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Network Report-Steganography in IP

Apr 04, 2018



  • 7/29/2019 Network Report-Steganography in IP


    Covert Channels in

    Transport and Network





  • 7/29/2019 Network Report-Steganography in IP



    This contains a general investigation of various protocols on the

    transport andnetwork layers. The list of protocols that are evaluated for

    possible use in covert com-munications include the TCP (Transmission

    Control Protocol), IGMP (Internet GroupManagement Protocol), ICMP

    (Internet Control Message Protocol) and Internet Proto-col (IP). Thisdoes not serve to provide an exhaustive look at possible covert

    channels but attempts to prove existence of simple storage channels, in

    mentioned protocols, that might be used later (future research)


    TCP (Transmission Control Protocol)

    At the transport layer, TCP is intended to provide a reliable process-to-

    process communication service in a multi-network environment. TCP is,

    therefore, a connection-oriented and reliable transport protocol. The

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    header of the TCP protocol is shown in Figure 3.1. It has a 6-bit field

    labelled as code bits (URG, ACK, PSH, RST, SYN, FIN). These bits

    determine the purpose and contents of the TCP segment. These six bits

    tell a network

    node how to interpret other fields in the header. There are 64 possible

    combinations for these six bits, out of which 29 combinations are

    considered to be valid as per the rules set forth by the protocol [18].

    For the covert channel identification, the intent is to explore any

    redundancy condition within these possible code bit combinations.

    Control Bits: 6 bits (from left to right):

    URG: Urgent Pointer field significant

    ACK: Acknowledgment field significant

    PSH: Push Function

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    RST: Reset the connection

    SYN: Synchronize sequence numbers

    FIN: No more data from sender

    Most of the TCP segments have an ACK bit set (i.e., the value of the ACK

    bit is 1) because of the full duplex nature of the connection between

    two hosts. This allows data piggybacking since acknowledgements can

    be sent with data. One of the redundancy conditions is shown in Table

    3.1 below:

    Table 3.1 represents one of the valid combinations of the 6-bit code

    fields. It can be interpreted as follows: One of the ends of the virtual

    connection intends to finish the connection (FIN =1) from its end and at

    the same time it sends an acknowledgment (ACK is set). The push flag is

    also set as the same end requests the receiving transport layer to push

    the data to its respective application layer immediately. Since the URG

    bit is not set, the Urgent pointer field (16 bit) of the TCP header, shown

    in Figure 3.1,becomes redundant and therefore can be used to have a

    storage covert channel. Likewise, redundancy conditions exist for all

    those possible cases wherein the URG bit is not set thereby making the

    urgent pointer field redundant. The SYN bit set can also have possible

    combinations either with the ACK bit set or the URG/PSH (not both at

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    the same time) set to 1. Therefore, the remaining bits are meaningless

    for the protocol enabling covert data transmission possibilities through

    TCP header.

    IGMP (Internet Group Management Protocol)

    IP multicasting (one-to-many communication) follows the paradigm of

    allowing trans-mission to a subset of host computers, but it generalizes

    the concept to allow the subset to spread across arbitrary physical

    networks throughout the Internet. A given subset is, therefore, known

    as multicast group. Multicast routers and hosts that implement multi-

    cast must use IGMP to communicate group membership information.

    The two message phases are report messages (host to router - joining a

    group, membership continuation, leaving the group) and query

    messages(router to host - monitoring the group).

    IGMP is encapsulated in an IP datagram for transmission. Here the IP

    destination address is the multicast address.

    IPv4 header fields:

    Version = 4;

    IHL = 6 words;

    Total length = 32 octets;

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    TTL = 1 (requires one hop only);

    Protocol = 2;

    Router alert option (An IP option that causes each intermediate routerto examine a datagram even if the datagram is not destined to the

    router)Fragmentation may (DF bit is zero) or may not (DF bit is set) be


    The IGMPv2 can have the following two types of messages:

    1. Membership report message and leave group message - host to


    2. Membership query message- router to host. Based on the

    nomenclature defined above and the types of IGMP messages,


    IP datagrams are possible:

    a.Host to Router; Membership report, refer Table 3.2 and leave group

    messages; Frag-mentation allowed.

    b.Host to Router; Membership report and leave group messages;

    Fragmentation not allowed.

    c. Router to Host; Membership query messages; Fragmentation


    d.Router to Host; Membership query messages; Fragmentation notallowed.

    By having a 16-bit arrangement of the complete IP datagram, a 16X16

    matrix is obtained. The intent is to use the unused bits (8 bits; actually

    set to zero by sender and ignored by receiver (for report messages -

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    host to router) and 16 bits; actually set to zero by the sender (for query

    messages - router to host) in order to have some secret data

    transferred between host to router and router to hosts. This can be

    combined with other fixed values of other fields as defined in thenomenclature above.

    Table 3.2: IGMP encapsulated in IPv4 header with router alert option;

    host to router;membership report message

    Therefore, by considering 16X16 matrix rows 2,5,11,12,13 forreport

    messages(frag-mentation allowed) table 3.3 refers, rows 2,4,5,11,12,13

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    for report messages (fragmenta-tion not allowed), rows 2,5,11,12,15,16

    for query messages(fragmentation allowed) and for query message

    (fragmentation not allowed)rows 2,4,5,11,12,15,16 of the 16X16 ma-

    trix, we can attain possible covert communication scenarios throughproper embedding extraction processes at the two communicating

    ends, respectively.

    ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol)

    The ICMP is the mechanism used by hosts or routers to send

    notification of IP datagram problems back to the sender. ICMP packets

    are encapsulated inside of IP datagrams. The ICMP sends query anderror reporting messages. With query messages, ICMP can also

    diagnose some network problems. In this class of ICMP messages, a

    node sends a message that is answered in a specific format by the

    destination node. The details of ICMP can be found in [19]. The

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    following highlights examples of covert storage channels. ICMP echo

    request and ICMP echo reply messages.The Optional data field allows

    having a variable length data to be returned to the sender. IP options

    like router alert, record route and time stamp can be usedencapsulating ICMP echo request message. This provides a possibility to

    have covert channel between the communicating parties. Moreover,

    network devices usually do not filter the contents of ICMP echo traffic

    if ICMP echo traffic is allowed.The ICMP address mask request is

    meant from host to the specific router on the LAN or broadcast

    message to all the routers on the LAN. The request is filled with zeros in

    the 32-bit address mask field. This can be used to have covertcommunication from host to router(s) on the same LAN.

    Router solicitation: A host sends a solicitation after booting to request

    that routers on the local net imme-diately respond with an ICMP

    message router advertisement. It has a 32 bit reserved word. These

    reserved bits can be made to use for covert communication for a

    specific scenario.

    Data Hiding through Packet Header Manipulation

    The possibilities of covert channels in transport and Internet layer

    protocols are identified and. This section specifically deals with data

    hiding possibilities in the IPv4 header. Four scenarios are discussed that

    make use of flags and identification fields of the header. The layered

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    architecture requires the IP datagram to encapsulate data received

    from the transport layer. Similarly, IP datagram headers en-capsulate

    ICMP messages as well as IGMPs report and query messages. Covert

    channels in the IPv4 header can, therefore also, be associated withthose identified in the TCP, ICMP or IGMP headers. This facilitates an

    increased amount of covert information tied with any of these

    messages. Therefore, flexibility of associating additional information

    with ICMP, IGMP and TCP traffic through IP header, is achieved, once

    covert channels are explored in IP header. As depicted earlier,

    redundancies and multiple interpretations of the design strategy give

    rise to possible cov