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IP Spoofing - How lack of transparency may skip this anonymous e-advertising threat

Posted by Huzefa Hakim | April 15, 2024

IP Spoofing - How lack of transparency may skip this anonymous e-advertising threat

Picture this: you're at a costume party where everyone's wearing masks. It's fun because you get to guess who's behind each mask, but also a bit tricky, right

Now, imagine a similar scenario happening in the online world, where some of the visitors to websites aren't who they claim to be. They're wearing "digital masks" to hide their real identities. This is what we call IP spoofing. It's like a game of hide and seek on the internet, where the "hiders" are up to no good, tricking websites and advertisers into thinking they're someone else.

This game has big consequences, especially for businesses trying to reach their audience through e-advertising. Ads might end up being shown to these impostors, wasting money and efforts that could have reached real customers. In a world where the cost of ad fraud is expected to shoot up to $172 billion by 2028, can IP spoofing be avoided?

Let’s dive into how this whole masquerade unfolds and how we can unmask these impostors to keep your e-advertising party safe and fun for real guests.

What is IP spoofing?

In this e-advertising deception, an attacker alters the source IP address of their internet packets to make it appear as if the traffic is coming from a different, often trusted, source. This masquerade can be used for various malicious purposes, from hiding the attacker's identity in cyberattacks to generating fake traffic in e-advertising campaigns, severely undermining the integrity of digital advertising efforts

IP spoofing involves several steps and relies on vulnerabilities in the internet's communication protocols. Here's a more detailed breakdown

  1. Scouting: The first step for an attacker is often scouting, where they gather information about their target network or system. In the context of e-advertising, attackers might look for networks with high traffic or advertising platforms known to have lax security measures.
  2. Crafting spoofed packets: Once the attacker has enough information, they begin crafting packets with forged source IP addresses. This involves modifying the packet header, a part of the data packet that contains routing and metadata, including the source and destination IP addresses. By changing the source IP address to another address that the attacker wishes to impersonate, they can mask their identity or make it appear as if the traffic is coming from a legitimate or trusted source.
  3. Exploiting vulnerabilities: With spoofed packets ready, the attacker exploits vulnerabilities in the target network or protocol. The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which is used for most internet communications, relies on a handshake process to establish connections. However, by predicting the sequence numbers used in this handshake, an attacker can inject spoofed packets into a stream of legitimate traffic, bypassing authentication mechanisms.
  4. Manipulating traffic: After successfully injecting spoofed packets, the attacker can manipulate traffic in several ways. This might include redirecting legitimate traffic to malicious sites, intercepting sensitive information, or generating fraudulent ad traffic. In the realm of e-advertising, this manipulation can lead to inflated traffic metrics, skewed analytics, and wasted advertising budgets on views or clicks that never reach real users.

What are the types of IP spoofing attacks?

  1. Non-blind spoofing: This occurs within the same network where the attacker is present, allowing them to receive traffic meant for the spoofed IP address. It can lead to ad fraud through the generation of fake ad clicks and impressions from within the network.
  2. Blind spoofing: In this more complex form, attackers guess the details of a connection to another network to intercept or inject malicious packets. This method can skew e-advertising analytics by generating traffic that seems to come from legitimate sources but is entirely fraudulent.
  3. Distributed Reflection Denial of Service (DRDoS) attacks: By spoofing the IP address of a targeted victim, attackers can direct a flood of responses to their target, overwhelming them. This not only disrupts services but can also distort ad performance metrics when used against e-advertising platforms.

How can one defend against IP spoofing attacks?

  1. Implement network security protocols and best practices- Techniques like ingress and egress filtering can be used to block incoming packets from their network and outgoing traffic from a network respectively. Moreover, utilizing secure communication protocols like TLS (Transport Layer Security) for data in transit can significantly reduce the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks facilitated by IP spoofing.
  2. Advanced threat detection and response systems- Implementing systems that monitor network traffic patterns and user behaviour can help identify anomalies indicative of IP spoofing. For example, a sudden surge in traffic from an IP address that normally has low activity could signal spoofing.Upon detecting potential IP spoofing activities, automated response systems can instantly take action to mitigate the threat. This can include blocking traffic from suspicious IP addresses, isolating affected network segments, and triggering alerts for further investigation.
  3. Continuous education and policy development- Regularly educating stakeholders, including employees, partners, and clients, about the nature of IP spoofing and its risks can foster a more vigilant and responsive community. Awareness programs should cover how to recognize signs of a breach and the best practices for securing devices and networks.

IP spoofing poses a considerable threat to the integrity and effectiveness of e-advertising by exploiting the lack of transparency in digital traffic sources. However, with a comprehensive strategy that includes transparency, tailored solutions, and innovative defenses, advertisers can protect their investments and ensure that their ads reach their intended audiences.