How to Avoid A Ping of Death Attack: Never Let Your Guard Down

During a ping of death attack, a single machine sends an abnormally large ping data packet to the target system, causing the recipient’s PC to crash. In some rare cases, this attack grants hackers unauthorized access to the compromised computer, allowing them to execute malicious malware.

Ping Of Death Attack

A “ping” is an Internet Protocol network command to determine whether a host is online and reachable. Initially viewed as a legacy technique, there was a belief that staying updated with current software would ensure safety. 

However, hackers have revived and modified this method, presenting new versions of the attack as late as 2020, where 69% of big enterprises saw an increase in DDoS assaults. While Ping of Death only seems like reading a past chapter, the same approach can still be used.

Short on Time? Here’s Everything in a Nutshell

  • Ping of Death (PoD) attacks include delivering a huge ping data packet to crash the recipient’s computer and, in certain situations, provide hackers with unauthorized access.
  • Despite initial solutions in the 1990s and early 2000s, hackers resurrected and updated PoD attacks, making them a modern-day danger.
  • Rather than targeting huge organizations like servers, the assault tries to turn off particular computers and gadgets, such as laptops or cell phones.
  • DDoS mitigation lowers the attack surface by limiting access to superfluous ports, protocols, or programs.
  • Implementing Content Distribution Networks (CDNs), Load Balancers, firewalls, or Access Control Lists (ACLs) aids in the management and control of incoming traffic, resulting in better security.
  • To avoid PoD attacks, the recipient’s TCP stack must be modified to check packet sizes and prevent heap overflow.
  • Analyzing and comparing each packet to a baseline of valid traffic aids in detecting and mitigating possible DDoS assaults.

A General Topic Overview for You to Skim Over

What Is the Ping of Death Attack?

In the crosshairs of malicious hackers are systems like laptops or servers, which they intend to freeze or crash. 

To accomplish this, they devise a plan to execute a ping of death (PoD) attack, also referred to as a denial of service attack (DDoS attack). The attack involves sending a packet larger than the allowable size to the targeted system.

When Did the Ping of Death Attack Happen? Coining Back to Its Origin

The initial occurrences of death ping assaults took place during the 1990s and early 2000s. Subsequently, developers addressed the concerns by updating the code, leading most users to believe the threat had been mitigated.

However, in 2013, the attack resurfaced, prompting users of Internet Explorer PCs to download fixes to safeguard their systems from vulnerability and crashes. Microsoft responded promptly by issuing 19 fixes in a single day.

The ping of death came back in October 2020, prompting Microsoft to provide fixes to users once again to eliminate the risk and enhance security. Media outlets also raised awareness about the threat, cautioning users that hackers could exploit this attack to gain control of their devices and execute malicious programs.

It is crucial to note that the ping of death seldom targets large entities like servers. Instead, it aims to disable specific computers and devices, leading to issues like the infamous “blue screen of death” or rendering smartphones non-functional.

This technique threatens any internet-connected device, including IoT devices like smart refrigerators. And considering the expansion of IoT, the cyber security market is expected to approach 650 billion US dollars by 2030.

How Does the Ping of Death Attack Work?

A PoD attack initiates with a hacker sending a ping to the targeted system, receiving an echo response confirming the connection between the source and destination machines.

Typically, ping packets are relatively small, with the maximum allowed packet size for IP4 ping packets being 65,535 bytes. In a PoD attack, the hacker disrupts the system by sending ping packets larger than 110,000 bytes to the target system.

Due to specific TCP/IP system limitations, large packet sizes must be divided into smaller segments, which are well below the maximum size restriction. The target machine then attempts to reassemble these segments, causing the overall packet size to surpass the limit, leading to a buffer overflow. Consequently, the target machine may crash, freeze, or reboot.

This attack can also be carried out using the TCP, UDP, and IPX protocols, essentially targeting anything that sends an IP datagram.

What Are Mitigation Techniques for DDoS Attacks?

Here are the top DDoS attack mitigation techniques: 

Use an Efficient VPN

A reliable VPN, like FastestVPN, helps mitigate DDoS attacks by hiding your IP address. Your Internet Protocol address is the main hint for hackers; by connecting to a different server, such as the US server, you can effortlessly disguise your original location in no time. 

Doing so won’t leak your address, and black hats can never intercept the network. Meanwhile, all your online activities are almost intractable, thanks to military-grade AES 256-bit encryption and other exclusive features on FastestVPN.

Don’t Ignore Abnormal Network Traffic

When faced with high volumes of traffic targeting a host, our standard practice is to allow only as much traffic as the host can handle without risking its availability. This approach is referred to as rate limiting. Advanced security solutions can take it further by selectively permitting authorized communication based on individual packet analysis. 

To achieve this, the first step is to identify the typical characteristics of legitimate traffic the target receives and then compare each packet against this established baseline.

Reduce the Probable Attack Surface Area

To counter DDoS attacks effectively, a key strategy involves minimizing the attack surface, which limits the options available to attackers and allows the implementation of defenses in a centralized location. 

The goal is to avoid exposing applications or resources to unnecessary ports, protocols, or apps that don’t require communication with them. By doing so, the potential attack points are reduced, enabling a more focused approach to mitigation.

Place processing resources behind Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) or Load Balancers, ensuring that direct Internet access is restricted to specific infrastructure elements, like database servers. 

Additionally, firewalls or Access Control Lists (ACLs) can be utilized to manage and control the traffic reaching your applications in specific scenarios.

Use a Buffer

To mitigate PoD attacks, the recipient’s TCP stack needs to undergo modifications to validate the total size of IP packets and allocate sufficient buffer space for reassembly. 

An additional measure involves truncating the IP request to fit within the allocated buffers, preventing potential heap overflow due to rewriting. Since completely blocking all ping requests to protect against PoD attacks is not feasible, an alternative approach is to selectively filter out fragmented ping requests while processing unfragmented ping queries.

FAQs - Ping of Death Attack

What is a ping of death attack in cyber security?

A ping of death (PoD) attack is a denial of service (DDoS attack). The attack entails delivering a packet to the targeted system greater than the maximum permitted size.

What is the impact of DDoS and ping of death on network performance?

A Denial of Service (DoS) or ping of death attack significantly impacts network response time. A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is even more severe, causing further reduction in network response compared to a DoS attack.

Is ping of death a denial-of-service attack?

Yes, a ping of death attack is a denial of service (DDoS) attack in which the hacker sends a packet larger than the maximum receiving size - leading to a the user’s computer crashing.

What is the difference between a Smurf attack and a ping of death attack?

They both involve sending a significant amount of ICMP Echo request packets. However, Smurf attacks are particularly problematic due to their ability to leverage broadcast network characteristics to amplify their destructive potential.

Wrapping Up

Although the Ping of Death attack gained massive traction during the ’90s, it’s only a talk of the past today. But history teaches and trains excellent minds. That said, you can still expect this DDoS attack approach to be used for data theft. 

A great way to mitigate this attack is using a trusted VPN, like FastestVPN. By spoofing your IP address and using premium protocols, like the WireGuard, this has to be your best bet!

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