IP SPOOFING is the malicious process of forging the source address of a data packet with the obvious intent of duping other computers and networks into accepting it. The modification of the packet makes it seem as though it is being transmitted from an authorized or trustworthy entity. The end result, however, is usually the same: Cyber attackers gain unauthorized access to the target server, enabling them to mine for sensitive data or turn a computer into a zombie for malicious and/or illegal use.
IP spoofing can also lead to threats like distributed denial of service (DDoS) and man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. Spoofed addresses can provide a cyber attacker with a number of advantages, including the benefit of remaining undetected by the National Cyber Security Division (NCSA) and other US federal agencies. If implemented precisely, the targeted device won’t even alert users to the threat at hand. Security scripts and services that might otherwise blacklist addresses that are known to be sources of malicious traffic will be avoided.
How Modifying the Contents of Data Packets Work
To fully understand the basics of IP spoofing, it helps to know a bit about the Internet Protocol (IP). IPs are used to transmit data over a public or private network in the form of packets, accompanied with a header that contains specific information. The source, or sending IP address, instantly reveals this information to the receiving computer system. The goal of a cyber attacker is to modify the content in the packet header of the source IP address, usually with randomized numbers, and to do it before it reaches its intended destination. Because the process of IP spoofing is carried out at the network level, signs of tampering beyond this domain are often impossible to detect.
Types of IP spoofing attacks
As previously mentioned, IP spoofing is most commonly associated with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in which cyber attackers use spoofed IP headers to flood one or more targeted computer servers with large volumes of malicious data packets. This renders a network or resource virtually useless among legitimate users. Often, spoofed IP packets are transmitted by geographically-dispersed botnets and other networks of compromised computers. Large botnets may actually consist of tens of thousands of computers—each capable of forging a multitude of source addresses at the same time. The voluminous nature of such DDoS attacks often makes them difficult to trace.
A Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack, which is closely related to a Man-in-the-Browser (MITB) attack, also implements the process of IP spoofing. With these attacks, data packets are intercepted as they are being transmitted from one host to the next. The middle component, as their names apply, capture and modify the packets, releasing them to the intended recipients. If continuously implemented, it doesn’t take long for cyber attackers to accumulate a wealth of sensitive information that is shared between one or more communicating parties. This information is either sold or used for nefarious purposes.
How to Protect Your Computers from IP Spoofing
A reputable antivirus (AV) and/or security product is a good for preventing IP spoofing. Most modern packages will filter your website and email content and block viruses which might lead to such attacks. Unfortunately, they aren’t much help when it comes to removing such threats. This is because spoofing, in general, involves the intangible process of misrepresenting data. It’s like a package that has undergone a series of checks and balances, only to make its way to the receiving address and detonating the moment it is opened.
IP spoofing requires advanced strategies to be nullified. The monitoring of networks and filtering of data packets are just a few ways an expert might counteract such attacks. In addition, many have begun developing methods for authenticating IP addresses, and even make use of SSL certificates to serve encrypted website data via the HTTPS protocol. Finally, there are the tried-and-true approaches like firewalls, network blockers and the IPv6 iteration of the Internet Protocol (IP). When each of these components are used together, the likelihood of an IP spoofing attack is decreased.