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Security in a SIP Network
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Denial of Service and Amplification
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Denial of service (DoS) attacks can take many different forms and can be launched using many different techniques. The easiest form is simply flooding the network with specific traffic types. For example, using a call generator, a hacker can send millions of INVITEs into the network attempting to flood the network with call requests. We see these types of attacks take place many times, and they have even occurred in the PSTN. The use of SIP and IP provides much easier access to hackers, enabling these types of attacks much more frequently. Another form of DoS attack involves application servers. By launching a flood of requests to an application server, the network element is immediately flooded and congested, taking it out of service. This can also happen with the DNS through flooding with DNS queries (similar attacks of this nature have occurred many times already). When the DNS is attacked, the entire network can be impacted, depending on where the server sits within the DNS hierarchy and whether or not redundancy has been implemented. When redirect servers are used, the potential for amplification occurs. One message is forked into many different messages, which will also result in many different responses. An attack relying on amplification will send many requests toward targets known to be redirected, knowing that those targets will result in the request being multiplied. As the request is multiplied, it is sent to several different destinations. Each one of those destinations will then send an appropriate response back to the forking proxy. It is not necessary for the responses to be successful responses, since the object is to create a large volume of SIP traffic in the network with the hope that this causes enough congestion to result in a DoS. Since congestion is the ultimate goal, one request is obviously not enough. Nor is one target sufficient for such an attack. Therefore the attacker will use many targets and millions of requests, and will continue to send these requests until the congestion occurs. The registrar can also be the target of such an attack. A hacker can register a subscriber listing many different user identities for the same subscription. This then provides the registrar with a list of multiple destinations for a request. The hacker then launches requests toward the public identity, which the registrar and proxies then send to multiple destinations based on the registration made by the hacker. This is also considered amplification, as the registrar is amplifying the effects of the attack by sending to multiple destinations. The impacts are the same as a forking proxy, bearing the same results. A similar kind of attack toward the registrar involves registering many different identities. Each identity consumes memory within the registrar, and therefore if a large number of registrations take place, the registrar runs out of memory. This only works in open networks with little to no security where anyone can register and use the services of the network to route requests. Hopefully most networks will prevent this from happening just through simple authentication, preventing unauthorized subscribers from accessing the registrar.
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The forking proxy in turn will continue to fork the requests into many requests and will continue to manage many responses from the various targets until it becomes congested (or some upstream network element becomes congested). At any rate, the end result is that the network becomes too congested to handle any further traffic and begins denying service to other subscribers. Some of the network elements may even crash due to the levels of traffic.
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Bots and DDoS Attacks
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Bots are simple scripts that are carried to a subscriber s device through Web sites, or other viruses transported using text messaging or e-mail. Even Bluetooth is highly susceptible to viruses, and cell phones have fallen victim to these as well. A bot sits on a device and first looks for any open ports or connections that it can use to access the Internet. The bot then looks for other computers or devices connected to the same network and begins exploiting these systems. This is what makes bots especially dangerous, since they have the ability to self-propagate whenever the device is connected to a network. Even firewalls cannot prevent bots from infecting other computers when an infected computer connects behind the firewall. But the most troublesome aspect of a bot is the ability to control the script from a remote server. Bots use the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) protocol to communicate with a URL programmed into the script. They then receive commands from a server connected to the URL that basically launches the script. The server is the command and control server. Many bots are used for accessing Web sites and specific links on those Web sites to increase the number of hits to a Web site fraudulently. There are some businesses that make money based on the number of hits to a Web site or Web site link, and therefore the bots inflate the revenues at will. Bots have now moved on to more menacing and threatening uses, causing DoS attacks in many networks. When one hacker successfully launches bots, they create their own little network of bots known as botnets. All of the scripts are now under the control of one person, which if launched against a target could be devastating for that target. For example, if the bots were instructed to access the same URL at the same time, millions of machines could be accessing the same Web site simultaneously. This would certainly cause the server to crash because it would not be able to handle such a huge demand. The Web site would then be out of service. This has happened more than once, causing businesses to close their Web sites for days. The losses quickly ramp up when your Web site, your sole source of revenue, has been attacked and shut down. Imagine now if that Web site was a bank, or a credit card company. The largest botnet to date was recorded in 2007. Millions of computers were under the command of one botnet. If that botnet were directed to any URL, it would have a devastating effect. Of course, bots affect more than just computers.
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