An adversary uses TCP SYN packets as a means towards host discovery. Typical RFC 793 behavior specifies that when a TCP port is open, a host must respond to an incoming SYN "synchronize" packet by completing stage two of the 'three-way handshake' - by sending an SYN/ACK in response. When a port is closed, RFC 793 behavior is to respond with a RST "reset" packet. This behavior can be used to 'ping' a target to see if it is alive by sending a TCP SYN packet to a port and then looking for a RST or an ACK packet in response. Due to the different responses from open and closed ports, SYN packets can be used to determine the remote state of the port. A TCP SYN ping is also useful for discovering alive hosts protected by a stateful firewall. In cases where a specific firewall rule does not block access to a port, a SYN packet can pass through the firewall to the host and solicit a response from either an open or closed port. When a stateful firewall is present, SYN pings are preferable to ACK pings because a stateful firewall will typically drop all unsolicited ACK packets as they are not part of an existing or new connection. TCP SYN pings often fail when a stateless ACL or firewall is configured to blanket-filter incoming packets to a port. The firewall device will discard any SYN packets to a blocked port. Often, an adversary will alternate between SYN and ACK pings to discover if a host is alive.
The table below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf and ParentOf, and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.
Standard Attack Pattern - A standard level attack pattern in CAPEC is focused on a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. It is often seen as a singular piece of a fully executed attack. A standard attack pattern is meant to provide sufficient details to understand the specific technique and how it attempts to accomplish a desired goal. A standard level attack pattern is a specific type of a more abstract meta level attack pattern.
The ability to send a TCP SYN packet to a remote target. Depending upon the operating system, the ability to craft SYN packets may require elevated privileges.
The adversary needs to know how to craft and send protocol commands from the command line or within a tool.
SYN pings can be performed via the use of a port scanner or by raw socket manipulation using a scripting or programming language. Packet injection tools are also useful for this purpose. Depending upon the technique used it may also be necessary to sniff the network in order to see the response.
The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.
Bypass Protection Mechanism
A Related Weakness relationship associates a weakness with this attack pattern. Each association implies a weakness that must exist for a given attack to be successful. If multiple weaknesses are associated with the attack pattern, then any of the weaknesses (but not necessarily all) may be present for the attack to be successful. Each related weakness is identified by a CWE identifier.
[REF-33] Stuart McClure, Joel Scambray
and George Kurtz. "Hacking Exposed: Network Security Secrets & Solutions". Chapter 2: Scanning, pg. 48. 6th Edition. McGraw Hill. 2009.
[REF-128] Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Information Processing Techniques Office and
Information Sciences Institute University of Southern California. "RFC793 - Transmission Control Protocol". Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). 1981-09.
[REF-34] Gordon "Fyodor" Lyon. "Nmap Network Scanning: The Official Nmap Project Guide to Network Discovery and Security Scanning". Section 3.6.2 TCP SYN Ping, pg. 61. 3rd "Zero Day" Edition,. Insecure.com LLC, ISBN: 978-0-9799587-1-7. 2008.