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3. IP Personality

Considering the above restrictions, we have chosen a solution based on netfilter and iptables: the latter provides the mangle table, designed to enable modifications on packets (contrary to the filter and nat tables, designed for filtering and address translation). Consequently, we created the new PERS (as IP Personality) target, which can rewrite packets in several ways. The rules let iptables select IP packets according to their source and destination address and port, and the parameters passed to the PERS target alter its behaviour, which can be tuned by the administrator to define how a class of packets should be rewritten.

3.1 Features

Once installed and configured properly, IP Personality makes it possible to fool nmap into believing that the host runs an operating system freely specified by the administrator. Most test packets sent by nmap are abnormal, and the others are sent to closed ports, therefore they have no influence on the local TCP/IP stack: consequently we can divert them without worry, and send the replies that suit to our needs. The PERS configuration covers a large set of possible answers, thus we can send back to nmap packets which are specific to any kind of system described in nmap's OS fingerprint list.

Some of the operations intended to deceive nmap (not all of them, though) can also be applied to packets that are routed by the host. Even though we lose the capacity to completeley lure nmap, our modifications are efficient enough to prevent it from detecting the OS running on its target. The operations we can apply to routed packets are TCP sequence numbers and options rewriting.

By the way, some rewriting operations can improve robustness in some cases. In particular, the hosts with weak ISN generators are vulnerable to sequence number prediction attacks, and they can be protected by our target, which offers a truly random ISN. Furthermore, thanks to the versatility offered by the syntax of the configuration file, the possibilities for emulation are not limited to existing network fingerprinting tools: it becomes very easy to fool, or at least disturb any tool that relies on the same tricks as nmap, since we can control the elements that make a packet typical.

In order to handle all the possible behaviors of an IP stack, the configuration is done through an external config file describing values for several parameters. This file is parsed and loaded in kernel space with an extension to netfilter's configuration tool, iptables. In particular, for cases difficult to emulate, that configuration file contains two "code" sections that are interpreted in the kernel (as pseudo-code) in order to analyse packets more precisely with algorithms similar to those of the emulated operating systems.

3.2 The journey of a packet in PERS

                             | +---<----<---| VM |---<----<---+ |
                             | |            +----+            | |
                          +--+-+--+                           | |
                      +->-| Decoy |->-+                       | |
                      |   +-------+   | +-----+   +-----+   +-+-+-+
                +-->--+->--->--->--->-+-| SEQ |->-| WIN |->-| OPT |-+
+-----------+   | TCP                   +-----+   +-----+   +-----+ |
| IP Tables |->-+                                                   |--+
+-----------+   | UDP         +---------+                           |  |
     |          +-->---->-----| Unreach |------>------>-------------+  |
     |                        +---------+                              |

              <==================== IP Personality ====================>

The PERS target can modifiy the packets it receives from the netfilter architecture. Therefore it is used in the mangle table, which is meant to enable packet modification.

This table has access to two of netfilter's hooks, PRE_ROUTING and LOCAL_OUT. So as to be able to rewrite connections correctly, the PERS module needs to track each connection's packets in both directions (we will explain why later).

To achieve this, we use a pair of rules configured identically, except that their source and destination criteria are symmetric. For routed packets, both rules must be on the PRE_ROUTING hook, since packets of both directions come from hosts other than the local machine. By contrast, even though the traffic sent to the local machine uses the PRE_ROUTING hook, responses are sent via LOCAL_OUT.

In every rule used to rewrite a class of traffic, there is an option to tell the module whether it should protect the source or the destination of the packet, since some rewriting operations are done differently depending on the packet's direction.

TCP packets

If the packet is sent to the local machine (this is an option of our target), it is first sent to the decoy generation code: here the pseudo-code of the tcp_decoy section of the configuration file decides whether the packet can continue as is, or (if the packet has been found to be abnormal) whether we have to send back a decoy based on the packet.

If the packet continues, it can be modified in different ways. In particular, the direction, which can be determined with information provided by iptable's conntrack module and with parameters of the current rule, defines how the packet is rewritten. The possible modifications are:

UDP packets

UDP packets that are simply routed are ignored. However, packets for the local machine are analysed to check if their destination port is listening: if that's the case, they are left as is; otherwise, they are dropped and PERS is then responsible for emitting an ICMP Port Unreachable message packet because nmap will check it.

This kind of message is made of an IP packet with an ICMP header, followed by the beginning of the original packet that generated the message. The configuration file allows one to control each part of the generated reply packet that nmap uses to identify the OS.

Common part for IP packets

After the potential changes in UDP/TCP packets, all IP packets can also be modified. Right now, only one change can be done : tweaking the IP ID number using a value generated with a defined method, just like for the TCP ISN.

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