STP Manipulation Attacks

STP prevents bridging loops in a redundant switched network environment. By avoiding loops, you can ensure that broadcast traffic does not become a traffic storm.

STP is a hierarchical tree-like topology with a "root" switch at the top. A switch is elected as root based on the lowest configured priority of any switch (0 through 65,535). When a switch boots up, it begins a process of identifying other switches and determining the root bridge. After a root bridge is elected, the topology is established from its perspective of the connectivity. The switches determine the path to the root bridge, and all redundant paths are blocked. STP sends configuration and topology change notifications and acknowledgments (TCN/TCA) using bridge protocol data units (BPDU).

An STP attack involves an attacker spoofing the root bridge in the topology. The attacker broadcasts out an STP configuration/topology change BPDU in an attempt to force an STP recalculation. The BPDU sent out announces that the attacker's system has a lower bridge priority. The attacker can then see a variety of frames forwarded from other switches to it. STP recalculation may also cause a denial-of-service (DoS) condition on the network by causing an interruption of 30 to 45 seconds each time the root bridge changes. Figure 14-4 shows an attacker using STP network topology changes to force its host to be elected as the root bridge.

Figure 14-4. STP Attack

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Figure 14-4. STP Attack

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Network Attach Hosl

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