Common Attack Pattern Enumeration and Classification
A Community Resource for Identifying and Understanding Attacks
An adversary uses a TCP NULL scan to determine if ports are closed on the target machine. This scan type is accomplished by sending TCP segments with no flags in the packet header, generating packets that are illegal based on RFC 793. The RFC 793 expected behavior is that any TCP segment with an out-of-state Flag sent to an open port is discarded, whereas segments with out-of-state flags sent to closed ports should be handled with a RST in response. This behavior should allow an attacker to scan for closed ports by sending certain types of rule-breaking packets (out of sync or disallowed by the TCB) and detect closed ports via RST packets.
In addition to being fast, the major advantage of this scan type is its ability to scan through stateless firewall or ACL filters. Such filters are configured to block access to ports usually by preventing SYN packets, thus stopping any attempt to 'build' a connection. NULL packets, like out-of-state FIN or ACK packets, tend to pass through such devices undetected. Additionally, because open ports are inferred via no responses being generated, one cannot distinguish an open port from a filtered port without further analysis. For instance, NULL scanning a system protected by a stateful firewall may indicate all ports being open. Because of their obvious rule-breaking nature, NULL scans are flagged by almost all intrusion prevention or intrusion detection systems.
This table 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.
This table shows the views that this attack pattern belongs to and top level categories within that view.
This table 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.
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.
Many operating systems do not implement RFC 793 exactly and for this reason NULL scans do not work as expected against these devices. Some operating systems, like Microsoft Windows, send a RST packet in response to any out-of-sync (or malformed) TCP segments received by a listening socket (rather than dropping the packet via RFC 793), thus preventing the adversary from distinguishing between open and closed ports. NULL scans are limited by the range of platforms against which they work.
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