We all know about the dangers of identity theft – when someone impersonates us to access our most sensitive data. However, did you know that the identity of your computer or of websites you visit can be stolen too? It’s called IP spoofing, and it’s a common tool in the malicious hacker’s arsenal.
Every packet of data you send online has a header that contains information about the senders and recipients of the packet. Think of the addresses on a package. IP spoofing is when someone replaces the IP address in a packet of data with a different address or a random string of digits. This is usually done to mask the original source of the data packet or to present modified data as having come from a legitimate source.
Creative hackers have come up with countless different ways to use spoofing maliciously. It can be used to attack individual users, servers, and even applications. Here are three of the most common malicious uses of IP spoofing:
If an attacker can fool your computer into thinking their files are from the website you’re visiting, they can send you anything they want. That means IP spoofing can be used to replace the content you actually want with malware and viruses.
In a DDoS attack, a server or website is brought down by an overwhelming number of fraudulent requests. Often, these requests are made by devices infected with botnet worms whose owners don’t even know they’re part of a hacker’s private army. However, IP spoofing can also be used to redirect fraudulent communications. The hacker can send out millions of requests for files and spoofs the IP address so all of those servers send their responses to the victim’s device.
These attacks are most common in unsecure WiFi locations like cafes and airports. If you’re browsing an insecure HTTP address, a hacker can use IP spoofing to pretend they’re both you and the website or online service you’re speaking to, thereby fooling both parties and gaining access to your communications. With a man-in-the-middle attack, none of the data you share is safe, and even seemingly innocent information can be used to compromise your security.
IP spoofing is very versatile and can even be used for good, though it is then no longer called “IP spoofing.” Almost any VPN or proxy you use changes your IP address to hide your identity, thereby spoofing your data packets to keep you private and secure. Website administrators can use programs that create thousands of fake online visitors to perform stress tests on their websites and servers.
For the most part, however, IP spoofing is used as a powerful tool for hackers to perform a wide array of cyber crimes.
There are a few different ways to protect yourself from IP spoofing, but many of them are highly technical methods used primarily by web administrators. There are a few tools, however, that can keep you safe from almost any IP spoofing attack.
By encrypting your traffic, NordVPN makes it very difficult for hackers to view your traffic and spoof either your or your destination’s IP addresses. In addition, NordVPN’s CyberSec feature can help protect you from malicious or hacked sites that could expose you to spoofed data packets.
Antivirus software will help you if someone does manage to spoof your traffic. A powerful antivirus program will scan incoming data packets to see if they contain known malicious code. This isn’t a complete defense, but it’s good to have in any case!