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TCP Ack Storm DoS Attacks

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Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT,volume 354)


We present Ack-storm DoS attacks, a new family of DoS attacks exploiting a subtle design flaw in the core TCP specifications. The attacks can be launched by a very weak MitM attacker, which can only eavesdrop occasionally and spoof packets (a Weakling in the Middle (WitM)). The attacks can reach theoretically unlimited amplification; we measured amplification of over 400,000 against popular websites before aborting our trial attack.

Ack storm DoS attacks are practical. In fact, they are easy to deploy in large scale, especially considering the widespread availability of open wireless networks, allowing an attacker easy WitM abilities to thousands of connections. Storm attacks can be launched against the access network, e.g. blocking address to proxy web server, against web sites, or against the Internet backbone. Storm attacks work against TLS/SSL connections just as well as against unprotected TCP connections, but fails against IPsec or link-layer encrypted connections.

We show that Ack-storm DoS attacks can be easily prevented, by a simple fix to TCP, in either client or server, or using a packet-filtering firewall.


  • Denial of service
  • TCP
  • secure network protocols


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© 2011 IFIP International Federation for Information Processing

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Abramov, R., Herzberg, A. (2011). TCP Ack Storm DoS Attacks. In: Camenisch, J., Fischer-Hübner, S., Murayama, Y., Portmann, A., Rieder, C. (eds) Future Challenges in Security and Privacy for Academia and Industry. SEC 2011. IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology, vol 354. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-642-21423-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-642-21424-0

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)