Home page logo

bugtraq logo Bugtraq mailing list archives

TESO - Nameserver traffic amplify and NS route discovery
From: scut () NB IN-BERLIN DE (Sebastian)
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2000 18:56:01 +0100


TESO Security Advisory

Nameserver traffic amplify (DNS Smurf) and NS Route discovery (DNS Traceroute)


    Nameservers which accept and forward external DNS queries may be abused
    as traffic amplifiers, exposing a possible threat to network integrity
    by bandwidth saturation (DNS Smurf).

    A "deaf" pseudo nameserver may be used to discover the query chain a
    DNS query takes through various nameservers, allowing to make a trace-
    route like route discovery (DNS Traceroute).

Systems Affected

    All type of nameservers which accept external queries. Especially those,
    which forward the queries to other nameservers or those which have
    excessive retry attempt values. The common value is to try three times,
    but we have observed misconfigured servers which tried more then 20 times
    sending out a query packet.

    Note that this attack is completely different from the DNS Smurf attack
    discovered by s0ftpr0ject [4], however, it exploits weaknesses in default
    BIND [6] configurations too.


    The following data is an except from initial tests we have conducted
    against some vulnerable nameserver.

    08:07:24.943598 ns2.domain > victim.domain: 15121 (35)
    08:07:32.747253 ns3.domain > victim.domain: 8536 (35)
    08:07:32.832604 ns2.domain > victim.domain: 15121 (35)
    08:07:39.819289 ns3.domain > victim.domain: 8536 (35)
    08:07:40.670228 ns1.1025 > victim.domain: 56483 (35)
    08:07:44.405556 ns4.domain > victim.domain: 5306 (35) (DF)
    08:07:48.928981 ns2.domain > victim.domain: 15121 (35)
    08:07:52.669825 ns1.1025 > victim.domain: 56483 (35)
    08:07:56.107063 ns3.domain > victim.domain: 8536 (35)
    08:07:56.471586 ns4.domain > victim.domain: 5306 (35) (DF)
    08:08:04.938187 ns6.domain > victim.domain: 26706 (35)
    08:08:12.372097 ns5.2187 > victim.domain: 2352 (35)
    08:08:13.826464 ns6.domain > victim.domain: 26706 (35)
    08:08:16.669021 ns1.1025 > victim.domain: 56483 (35)
    08:08:20.603050 ns4.domain > victim.domain: 5306 (35) (DF)
    08:08:24.365990 ns5.2187 > victim.domain: 2352 (35)
    08:08:30.873233 ns6.domain > victim.domain: 26706 (35)
      08:08:32.658479 ns1.domain > querier.1025: 298 ServFail 0/0/0 (35)
    08:08:48.369725 ns5.2187 > victim.domain: 2352 (35)

    The initial DNS query packet had a size of 35 bytes, although packets
    up to a size of 500 bytes are possible.
    As you can see there are five nameservers who indirectly got the query,
    which was send by "querier" (query packet not displayed). The first name-
    server that got queried was "ns1".

    The query is forwarded to five other nameservers, so all together there are
    six nameservers which try to resolve the query domain. If the query domain
    is a normal existent domain name, the authoritative nameserver will answer
    promptly and the answer is returned to the original query host.

    This is the normal case. However, if there is an authoritative nameserver
    which does not respond to the queries send to it, all nameservers will
    retry to resolve the domain by sending out the query packet, assuming the
    UDP packet they have previously sent got lost.
    Because all six nameservers do this, this results in a traffic amplify
    with factor 18 (18 packets send for each attacker packet).

    Through testing a few hundred nameservers on this vulnerability we quickly
    found nameservers which will amplify with ratios well beyond 30, sometimes
    even exceeding 50.


    By abusing multiple nameserver-chains as traffic amplifiers an attacker can
    easily saturate any network link. The traffic to the victim IP is caused by
    the query packets which are sent by each nameserver in the nameserver-chain
    to the fake authoritative nameserver in the victim network.

    For the last few years denial of service (DoS) attacks that are based on
    bandwidth saturation have always been a problem. A few years ago, when the
    Smurf ICMP denial of service attack got publicly known nearly everyone was
    able to saturate any link by abusing other networks as a traffic amplifier.
    Since then numerous amplify attacks have been discovered, such as [3] and
    [4], the original posting of the Smurf attack is [5].

    Any method that allows an attacker to amplify his traffic can be abused for
    a denial of service attack.


    When a nameserver receives a query, most nameservers usually just start
    forwarding the query to some other nameserver. There can be quite a long
    path of forwarding queries. However if the query is not resolvable
    because there is no nameserver listening on the remote host, every
    forwarding nameserver will start to resolve it on their own, by querying
    the authoritative nameserver themselves. In the default configuration each
    nameserver will send the query three times, after 0, 12 and 24 seconds,

    This can be used to discover the path of nameservers. To do this an
    attacker would query the first nameserver for a domain he can see the
    packets on, at best the domain points to the query host itself. Then he
    would record all nameservers that send out a packet to himself. After
    having done this he would try with another nameserver of the ones he got
    queries from. In the best case he will receive queries from all hosts
    but one missing. The missing one is the first host in the route. After
    having reduced the list by one he will start over with the reduced list
    until there is only one nameserver remaining, which is the last in the
    querying chain.

    Through seeking especially long paths, where a lot of nameservers are
    queried, this can be abused as a traffic amplify bandwidth attack, as shown

    Since the important entries such as the NS entry is in the cache of each
    nameserver after the first query, the attack is very fast pacing after the
    first query, since no additional packets are sent to the attacker and the
    attacker may spoof the UDP query packets. If the attacker is clever he
    would use a very short lifetime for his NS entry, while using a long
    lifetime for the victim subdomain. After the first query succeeded he will
    just shut his nameserver down and send out spoofed query packets at a very
    fast rate.


    "Defense is the best Offense" - said by a wise person. By protecting your
    own nameservers against being abused by attackers you secure other sites at
    the same time. If you run BIND [6] nameservers in your network please care
    to read basic BIND configuration tutorials and especially documents on how
    to secure your BIND configuration [7].

    Also notice that you may fall victim to the same attack, if only one
    nameserver in your network is vulnerable -- That means if only one
    server is accepting queries for external domains from strangers, this
    nameserver inside your network will send out trusted queries to other
    nameservers in your network, and hence can be abused too.

    By taking more generic measures against being the originator network of
    denial of service attacks, such as improving your overall network security,
    you contribute to the security of all other networks in the Internet too.
    I urge you to subscribe to a security related mailing list, such as
    Bugtraq [8] or, if you cannot afford the time necessary to read such a
    list, at least subscribe to the CERT list [9].

    In general there is no foolproof method to avoid getting a victim of a DNS
    Smurf. But what can you do if you get attacked ?

    To think of the correct response we have to think of why this attack works.
    It works because other nameservers try to query a non-existent nameserver
    in your network and don't get any response, hence retrying again. To just
    filter DNS traffic to this IP is only of little use as a short-time
    measure. Instead setting up a bogus DNS server on the victim IP address,
    which replies with bogus answers to any query it receives will reduce the
    impact of the attack.

    However the real cause for the attack is still the number of misconfigured
    DNS servers out there, which accept queries for external domains from
    strangers. Another reason is the unreliable transport protocol which makes
    it impossible for the nameserver to notice the unreachability of the remote
    victim nameserver.


    The bug discovery and the demonstration programs is due to TESO [1].

    This advisory has been written by scut and hendy.
    The tests and further analysis were done by scut.
    The demonstration exploit has been written by scut.

Contact Information

    The TESO crew can be reached by mailing to teso () shellcode org 
    Our web page is at http://teso.scene.at/


    [1] TESO

    [2] Packetfactory

    [3] The "MAC DoS Attack", a x37 traffic amplify attack
        posted on Bugtraq Mailing List 12/28/1999, discovered by John Copeland

    [4] DNS Smurf (through query/answer ratio)
        s0ftpr0ject Security Advisory SPJ-002-000, July 19, 1999
        posted on Bugtraq Mailing List 07/30/1999, discovered by scacco

    [5] ICMP ECHO Requests to Broadcast addresses (ICMP Smurf attack)
        posted on Bugtraq Mailing List 07/19/1997, posting by Edward Henigin

    [6] BIND nameserver software - Internet Software Consortium

    [7] Securing Domain Name Service
        Article on securityportal.com security related website

    [8] Bugtraq Mailing List

    [9] CERT Mailing List


    This advisory does not claim to be complete or to be usable for any
    purpose. Especially information on the vulnerable systems may be
    inaccurate or wrong. The supplied exploit is not to be used for malicious
    purposes, but for educational purposes only.

    This advisory is free for open distribution in unmodified form.
    Articles that are based on information from this advisory should include
    link [1].


    We've created a working demonstration program to exploit the vulnerability.
    The program needs Libnet, a low level network library installed, which can
    be obtained through [2].

    The exploit is available from



scut / teso

- scut () nb in-berlin de - http://nb.in-berlin.de/scut/ - sacbuctd () ircnet   --
-- you don't need a lot of people to be great, you need a few great to be  --
-- the best ------------------------------------------------------------------
http://3261000594/scut/pgp - 5453 AC95 1E02 FDA7 50D2 A42D 427E 6DEF 745A 8E07
--- aquired Talon operating system source, awaiting orders, hi echelon -------

<LI>application/x-tar-gz attachment: namesnake-0.0.2.tar.gz

  By Date           By Thread  

Current thread:
[ Nmap | Sec Tools | Mailing Lists | Site News | About/Contact | Advertising | Privacy ]