Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Massive TCP Flaw

Security researchers are all a-twitter over a rather serious flaw in the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which acts as a sort of warehouse shipping clerk for the Internet Protocol (IP).

Since IP is a connectionless protocol, stuff sent by IP alone is like mailing your local Pennysaver - a whole slew are sent, but no one really cares if they all arrive at their destination. That wouldn't be good for sending data around a network, so our friend TCP keeps track of how many packets of data there are, where they are supposed to go, and then does a check to make sure they all get to their destination - if not, replacements are sent until the shipment has arrived, complete and undamaged.

Anyway, the flaw is a basic denial-of-service attack that would allow anything using TCP to be taken down ungracefully via reboot, possibly even causing local damage. What's scary is that this could occur from anywhere, such as a home connection.

Vendors don't appear to be taking this as seriously as they should, but perhaps that will change as this flaw is weaponized and begins making the rounds of global networks.

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