IP spoofing or IP address spoofing is a specific type of cyber attack in which one creates Internet Protocol (IP) packets with a false IP address. Here, one tries to trick other computing systems using a computer, device or network acting as a legitimate entity. There are several types of spoofing, and IP spoofing is the most common one. Hackers use spoofing to collect and gather sensitive information from computers or misuse them.
How does IP spoofing work?
We first need to know how IP spoofing works in order to prevent it. For sending data through the internet, a basic protocol called Internet Protocol (IP) is used. The data transmitted through the internet is broken into multiple packets and each of these packets is transmitted independently and reassembled at the end. Each packet has an IP header that contains the source IP address and destination IP address, and you can learn more here about it.
Now, a hacker uses certain tools to modify the source address in the IP header to make the receiving computing system (another computer) think that it is from a trusted and legal source to accept it. Thus, the source IP address is altered to deceive the recipient. The source IP address only provides limited information about the sender revealing the region, city or town. Information like the identity of the sender and the computer users is not provided.
Why avoid IP spoofing?
Now, the question arises on ‘Why to avoid spoofing’. In simple terms, a hacker with the help of IP spoofing, invades a computing system and extracts all the sensitive information to be used or sold. The hackers use spoofed IP addresses to flood the computers with volumes of packets which causes them to become unusable by legitimate users.
These types of attacks are Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks. Hackers use spoofed IP addresses to flood the computer servers with packets of data thus, shutting them down. Botnets are networks of compromised computers often used to send packets. Each of these botnets has the potential to contain tens of thousands of computers capable of spoofing numerous source IP addresses.
The recipient machines automatically revert back with acknowledgment to the spoofed IP address and flood the server. As a result, unsuspected people are vulnerable to have their data stolen and misused for malpractices like identity theft or other online frauds. These spoofing attacks can shut down corporate servers and websites. This even becomes difficult and tedious for the legal authorities to track the attacks.
How to avoid it?
Since we got to know how IP spoofing works and why there is a need to prevent it, we need to figure out ‘Howto avoid it’. Packet filtering can be used as one of the defenses against IP spoofing attacks. It filters or blocks the packets from outside the network with a source address inside the network. This prevents an outside attack on an internal machine.
In addition, in addition, hackers detect inconsistencies like outgoing packets with source IP addresses that don’t match with that of the system or organization. Therefore, it is also recommended to design network services and protocols so that they don’t rely on source IP addresses for authentication. One of the common filtering methods is Ingress filtering.
For end users, detecting is virtually impossible. One should use secured encryption protocols to secure traffic to and from one’s server. We should make sure that the ‘HTTPS’ and padlock symbols are always in the URL bar of the website we visit. We should also be aware of emails asking us to update our passwords, login credentials, or any of the payment card data.
Such fraudulent emails were quite common during the covid-19 pandemic. They asked the recipients to make donations and promise the latest information regarding the pandemic. Instead of clicking on the sent link, one should manually type up the website address to check whether it is legitimate or not.
Web designers are advised to migrate the sites to the latest internet protocol, IPv6. This makes IP spoofing difficult by engaging in authentication and encryption steps. But many still use the previous not updated protocol, IPv4. Very few, which is only 11% of the entire traffic, have migrated to the latest protocol while the rest are using the previous one.
On the individual side, taking steps that ensure browsing the web is safer. For example, we should not surf on unsecured, public Wi-Fi networks. If we visit a public hotspot, using a virtual private network or VPN is better. This encrypts the internet connection to protect the private data that you send or receive. Security software solutions that include VPN can be of some help.
Antivirus software will scan the incoming traffic to make sure that malware is not trying to enter. In such times, it is important to keep the software updated as they have the latest authentication, encryption, and security patches. Placing at least a proportion of computing resources behind a firewall can help. Setting up a firewall helps to filter the traffic with spoofed IP addresses and blocking access by unauthorized outsiders.
This will authenticate the IP addresses. There should be regular monitoring of networks for any kind of suspicious activity. Secure home Wi-Fi networks. This involves updating default passwords and usernames on the home router with strong passwords using uppercase, lowercase and special characters and symbols.
Another way can be using long passphrases that are easy for the user to remember but difficult for the rest to guess. In this era where internet security and confidential data is vulnerable to cyber attacks, one should be aware enough to act on these.
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