During a bit of boredom, I found that I could knock my friend's Mac
laptop offline by assuming it's IP address. After some quick research,
I found that I could convince another machine that "I" was using it's
IP address, and it would happily panic and try and attempt to get a
new address with dhcp. I thought to myself, "It can't be this easy to
DoS someone on a local network."
In any case, much of this article is probably common knowledge in the
security community. However, it was new to me as I was discovering and
researching it; so here it is. All of the research here was through
trial and error, and I broke the network a few times ;)
My first hunch for why this works was to blame the network hardware
(switches, etc). Turns out I was wrong. Let's start from the beginning!
So, I start off by assuming someone else's ip address:
ifconfig rl0 inet 192.168.15.1
What happens when I do that? Watching tcpdump in another window:
17:25:40.216489 00:50:ba:15:19:0d > Broadcast, ethertype ARP (0x0806), length 60: arp who-has 192.168.15.1 tell 192.168.15.1
Can't decipher tcpdump output? That's ok. When I set my IP to
'192.168.15.1' my operating system sends out an arp "who-has" packet
seeing if anyone else has this IP. So why is this important?
computer on the network receives this kind of packet,
it puts an entry in a table called the ARP table. The ARP table maps IP
addresses to MAC addresses. This kind of packet is a broadcast arp
packet that has the same "who-has" IP address as "tell" IP address. The
problem with very dynamic networks is that the likelihood of anything
on the network having any static (permanent) arp entries is very low.
Translation: You can poison hosts and network devices with little
How can we make the process of poisoning easier? We can use nemesis
, a packet injection
tool, to help us out. Instead of using OS tools to set our IP, we can
use nemesis to poison networked devices.
Remember that packet that we sent out when we changed our IP? Well we
can spoof it with nemesis.
nemesis arp -S 192.168.100.100 -D 192.168.100.100 \
-H 00:de:ad:be:ef:00 -h 01:de:ad:be:ef:00
This will broadcast an arp "who-has" packet on the network and pretty
much every machine will happily update their arp tables with your new
entry for the ip 192.168.100.100
and the mac address of
So let's put this to use on an existing host on our network:
kenya% arp 192.168.100.100
? (192.168.100.100) at 00:0c:f1:2e:2b:95 on tl0 [ethernet]
... meanwhile, I'm being evil ...
whack% sudo nemesis arp -S 192.168.100.100 -D 192.168.100.100 \
-H 00:de:ad:be:ef:00 -h 00:de:ad:be:ef:00
... and back on the other machine ...
kenya% arp 192.168.100.100
? (192.168.100.100) at 00:de:ad:be:ef:00 on tl0 [ethernet]
Note how the mac addresses are different after I poison the network. This
technique is wonderfully simple. Most (all?) machines and network devices
on the network should now be convinced that 00:de:ad:be:ef:00
the proper mac address for the ip 192.168.100.100
Now that we've poisoned the network, we can sniff traffic and see that
packets that were intended on the "real" 192.168.100.100
coming to us because the switches know that 00:de:ad:be:ef:00
us. The added benefit, is that our real mac address is not
. Audits logs will not track us easily, especially
on large-user networks with several unmanaged switches.
If your network uses dhcp with dynamic dns, you can very easily track
someone and keep them from gaining network access if you are on the
same network segment (wireless networks, anyone?). This simple
scriptlet will keep a particular host offline as long as it's running:
while true; do
nemesis arp -S poorsap -D poorsap \
-H 00:de:ad:be:ef:00 -h 00:de:ad:be:ef:00
Once a second, I'll claim I am poorsap
. Every time this person
does dhcp and it updates dns, nemesis will look up the hostname and
send out the packet on the network claiming that another machine is
. No one will send packets to the real
because they think it's mac address is elsewhere.
Furthermore, if the OS panics and does a dhcp release/renew sequence,
the dns entry will update and it'll kick it off a new IP address, if
any. This has other benefits I'll mention in the next section
There are two flavors of this kind of attack: Local and Remote. I don't
want to get in a religious war with security pedants about semantics,
but for this situation, local
means the local network segment
(layer 2), and remote
means outside the local network.
There are two styles of each attack: The first being where you
broadcast arp changes to the local net to convince everyone on the
local segment that there is a new mac address for a given IP. The
second is where you convince only an individual host that a mac address
has changed for a given IP.
The first attack, local, is where you convince a network or a host that
you are someone else on the local segment. Traffic intended for the
target host will go to you.
The second attack, remote, is where you convince a network or a host
that you are the gateway. Traffic intended for outbound delivery will
try to go through you. Feel free to sniff their outbound traffic such
as authentication, aim conversations, etc. More on this later
You get the idea, arp poisoning is too easy to do on normal host
machines. And on dynamic networks, it's very likely that local-segment
routers will have to listen to arp updates.
I'm lazy. I'll be the first to admit it. So in lazy efforts, I wrote a
script to automate the task of poisoning hosts and routers. You can
grab arpmitm here
You can repair your changes once you've played around with it enough
by using the '-r' option along with the original -v and -g options.
I can simply do this:
./arpmitm -v poorsap -g gateway_ip
And viola! All of poorsap's traffic is going through me, both inbound
and outbound. Makes you feel safe about your network eh? Hell, Windows
doesn't even log arp table changes as far as I know. I tried this
against a friend's Windows XP machine, and there was nothing about it
in the event viewer logs. Therefore, any normal user will be completely
oblivious to the fact that their computer just agreed to route traffic
through you. Fantastic design, eh?
The clear benefit here is that I can now sniff your traffic without
being in promiscuous mode. Promiscuous mode is detectable in certain
environments depending on the promiscuous node's OS, drivers, etc.
Furthermore, I've found that wireless cards stop being able to function
normally while in promiscuous mode. Kill both of those birds with one
stone by doing this method.
Add a firewall rule or two for nat and port redirection (FreeBSD PF):
nat on ndis0 from !ndis0 to any -> 188.8.131.52
rdr pass on ndis0 inet proto tcp from any to any port 80 -> cnn.com port 80
Turn on pf, load those rules, and run arpmitm on someone. All their web traffic will point them to 'cnn.com' regardless of the destination host. The poor user tries to go to google.com, and cnn.com comes up. Brilliantly simple.
The danger from this kind of attack is clear. It seems the only way to
protect against this is to use static (permanent) arp entries in both
the router and client hosts. However, it needs to be mentioned that
using static arp entries will never scale even in small environments
(less than 5 servers) becuase you'll have to update all servers
whenever an entry needs changing. PITA, more work that it's worth.
Static arp entries can be set in most operating systems with the
arp -s [ip_address] [mac_address]
If you do this, then your arp table will now have a permanent entry in
it. It might be a good idea if you had a dhcp-client hook script that
set a static arp entry for the gateway after every successful dhcp
request. That assumes, however, that you are getting a dhcp address
from a trustworthy dhcp server. If someone's put up an evil dhcp
server, that's a whole other ball game I won't be covering in this
Forgetting dhcp-client hosts for the moment, let's focus on servers.
If your environment is such that server ip addresses never change,
then you may benefit from static arp entries. However, if IPs or
network interfaces change more than never, static entries are a waste
of effort and will just serve as a point of breakage. Unfortunately in
a larger environment, servers may change more often than never, so
setting static entries, again, is way more effort than it is worth.
Anyway, most switches can have static arp entries for servers mapping
the server's mac address to the switch port where the server is
connected. Furthermore, all servers can also have static arp entries
of other servers as well as static entries for any gateway hosts.
Another way to fix this is to rethink your network layout. Have your
important servers on a secure subnet with limited access. This includes
limiting both physical and remote access. If I can't get on the local
segment, I can't poison your machines.
The ease of this style of attack worries me. For those of you who
already know about it and have worked with it before: How else can you
As always, if you feel like contributing ideas or comments, please
email me or bug me on AIM. I'm always interested in feedback. (My
contact information can be found in the 'about' section)