Security Handbook/Network security

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The proc filesystem

Many kernel parameters can be altered through the /proc file system or by using sysctl.

To dynamically change kernel parameters and variables on the fly, you need CONFIG_SYSCTL enabled in the kernel. This is on by default in a standard 4.0+ kernel.

Deactivate IP forwarding:

root #/bin/echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward

Make sure that IP forwarding is turned off. We only want this for a multi-homed host. It's advised to set or unset this flag before all other flags since it enabled/disables other flags as well.

Drop ping packets:

root #/bin/echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/icmp_echo_ignore_all

This will cause the kernel to simply ignore all ping messages (also known as ICMP type 0 messages). The reason for this is that an IP packet carrying an ICMP message can contain a payload with information other than you think. Administrators use ping as a diagnostic tool and often complain if it is disabled, but there is no reason for an outsider to be able to ping. However, since it sometimes can be handy for insiders to be able to ping, you can disable ICMP type 0 messages in the firewall (allowing local administrators to continue to use this tool).

Ignore broadcast pings:

root #/bin/echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/icmp_echo_ignore_broadcasts

This disables response to ICMP broadcasts and will prevent Smurf attacks. The Smurf attack works by sending an ICMP type 0 (ping) message to the broadcast address of a network. Typically the attacker will use a spoofed source address. All the computers on the network will respond to the ping message and thereby flood the host at the spoofed source address.

Disable source routed packets:

root #/bin/echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/all/accept_source_route

Do not accept source routed packets. Attackers can use source routing to generate traffic pretending to originate from inside your network, but that is actually routed back along the path from which it came, so attackers can compromise your network. Source routing is rarely used for legitimate purposes, so it is safe to disable it.

Disable redirect acceptance:

root #/bin/echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/all/accept_redirects

Do not accept ICMP redirect packets. ICMP redirects can be used to alter your routing tables, possibly to a malicious end.

Enable protection against bad/bogus error message responses:

root #/bin/echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/icmp_ignore_bogus_error_responses

Enable reverse path filtering:

root #for i in /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/*; do
       /bin/echo "1" > $i/rp_filter

Turn on reverse path filtering. This helps make sure that packets use legitimate source addresses by automatically rejecting incoming packets if the routing table entry for their source address does not match the network interface they are arriving on. This has security advantages because it prevents IP spoofing. We need to enable it for each net/ipv4/conf/* otherwise source validation isn't fully functional.

However turning on reverse path filtering can be a problem if you use asymmetric routing (packets from you to a host take a different path than packets from that host to you) or if you operate a non-routing host which has several IP addresses on different interfaces.

Log spoofed packets, source routed packets and redirect packets:

root #/bin/echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/all/log_martians

All these settings will be reset when the machine is rebooted. I suggest that you add them to /etc/sysctl.conf, which is automatically sourced by the /etc/init.d/bootmisc init script.

The syntax for /etc/sysctl.conf is pretty straightforward. Strip off the /proc/sys/ from the previously mentioned paths and substitute / with .:

FILE /etc/sysctl.conf
net.ipv4.ip_forward = 0

It is also possible to use the echo command to manually make the above adjustment to ip_forward:

root #/bin/echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward