a reasonable tolerance. The advantage of this scheme is that Bob does not need to generate (pseudo-) random numbers, with the tradeoff being that replay attacks, if they are performed quickly enough i.e. within that ‘reasonable’ limit, could succeed.
B: A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is an attack from several different computers targeting a single computer.
One common method of attack involves saturating the target machine with external communications requests, so much so that it cannot respond to legitimate traffic, or responds so slowly as to be rendered essentially unavailable. Such attacks usually lead to a server overload.
A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack occurs when multiple systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system, usually one or more web servers. Such an attack is often the result of multiple compromised systems (for example a botnet) flooding the targeted system with traffic. When a server is overloaded with connections, new connections can no longer be accepted. Session tokens are not used to defend against this type of attack.
C: A smurf attack is a type of network security breach in which a network connected to the Internet is swamped with replies to ICMP echo (PING) requests. A smurf attacker sends PING requests to an Internet broadcast address. These are special addresses that broadcast all received messages to the hosts connected to the subnet. Each broadcast address can support up to 255 hosts, so a single PING request can be multiplied 255 times. The return address of the request itself is spoofed to be the address of the attacker’s victim. All the hosts receiving the PING request reply to this victim’s address instead of the real sender’s address. A single attacker sending hundreds or thousands of these PING messages per second can fill the victim’s T-1 (or even T-3) line with ping replies, bring the entire Internet service to its knees.
Smurfing falls under the general category of Denial of Service attacks — security attacks that don’t try to steal information, but instead attempt to disable a computer or network. Session tokens are not used to defend against this type of attack.
D: A ping of death is a type of attack on a computer that involves sending a malformed or otherwise malicious ping to a computer. A correctly formed ping message is typically 56 bytes in size, or 84 bytes when the Internet Protocol [IP] header is considered. Historically, many computer systems could not properly handle a ping packet larger than the maximum IPv4 packet size of 65535bytes. Larger packets could crash the target computer.
In early implementations of TCP/IP, this bug was easy to exploit. This exploit affected a wide variety of systems, including Unix, Linux, Mac, Windows, printers, and routers. Generally, sending a 65,536-byte ping packet violates the Internet Protocol as documented in RFC 791, but a packet of such a size can be sent if it is fragmented; when the target computer reassembles the packet, a buffer overflow can occur, which often causes a system crash.
Later a different kind of ping attack became widespread—ping flooding simply floods the victim with so much ping traffic that normal traffic fails to reach the system, a basic denial-ofservice attack. Session tokens are not used to defend against this type of attack.