Multiple-Session DoS Attack
Configure DoS Protection Against Flooding of New Sessions by configuring a DoS Protection policy rule, which determines the criteria that, when matched by incoming packets, trigger the Protect action. The DoS Protection profile counts each new connection toward the Alarm Rate, Activate Rate, and Max Rate thresholds. When the incoming new connections per second exceed the Activate Rate, the firewall takes the action specified in the DoS Protection profile.
The following figure and table describe how the Security policy rules, DoS Protection policy rules and profile work together in an example.
Sequence of Events as Firewall Quarantines an IP Address
In this example, an attacker launches a DoS attack at a rate of 10,000 new connections per second to UDP port 53. The attacker also sends 10 new connections per second to HTTP port 80.
The new connections match criteria in the DoS Protection policy rule, such as a source zone or interface, source IP address, destination zone or interface, destination IP address, or a service, among other settings. In this example, the policy rule specifies UDP.
The DoS Protection policy rule also specifies the Protect action and Classified, two settings that dynamically put the DoS Protection profile settings into effect. The DoS Protection profile specifies that a Max Rate of 3000 packets per second is allowed. When incoming packets match the DoS Protection policy rule, new connections per second are counted toward the Alert, Activate, and Max Rate thresholds.
You can also use a Security policy rule to block all traffic from the source IP address if you deem that address to be malicious all the time.
The 10,000 new connections per second exceed the Max Rate threshold. When all of the following occur:
the firewall puts the offending source IP address on the block list.
An IP address on the block list is in quarantine, meaning all traffic from that IP address is blocked. The firewall blocks the offending source IP address before additional attack packets reach the Security policy.
The following figure describes in more detail what happens after an IP address that matches the DoS Protection policy rule is put on the block list. It also describes the Block Duration timer.
Every one second, the firewall allows the IP address to come off the block list so that the firewall can test the traffic patterns and determine if the attack is ongoing. The firewall takes the following action:
- During this one-second test period, the firewall allows packets that don’t match the DoS Protection policy criteria (HTTP traffic in this example) through the DoS Protection policy rules to the Security policy for validation. Very few packets, if any, have time to get through because the first attack packet that the firewall receives after the IP address is let off the block list will match the DoS Protection policy criteria, quickly causing the IP address to be placed back on the block list for another second. The firewall repeats this test each second until the attack stops.
- The firewall blocks all attack traffic from going past the DoS Protection policy rules (the address remains on the block list) until the Block Duration expires.
The 1-second checks illustrated in the preceding figure occur on firewall models that have multiple dataplane CPUs and a hardware network processor. All single dataplane systems or systems without a hardware network processor perform this mitigation in software and use a 5-second interval.
When the attack stops, the firewall does not put the IP address back on the block list. The firewall allows non-attack traffic to proceed through the DoS Protection policy rules to the Security policy rules for evaluation. You must configure a Security policy rule to allow or deny traffic because without one, an implicit Deny rule denies all traffic.
The block list is based on a source zone and source address combination. This behavior allows duplicate IP addresses to exist as long as they are in different zones belonging to separate virtual routers.
The Block Duration setting in a DoS Protection profile specifies how long the firewall blocks the [offending] packets that match a DoS Protection policy rule. The attack traffic remains blocked until the Block Duration expires, after which the attack traffic must again exceed the Max Rate threshold to be blocked again.
If the attacker uses multiple sessions or bots that initiate multiple attack sessions, the sessions count toward the thresholds in the DoS Protection profile without a Security policy deny or drop rule in place. Hence, a single-session attack requires a Security policy deny or drop rule in order for each packet to count toward the thresholds; a multiple-session attack does not.
Therefore, the DoS protection against flooding of new sessions allows the firewall to efficiently defend against a source IP address while attack traffic is ongoing and to permit non-attack traffic to pass as soon as the attack stops. Putting the offending IP address on the block list allows the DoS protection functionality to take advantage of the block list, which is designed to quarantine all activity from that source IP address, such as packets with a different application. Quarantining the IP address from all activity protects against a modern attacker who attempts a rotating application attack, in which the attacker simply changes applications to start a new attack or uses a combination of different attacks in a hybrid DoS attack. You can Monitor Blocked IP Addresses to view the block list, remove entries from it, and get additional information about an IP address on the block list.
Beginning with PAN-OS 7.0.2, it is a change in behavior that the firewall places the attacking source IP address on the block list. When the attack stops, non-attack traffic is allowed to proceed to Security policy enforcement. The attack traffic that matched the DoS Protection profile and DoS Protection policy rules remains blocked until the Block Duration expires.
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