Reflection Scan: an Off-Path Attack on TCP

Jan Wrobel

The paper demonstrates how traffic load of a shared packet queue can be exploited as a side channel through which protected information leaks to an off-path attacker. The attacker sends to a victim a sequence of identical spoofed segments. The victim responds to each segment in the sequence (the sequence is reflected by the victim) if the segments satisfy a certain condition tested by the attacker. The responses do not reach the attacker directly, but induce extra load on a routing queue shared between the victim and the attacker. Increased processing time of packets traversing the queue reveal that the tested condition was true. The paper concentrates on the TCP, but the approach is generic and can be effective against other protocols that allow to construct requests which are conditionally answered by the victim. A proof of concept was created to assess applicability of the method in real-life scenarios.

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