Mar 20, 2024NewsroomDoS Attack / Network Security

A novel denial-of-service (DoS) attack vector has been found to target application-layer protocols based on User Datagram Protocol (UDP), putting hundreds of thousands of hosts likely at risk.

Called Loop DoS attacks, the approach pairs “servers of these protocols in such a way that they communicate with each other indefinitely,” researchers from the CISPA Helmholtz-Center for Information Security said.

UDP, by design, is a connectionless protocol that does not validate source IP addresses, making it susceptible to IP spoofing.

Thus, when attackers forge several UDP packets to include a victim IP address, the destination server responds to the victim (as opposed to the threat actor), creating a reflected denial-of-service (DoS) attack.

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The latest study found that certain implementations of the UDP protocol, such as DNS, NTP, TFTP, Active Users, Daytime, Echo, Chargen, QOTD, and Time, can be weaponized to create a self-perpetuating attack loop.

“It pairs two network services in such a way that they keep responding to one another’s messages indefinitely,” the researchers said. “In doing so, they create large volumes of traffic that result in a denial-of-service for involved systems or networks. Once a trigger is injected and the loop set in motion, even the attackers are unable to stop the attack.”

Put simply, given two application servers running a vulnerable version of the protocol, a threat actor can initiate communication with the first server by spoofing the address of the second server, causing the first server to respond to the victim (i.e., the second server) with an error message.

The victim, in turn, will also exhibit similar behavior, sending back another error message to the first server, effectively exhausting each other’s resources and making either of the services unresponsive.

“If an error as input creates an error as output, and a second system behaves the same, these two systems will keep sending error messages back and forth indefinitely,” Yepeng Pan and Christian Rossow explained.

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CISPA said an estimated 300,000 hosts and their networks can be abused to carry out Loop DoS attacks.

While there is currently no evidence that the attack has been weaponized in the wild, the researchers warned that exploitation is trivial and that multiple products from Broadcom, Cisco, Honeywell, Microsoft, MikroTik, and Zyxel are affected.

“Attackers need a single spoofing-capable host to trigger loops,” the researchers noted. “As such, it is important to keep up initiatives to filter spoofed traffic, such as BCP38.”

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