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What is a Smurf Attack?

Considering the vast spectrum of attacks that firms face, cybersecurity continues to be the leading issue for organizations. A Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack, also known as a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack, is one of the oldest dangers that may devastate any business. These cyberattacks often overwhelm a network by sending out massive amounts of traffic on a regular basis, resulting in several hours of outage.

The Smurf Attack, which makes use of IP and ICMP flaws to render a computer network unworkable, is one of the most prevalent DDoS attacks. It is critical to understand how to restrict these attacks in order to keep your company secure.

The term Smurf is derived from a well-known Belgian comic book and animation series of the same name. Many little blue figures appear in it, all working together to bring down a powerful magician.

On the other hand, a smurf attack technically means a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack in which a significant number of ICMP packets with the victim's false source IP are sent to a computer network employing a broadcast IP address. By default, many network components react by delivering a response to the originating IP address. The victim's system will be overwhelmed with traffic if the computers on the network that receive and reply to these packets are considerable. This could slow down the victim's computer to the point where working on it is impossible.

How Does a Smurf Attack Work?

A smurf attack occurs in the following 4 steps:

  1. A malicious program spoofs the Internet Protocol address of the packets with the IP address of the victim. By this method, all traffic will be sent there.
  1. Data packets are transmitted to a router's broadcast IP address. As a result, the router will disseminate the message to all linked devices inside this broadcast network, amplifying the attack several times. There are as many gadgets that answer as there are moments.
  1. The data packets will be received by each device. They will react to the faked IP address (the target's IP address), however. As a result, the traffic will be directed directly to the victim.
  1. The target begins to receive data packets that it did not request. Each one follows the next, and if there are too many, the target begins to have difficulty digesting them. If the intensity does not decrease, the target will eventually be unable to respond.

The Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is a network layer protocol used by network devices to identify issues with network connectivity. ICMP is necessary for testing and reporting, but attackers can exploit it to perform distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

The ICMP protocol aids in determining if data reaches its intended receiver in a timely way. The ICMP protocol is widely used on network devices such as routers and switches. The ICMP protocol is utilized by the widely known network applications ping and traceroute.

How Does a Smurf Attack Work

Figure 1. How Does a Smurf Attack Work

What Are the Types of Smurf Attacks?

Smurf attacks are divided into two categories: "basic smurf attacks" and "advanced smurf attacks".

1. Basic Smurf Attack

A basic smurf attack is effective when the victim network is inundated with an apparently infinite stream of ICMP request packets. The source address of the ICMP request packages is set to the target's network's broadcast address. If the packets are appropriately dispersed, every unit in the targeted system responds with an echo to the ICMP request. As a result, massive traffic is generated, which will bring the entire system down.

2. Advanced Smurf Attack

Advanced smurf attacks begin in the same way that basic smurf attacks do. ICMP request packets with the source address pointed towards the target network's broadcast address are quickly constructed and spread. The components of the system then react to ICMP queries with echoes, but this time the echo requests can set their sources such that they can react to 3rd party victims. As a result, attackers may simultaneously attack many targets, slowing down a wider portion of the internet. Attackers can use advanced smurf attacks to broaden the scope and attack larger groups.

The Fraggle attack on the other hand is not a type but sort of a smurf attack. When your router's broadcast address receives a huge amount of faked user datagram protocol (UDP) traffic, you have a Fraggle attack. Your server tries to react, but the packet flood continues. As a result of the increased activity, your server will eventually freeze.

What are Smurf Attack Transmission and Effects?

It's easy to get the Smurf Malware unintentionally through an untrusted site or an email. Most Smurfs are packed with rootkits, letting attackers establish backdoors for simple system access. Turning down IP broadcast addressing on all network routers is one technique to resist a Smurf attack. This feature is seldom utilized, and it prevents an attack from overwhelming a system if it is switched off.

When a Smurf attack succeeds, it can take down a company's servers for weeks, resulting in lost income and consumer dissatisfaction. Furthermore, this type of attack could be a cover-up for something much more serious, like file theft or other intellectual property theft. Smurf attacks necessitate a strong protection system that can monitor network traffic and identify any anomalies, such as packet volume, behavior, and signature; many malware bots have distinct characteristics, and the appropriate security service can help stop a Smurf attack before it starts.

What is the Relationship Between Smurf Attack and DDoS Attacks?

For more than twenty years, the threat of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks has been a serious issue for businesses and governments. This is a disruptive and ever-evolving vector of cyberattacks that takes computer networks down by flooding them with the traffic they can't handle. It was first documented in 1996.

DDoS is an acronym of "distributed denial of service." When a malicious attacker uses resources from several, remote locations to target an organization's online activities, this is known as a DDoS attack. Typically, DDoS attacks target network systems and services to generate attacks that modify their default settings. That is, in fact, the major issue.

DDoS provides a wealth of options for attaining strictly malevolent purposes, as well as a tool for threat actors to express protest against Internet restrictions and contentious political agendas. For example, the most recent twist in this epidemic is a tactic known as "ransom DDoS," which is used to extort money from enterprises in exchange for the cessation of a major intrusion.

The fact that DDoS is diverse and encompasses a number of strategies makes it difficult to combat. To begin with, there are three broad sorts of attacks that make up the ecosystem's backbone:

The "classic" volume-based (volumetric) attacks clog up a target network's bandwidth with a large number of traffic packets. Protocol attacks are designed to deplete the resources of a server or a firewall. DDoS attacks at the application layer (layer 7) target individual web apps rather than the entire network. These are very difficult to avoid and minimize, despite being quite simple to stage.

DDoS attacks that are more advanced may not have to rely on default settings and open relays. They take advantage of natural behavior and the way protocols on today's gadgets were supposed to work in the first place. A DDoS attacker tries to control the usual functioning of the network services we all count on and rely on just the same sense that a social engineer distorts the default functioning of social interaction.

Whenever a DDoS attack occurs, the target company will suffer a devastating outage in one or more of its services as a result of the attack flooding its resources with HTTP requests and traffic, limiting authorized users' access. DDoS attacks, along with social engineering, ransomware, and supply chain attacks, are among some of the top 4 cybersecurity concerns of our day.

A smurf attack is a type of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. ICMP Echo protocol is used in a smurf attack to drain the network's key resources. This is what distinguishes a smurf attack from other forms of DDoS attacks. In other words, an attacker tries to make a server unreachable by flooding it with ICMP packets in this type of DDoS attack.

Smurf attacks are similar to ping floods in that they both involve delivering a large number of ICMP Echo request packets. Smurf, unlike a typical ping flood, is an amplification attack vector that amplifies its damage potential by leveraging broadcast network properties.

What are the Methods to Prevent Smurf Attack?

The hacker, the amplifier, and the victim are the three players in a Smurf Attack. The amplifier must allow a source-spoofed IP packet to exit its network in order for the attack to begin. As a result, prevention must take place on two levels: avoiding being attacked and avoiding being exploited to begin an attack.

An Intermediary network that lends itself to being (ab)used in a Smurf attack is known as a Smurf Amplifier. Large Smurf amplifiers exacerbate the severity of a Smurf attack by flooding the target with ICMP replies from the bogus source IP address.

To avoid being the amplifier, stop IP-directed broadcast on the router; this will prevent broadcast traffic from other networks from reaching the internal network. You may also try setting hosts and routers not to react to ICMP echo queries, as well as using an outbound filter on your perimeter router. If you don't want to be a victim, you should take the following methods into consideration.

  1. Keep an eye on your network: Monitoring your network for any signals of unusual activity is one of the greatest methods to keep proactive against these risks. An IT service provider may monitor your network 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for any unexpected activity, signature, or packet volume. These network monitoring services may frequently prevent a smurf attack from happening in the first place.
  1. Specialized Web Application Firewalls should be used: Investing in a web application firewall or a network firewall for an extra layer of protection is another approach to keep your organization secure from cyber security risks. By utilizing several scanning systems to identify any strange activity, next-generation antivirus is an excellent technique to block incoming attacks. A next-generation antivirus system can detect the most complex dangers in the workplace, giving you an advantage over hackers.
  1. Increase redundancy: Spreading your servers across several data centers is an excellent method to increase redundancy and defend your company from these risks. You may also increase your security by using data centers in different parts of the world. Adding extra bandwidth to your network can also help it handle traffic spikes without becoming overburdened.
  1. Use a DNS service that is hosted in the cloud: Upgrading to a cloud-based DNS provider might also help you establish redundancy. These services were created specifically to deal with DDoS attacks. Additional advantages of moving to the cloud include increased scalability, data protection, and the flexibility to operate from anywhere.

What is the History of Smurf Attacks?

The original code for a smurf attack was created by Dan Moschuk, better known as TFreak in the hacker world. The first Smurf Attack occurred in the 1990s when the University of Minnesota in 1998 was attacked. The Minnesota Smurf Attack ran for more than an hour and started a chain reaction across the state, taking down some systems completely and causing loss of data and network slowdowns.

The attack hit the whole state of Minnesota, including Minnesota Regional Network, one of the state's Internet service providers, causing cyber traffic. As a result, MRNet's clients were also impacted, including small enterprises, Fortune 500 companies, and colleges.

The Smurfs, a cartoon and comic strip character, inspired the name of these sorts of DDoS attacks. Smurf attacks are designed to overwhelm and take down a huge and powerful entity by launching a large number of minor but frequent strikes. As a result, this approach is called after Smurfs, the little blue creatures that, when working together, can defeat much larger foes.

Smurf attacks were immensely popular and dangerous in the second part of the 1990s, but practically all companies are now impervious to them.