In the world of hacking, the term spoofing
is not used lightly. It’s very common to hear things about spoofing of phone numbers
, SMS messages or IP addresses. In this article we’re going to focus on the latter and find out what exactly is IP spoofing, what are its threats to your data and business as well as discuss some tips and ways to protect yourself.
What is IP spoofing? An overview
Spoofing in general is one of the most common types of cyber attacks. The term spoof means hoax or trick and is fitting here because in cyber security, spoofing is disguising or tricking the victim into believing that the source of the signal or message is entirely different.
The attacker sends tons of inquiries pretending to be the victim, the server accepts requests and transmits data to the victim.
In technical terms, IP spoofing is the act of creating an IP packet with a forged sender address. This is commonly used for very well-known DDoS attacks. IP spoofing also intrigues hackers because it allows them to access computers and networks under false identities. This makes their identities very difficult to track, even when the attack is prevented and defended against.
If you want to understand Internet Protocol (IP) spoofing, you can’t run away from technical terms, abbreviations and associations. But in the most direct and simple way we can put it – IP Spoofing hackers disguise themselves as a user. By doing so they try to force the server to grant their requests. These requests are usually for data gathering, gaining access or taking over the control of an entire system. The way this usually works is that the hackers work within the model of denial-of-service and the tons of traffic overwhelms the victim, breaking down the defense.
IP Spoofing scam examples
The most common spoofing scam is when a hacker tries disguising themselves as someone else to cheat people out of their money. However, IP spoofing is less direct and requires at least a few more steps taken before the rewards can be gathered. Besides, if the attack is to be successful, the hackers need to prepare and scan their target to find appropriate vulnerabilities in order to exploit them.
It’s wrong to assume that most DDoS attacks are random. The hackers do their recon and find perfect targets. In general, these DDoS attacks have two unique uses for IP spoofing – reflecting attacks and disguising (e.g. masking) devices called botnets.
Botnet is a name given to a number of dedicated devices that are all infected with malware and are being operated from a distance, usually without the understanding or knowledge of the true device owners. Since the botnet device is fully infected, the hacker can assume full or necessary control over certain features and force it to execute commands on demand. The main problem is that with the amazing speeds of today’s internet, the compromised devices don’t need to be in one location or of one sort. They can be spread out throughout the entire world. Botnets are usually employed to attack servers and to generate enormous traffic online to create server downtime or to saturate the network.
A great illustration showing how an attacker can command botnet devices from a distance.
Yet another form of attack is called a reflected or mirrored DDoS. By enabling IP spoofing, hackers can generate what are called fake requests to which the servers respond. The goal here is to, once again, saturate the traffic and overload the server. This form of a cyber attack can also be distinguished into three unique types – NTP amplification, smurf attack or DNS amplification. The NTP amplification can amplify the request rates of 200 to 1, almost three times more than with regular DNS amplification. In an ideal scenario for the hacker, the server once again – fails and is overloaded with traffic resulting in downtime.
How to protect against IP spoofing?
As with almost every cybersecurity or a related topic, there is a lot of disparagement between the regular user and an expert as well as a hacker. The field of cybersecurity is very vast and extensive, thus most users just lack the basic knowledge to defend against attacks, and thus, it’s often best to leave it for the experts. Try to follow basic recommendations set out by experts in the field:
- Install and use a professional antivirus server
- Avoid frequenting shady websites
- Don’t download strange files or open strange executable files that you downloaded from the internet
- Avoid opening attachments in the mail if you don’t know what they are
For businesses – following personalized and individualized recommendations by your IT team or IT contractors is the way to go. Since these people know what kind of hardware and software you are running and depending on, they will be the most familiar with its potential vulnerabilities and how to defend against them.
If you want some practical tips, ensure that no UDP servers are exposed on public IP addresses as well as any other type of service that provides information such as HTTPs which supports IP spoofing. In case IP spoofing is made by an external service, terminating the connection with a firewall can resolve the issue.
In order to prevent attacks from botnets and DDoS reflection, you need to be aware of your network’s rules and security mechanisms, which would help you determine appropriate filtering methods and their settings.
The threats and dangers of IP spoofing
Since, as we’ve clarified, IP spoofing allows hackers to launch cyberattacks basically undetected, it is a very dangerous form of crime that should be taken seriously.
For the most part, threats and dangers are associated with one party (in this case – the hacker) pretending to be a completely different identity (in this case – a user or a business).
First and foremost, there’s the threat of disrupting your online operations. Hackers can spoof their way into your systems and go around firewalls and regular security measures to flood systems and disrupt the server activity. If your leads or business comes from online sources, this can cost you a lot of money every day.
Then there’s spoofing for pretending. In this case, spoofing will be a part of a larger phishing scam. Of course, without any indication of whether the person you’re communicating with has their comms spoofed, you can’t really trace and confront the hacker. Nevertheless, this is a huge threat.
Finally, hackers can harass you and your business for a long time. They can poke systems with small damages, raising alerts and slowly understanding the weaknesses of your systems before your staff manages to up the defense. Over time, hackers can disrupt every single feature and wreak havoc on a very large scale.
Why should your business focus more on protecting itself from cybercrime?
In recent years, the internet has seen the emergence of even more cybercriminals. Look at the chart below.
Monetary damage from cyber crime has tripled in five years, so learning how to defend against cyber attacks like IP spoofing is in your business’ best interest.
The parties who are the most at risk from the increasing numbers of attacks are the businesses that store their data and financial information. Hackers are usually after a quick cash grab and use DDoS attacks as well as IP spoofing for ransomware or as a direct attack ordered by your competitors. The latter is a common tactic where SMEs still don’t implement any kind of IT defense and just have a self-made website or platform without any significant cyber protection.
In the case of IP spoofing, cybercriminals are likely eager to disrupt access to your website by forcing it to experience downtime. They might also try to steal sensitive information, including login credentials as well as other personal data. The latter crime can only be the first step of their elaborate scheme. Phishing, blackmail, or even sophisticated money embezzlement can come next. The threat is the reason why so many companies nowadays go for a cyber security solution from a professional third-party company that will manage everything from up-time to security vulnerabilities and IP spoofing.
IP spoofing is a dangerous cyber weapon hackers use to remain anonymous and cause a lot of damage. Mostly to businesses. The threat of spoofing an IP address can come from anywhere, which is why it’s so important to always have your eyes on the situation. Hackers have been using spoofing for online harassment or identity theft attempts, while businesses pay the price when their security systems aren’t able to keep spoofing and DDoS attacks at bay.
The best way to protect yourself or your business is by investing in a publicly available cybersecurity solutions or employing sufficiently funded IT staff.