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Defending Your Network Against Syn Flooding

By Tom Seest

Can You Protect Against Syn Flooding?

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SYN flood is a common method used in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, consisting of sending fake TCP connection requests that cannot be closed, flooding servers with half-open connections that cannot be closed off properly, which effectively blocks legitimate traffic while restricting access to applications and data.
Attackers may target any server that accepts TCP connections – including web servers, email servers and infrastructure servers like firewalls or routers.

Can You Protect Against Syn Flooding?

Can You Protect Against Syn Flooding?

How Can You Defend Against Syn Floods?

An SYN flood attack occurs when an adversary client program sends initial connection requests (SYN packets) to a server without receiving adequate acknowledgments (ACKs). This leads to half-open connections on the server, which consume resources that would otherwise be used for legitimate traffic – creating a denial of service situation for legitimate users of the targeted system.
SYN flood attacks are particularly devastating DDoS attacks because they can target other network devices, such as routers and switches. Therefore, mitigating DDoS is key to network security.
Though threat actors have gradually adopted more sophisticated DDoS attacks in recent years, SYN flood remains the go-to method. Kaspersky DDoS statistics from 2019-20 reveal this attack method is responsible for most DDoS attacks launched against computers and servers; its prevalence can lead to lost consumer trust, revenue losses, IP theft, and customer data theft, as well as damage to hardware and software.
Cybercriminals often employ SYN floods as a precursor to more sophisticated DDoS attacks, as their increased volumes tend to target multiple components of networks and make managing them increasingly challenging.
SYN attacks come in two main varieties: direct and distributed. During a direct attack, an attacker uses one device with an actual IP address to launch their attack – this allows victims to easily track down and shut them down. A distributed SYN attack uses botnets that spread malicious packets from various sources across a wider area, making it harder for victims to track and shut them down.
SYN flood attacks may be more difficult to counter than other forms of DDoS attacks, but they still can be effectively dealt with. One effective approach involves employing a multifaceted cybersecurity defense strategy including firewalls and intrusion detection systems as well as regularly patching networks against vulnerabilities known to exist. Monitoring network activity to spot unusually high volumes of traffic coming from unfamiliar sources should also be prioritized for the prevention of SYN flood attacks from causing harm.

How Can You Defend Against Syn Floods?

How Can You Defend Against Syn Floods?

What Makes SYN Flooding So Dangerous?

SYN flood is a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that exploits a common vulnerability in network communication. This DDoS technique targets TCP connection state tables used by network devices like firewalls, Load Balancers and session management systems as well as servers; when these devices consume too many TCP connections they are no longer able to provide service to legitimate traffic; outages and slowness result.
Every client-server conversation begins with a three-way handshake that requires clients to send SYN packets, followed by servers sending ACK packets in order to establish TCP connections. A hacker could use SYN packets to flood a server with half-opened connections that clog resources while making responding to incoming requests impossible; this type of attack is known as SYN flood since an overwhelming amount of half-open TCP connections clog bandwidth consumption and prevents serving of requests by the server.
Hackers have several methods at their disposal for conducting SYN flood attacks, from changing the source IP address of SYN packets, spoofing source IPs or employing reflection attacks – such as sending SYN packets through an insecure server that then redirects them back – to sending more data at once and increasing its impact.
As hackers deploy SYN flood attacks, their primary objective is typically to increase the number of connections they can open quickly while keeping their target server busy for as long as possible. They do this by exploiting devices’ failure to respond with an ACK packet to SYN packets sent from target servers – meaning if an ACK arrives from them, all will be cleared from the backlog, and only half-open connections remain open after an attack has completed.
So-called Syn Flood attacks can be particularly devastating to networks and servers. Dyn’s recent DDoS attack used a combination of SYN flood attacks with other “flooding” techniques to compromise over 600,000 IoT devices and knock them offline, disrupting service from this popular DNS provider.

What Makes SYN Flooding So Dangerous?

What Makes SYN Flooding So Dangerous?

How Can You Protect Against Syn Floods?

SYN flood is a widespread Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack that targets any server accepting TCP connections – from web servers, email services, and infrastructure servers such as firewalls and routers – with its primary goal being overworking and exhausting connection state tables, causing servers to crash or slow down significantly. Attackers use SYN floods to overwhelm these servers’ connection state tables, which causes crashes or slowdowns.
An ordinary TCP/IP network connection begins when a client sends a SYN packet to a server, and it responds with an SYN/ACK packet, concluding the three-way handshake process and initiating a communication session. However, with an SYN flood attack, attackers send large volumes of SYN packets without receiving responses that complete this handshake process and become half-open connections on the server that take up valuable resources while blocking legitimate users from connecting.
These attacks are especially destructive as they cause a server to take longer to respond to requests, disrupting e-commerce, applications, or business processes as well as making it hard for authorized users to access data, resulting in lost revenues and potential disruption of service delivery.
Security professionals can prevent SYN flood attacks by quickly detecting and responding to suspicious activity. One effective method for this is using a Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) system to monitor traffic for anomalies like spikes in SYN packets received from specific IP addresses.
Other mitigation steps include the use of load balancing to distribute incoming connections among multiple servers and reduce the risk of any single one being overwhelmed by SYN floods. SYN cookies can also help track SYN packets and enable servers to provide only genuine clients with cookies.
As SYN attack tactics evolve, cybersecurity teams must remain vigilant to detect and respond quickly. To accomplish this, they must understand the basic principles underlying SYN attacks as well as any telltale signs or threats that arise, so as to respond in time. Otherwise, organizations could risk losing important data access as well as experiencing serious disruptions.

How Can You Protect Against Syn Floods?

How Can You Protect Against Syn Floods?

Are Your Devices Vulnerable to Syn Flood Attacks?

Every TCP/IP connection between client and server begins with a three-way handshake: the client sends an SYN (synchronize) packet to the server, the server sends back an SYN/ACK packet as a response, and the client then sends an ACK (acknowledging receipt of acknowledgment of transmission) packet. hackers often exploit SYN floods to disrupt this protocol by flooding servers with SYN packets while intentionally not returning SYN/ACK packets, using this strategy as an attack against resources and leading to denial of service attacks against servers that cannot keep up with demand or be stopped completely by hackers using SYN floods – denial of service attacks are common against servers due to spamming networks a la mode, so this three-step handshake starts every time!
An SYN flood can be used by an attacker or group of compromised computers (a botnet) to quickly overwhelm servers, slowing server responses and preventing other connections from being established. This disruption of services such as web browsing, data access and e-commerce could cause irreparable harm to an organization’s reputation or result in lost revenues.
SYN floods can be prevented through several strategies, including firewall configuration and SYN attack mitigation appliances that recognize and strip out fake SYN packets. Other techniques may include increasing the maximum memory allowance on target devices for half-open connections before recycling any older connections once this limit has been reached; however, such strategies may not be viable against high volume SYN flood attacks due to potentially reduced system performance as they may lead to legitimate connections being rejected altogether.
An SYN attack can be easily launched from any internet-enabled computer or other devices at home and can wreak significant havoc upon businesses, organizations, and individuals alike. SYN attacks can quickly shut down servers, disabling applications and data access for customers and depriving them of online purchases. Furthermore, these attacks can act as cover for other forms of malicious activity like ransomware attempts at data theft or planting malware on other systems. Cloudflare provides effective SYN flood defense strategies with attack mitigation appliances to safeguard against these attacks, acting as an intermediary between targeted servers and sources, handling SYN floods in the cloud before reaching their destinations.

Are Your Devices Vulnerable to Syn Flood Attacks?

Are Your Devices Vulnerable to Syn Flood Attacks?

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