what is ip spoofing

“What is IP Spoofing?” An Average Internet User’s Guide

Ever heard the story of the Little Red Riding Hood? I believe you might have.

The story is about a young little girl, who leaves her house and treks into the woods to meet her ailing grandma. However, little did she know, her grandma was already locked up in the cupboard and the one disguising as her was the big bad wolf. The wolf wanted to eat the young girl as well as the food she had in her basket.

Well, hackers can sometimes be like that, the big bad wolf, strolling in the woods (the Internet) and seeking unsuspecting Internet users. They can disguise as a trusted someone or a source and do what they are good at (i.e., stealing), without leaving a hint.

IP Spoofing is one such practice that hackers, spammers or scammers put to use to con you or rip you off your sensitive information.

What Is IP Spoofing?

IP spoofing is a technique where the attacker creates an IP that has a fake or bogus source IP address in its header. The IP is spoofed with fake information to either hide the sender’s identity or help him launch sneaky attacks like DDoS.

Is IP Spoofing Illegal?

Spoofing by itself isn’t illegal because you may need to fake your IP address to hide your Internet activities and thus enjoy online privacy. However, if someone uses spoofing to pretend to be someone else and as a result indulge in criminal acts such as identity theft, then it is patently illegal.

IP Spoofing Related Incidents

The IP Spoofing technique has aided cybercriminals in causing a great number of attacks. These attacks include Blind Spoofing, Non-Blind Spoofing, Man-in-the-middle attack and the notorious Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

  • In a recent survey conducted by the experts at the University of California San Diego, it was found that almost one-third of the Internet was subject to DDoS attacks from March 2015 to February 2017.

In the research, the experts highlighted two major types of Denial of Service attack: Direct and Reflection attacks.

  • Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that personnel of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) experienced hacking attempts made on their phones. The members of the forces were deployed near the Russian border, and they claimed that someone attempted to gain access to their iPhone but failed due to an added security layer.

Although the attack seemed to be carried out from Moscow, but the IP or location could have been spoofed to mislead the experts.

  • In late 2016, Incapsula (a cloud-based application delivery platform) experienced a major DDoS attack which was later termed as LEET. The attack was targeted at anycast IPs of the CDN.

The massive Distributed Denial of Service attack first hit a major 400 Gbps mark and later peaked at 650 Gbps. Like other DDoS attacks, the attacker couldn’t be pinpointed due to IP spoofing which allowed him to mask the source location.

The Current State of IP Spoofing

Now that we have learned what IP Spoofing is and how it has so far contributed to a number of major attacks, let’s take a quick look at its current state.

The Spoofer project, operated by CAIDA and funded by the US Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, can give us a detailed insight into the current state of IP spoofing around the globe.

The project aims at understanding the various ways IP Spoofing allows cybercriminals to exploit the Internet.

In the following image, you can see the different locations from where the participants ran the test.

What is IP Spoofing

The next image shows the regions in the world that are more vulnerable to attacks caused by IP Spoofing.

What is IP Spoofing

Another insightful chart that shows how many IPs tested during a certain period were spoofable.

What is IP Spoofing

What is IP Spoofing Used For?

Although IP Spoofing is a tough nut to crack for average Internet users, having a basic understanding about it would allow many to keep their data safe from future IP Spoofing attacks.

Hackers use the notorious technique for a number of nefarious reasons. For instance, an attacker would never want to get caught doing cybercrimes like spamming or scamming. As a result, the attacker would spoof the IP to keep suspicious eyes away from him.

Moreover, as explained above, the technique can be used to orchestrate major attacks like DDoS to target specific systems or infrastructures.

Marek Majkowski gave a detailed overview of a spoof-based attack during a DEFCON event, Packet Hacking Village 2017. While discussing direct attacks, Marek explained that a direct attack occurs, “when the attacker is just transmitting packets directly to us, directly to the target, without any amplification and a reflection in the middle. It’s just packets from the source, the targets, that’s it. “But we cannot trace that attacker because the source IPs are spoofed, so we don’t know who actually originated them,” he further explained.

That said, did you know that an average DDoS attack can cost companies over $2.5 million?

How IP Spoofing Works

The Internet Protocol or IP is used for sending data over a network or the Internet. Since the data is transmitted over the Internet in the form of packets, the IP packets come with a Header that contains different information.

how ip spoofing works - network packets

Image Credit: Incapsula.com

The source IP address tells the endpoint where the data came from. So, when an IP Spoofing attack occurs, the source IP address is masked with a fake or bogus IP address.

How to Prevent IP Spoofing?

Spoofing attacks can be sneaky and difficult to detect for an average Internet user. But, there are some measures that users can take to prevent spoof-based attacks.

  • If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, it is best to use a reliable Internet Service Provider. A good ISP uses state-of-the-art infrastructure for not only providing good Internet connection but also mitigating or preventing any Internet attacks.
  • Secondly, you may want to configure packet filtering on your router to keep malicious or fake IP packets from routing through your network. Through Ingress and Egress filtering you can filter all the inbound or outbound traffic on your router. Go to your router’s official website’s help page to learn how to set packet filtering.
  • You may also use web encryption protocols like Transport Layer Security (TLS) or HTTPS to encrypt the packets. Consequently, an attacker might be able to access the network, but he won’t be able to modify or change the packets due to encryption
  • If you have even the slightest hint of a spoofer on your network, you may use spoofing detection tools to detect any attack before it compromises your private information.

How PureVPN Can Help You Protect Against IP Spoofing Attacks

IP spoofing requires the attacker to be on the same network as you. More importantly, the attack needs some ideal conditions for it to be executed. For instance, packets must be unencrypted in order to execute an IP spoofing attack.

Here, a VPN such as PureVPN is your best bet as it can help you stay safe from the clutches of a spoof attack through its military-grade encryption.

When you connect to a VPN, your data is transmitted to the ISP through an encrypted tunnel. Everything that goes through the tunnel is protected with 256-bit encryption.

how to prevent ip spoofing

So, even if an attacker plans to spoof your IP packets, he won’t be able to do it without resolving the packets which won’t be possible due to end to end encryption.

IP Spoofing FAQs

The following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about IP spoofing:

What is an IP spoof attack?

Basically, an IP spoof attack is when a hacker outside the network attempts to impersonate a device from within the trusted network by altering the packet headers.

What is spoofing used for?

Spoofing is a method commonly used by hackers and snoopers in order to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information or execute major cyber-attacks such as DDoS.

How would you detect IP spoofing?

Bogon filtering, ingress filtering, egress filtering, and packet filtering are a few effective ways to detect spoofed IP packets and subsequently remove them with minimal collateral damage.

What is a good IP spoofing example?

A distributed-denial-of-service attacker will often use IP spoofing to overwhelm devices and networks with malformed packets that appear from a legitimate source.

What are some IP spoofing tools?

IP spoofing poses a major online threat to individuals and businesses today due to the widespread availability of automated spoofing tools like AntiDetect and FraudFox.

What is anti-spoofing?

To put it simply, anti-spoofing is a method used for detecting and rejecting packets that have a spoofed source address.

Final Words

Now that you know what IP spoofing is, why it is a serious concern and what should you do to stay protected, it would be wise to start implementing what you have learned to prevent falling victim to the different attacks that stem from IP spoofing.

Have you ever been a victim of IP spoofing attack? Or, do you have any tried and tested preventive measure in mind you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Mohsin Qadir An information security analyst in the making, a father of an adorable kid and a technology writer (Contributor). He can be found lurking around top network security blogs, looking for scoops on information security and privacy trends.

Have Your Say!!

3 Comments
  1. Jack Styner says:

    How does one detect Ip spoofing? What aresome IP spoofing detection techniques?

  2. Miss Cole says:

    Thank you for this article. Our router has been completely hijacked. I suspect my neighbor. I will try some of your pointers.

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