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Security Attacks in Mobile Adhoc Networks

Muhammad Rizwan Akram


Department of Electronic and information Engineering
Huazhong University of Science and technology
Wuhan, China
Rizwanakram373@gmail.com

Abstract Mobile Ad hoc Networks (MANETs) are a type of


wireless network that has no fixed infrastructure and wireless
nodes move arbitrarily. The MANETs are helpful in situations
such as emergency search and rescue operations, battlefields,
exhibitions, and conferences. Limited battery and low bandwidth
are some of the main constraints in a wireless network.
Moreover, nodes mobility causes network topology to change
frequently in MANETs. High control overhead is one of the main
reasons of low packet delivery ratio (PDR) for a multicast routing
protocol in MANETs. This paper attempts to highlights all the
security issues related to MANETs. We also analyzed the
problems in MANETs. Security issues are present at all layers
and being described briefly.
KeywordsMANETs; DoS;

I. INTRODUCTION
Wireless mobile nodes, that group together for networking
build an Ad hoc network. Such networks operate without any
centralized control. Communication between nodes in such a
network is dependent on the specific network characteristics.
Lack of centralized administration together with the limited
transmission capabilities of wireless devices makes it necessary
for the nodes to cooperate with other nodes in transmitting the
packets from source to destination. Thus each node contributes
towards the network as a host as well as, a routing device for
the purpose of forwarding network packets. This forms a
cooperated communication path between the nodes that are not
in direct transmission range of each other. This transmission is
governed by Ad hoc routing protocols that allow the nodes to
discover paths throughout the network to any other node by
dynamically establishing routes among themselves.
In a Mobile Ad hoc Network (MANET), a collection of
mobile devices with wireless network interfaces that wish to
communicate build a dynamic network without any central
infrastructure or preplanned routing links. For this reason, a
MANET is often referred to as an autonomous and
infrastructure-less network with self-configuring and selfmaintenance capabilities. Two kinds of transmission scenarios
are formed in MANETs.
Firstly, the nodes that are in communication range of
each other directly send and receive messages from each other.
Secondly, the nodes that are not within communication
range of each other rely on other intermediate nodes for
delivery of packets.

Thus intermediate nodes act to relay packets between some


source and destination nodes, generating multi hop routes
where every node also functions as a router. This induces the
requirement of a high cooperation level between the nodes in a
MANET environment.
Early researches focused on wireless channel access,
communication and multi hop routing protocols for MANETs
while assuming a friendly and cooperative network. As
MANETs application and use increase, security and related
issues have become a major concern in order to provide
protected communication between nodes in a potentially
hostile environment. Recent wireless research indicates that
MANETs are prone to larger security problems than the
conventional wired and wireless networks.
The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. Section
II, discusses about the security problems in MANETs. Security
goals of MANETs are presented in Section III. In next sections,
security threats present in all layers of a typical network system
are described briefly. Paper is concluded and some of the
present and future research directions are discussed in the last
section.

II. SECURITY PROBLEMS IN MANETS


MANETs are much more vulnerable to attack than wired
network [3]. This is because of following reasons:
A. Absence of Infrastructure
Ad hoc networks operate independently of any
infrastructure, which makes inapplicable any classical
solutions based on certification authorities and on line servers.
B. Limited physical security
Mobile wireless networks are generally more prone to
physical security threats than are fixed- cable nets. The
increased possibility of eavesdropping, spoofing, and denialof-service attacks should be carefully considered. Existing link
security techniques are often applied within wireless networks
to reduce security threat.
C. Cooperative Algorithms
The routing algorithm of MANETs requires mutual trust
between nodes which violates the principles of network
security.
D. Restricted power Supply
Due to mobility of nodes in the ad hoc network, nodes will
reply on battery as their power supply method, the problem
that may be caused by restricted power supply is denial-ofservice attacks and selfish manner
E. Dynamically changing network topology
Nodes are free to move arbitrarily. The network topology
may change randomly and have no restriction on their distance
from other nodes. As a result of this random movement, the
whole topology is changing in an unpredictable manner, which
in turn gives rise to both directional as well as unidirectional
links between the nodes.
F. Lack of Centralized monitoring
Absence of any centralized monitoring makes the detection
of attacks a very difficult problem because it is not easy to
monitor the traffic in a highly and large scale ad hoc network
[6]. It is rather common in the ad hoc network that benign
failures such as transmission impairments and packet
dropping.
G. Dynamic Topology
Since MANETs have a dynamic topology because the
nodes are ever changing this may weaken the relationship
among nodes.
H. Packet Loss
There are many reasons of packet loss problem in
MANETs. Packet loss may happen due to mobility of nodes,
bit rate error, due to interference.
I. No network boundary
Since MANETs have no network boundary because the
nodes are movable this may lead to increase in number of
attacks on them. Any node may enter the network and may
hinder the network communication.

J. Mobile Nodes
At times the mobile nature of nodes may even create
network error. Since nodes can freely join or leave a network
so it is easy for nodes to behave maliciously.
K. Scalability
Due to mobility of network the scale of the network is
changing all the time.
L. Variation in nodes
Each node has different transmission and receiving
capabilities. In addition each mobile node has different
software/hardware configurations which cause trouble in
operating in a network.
M. Security
It is one of the major issues in MANETs. All major
networking tasks such as routing and packet formatting are
done by nodes itself which are mobile. Any attacker can easily
attack on the network and can acquire the data.
N. Resource Availability
For MANETs providing secure communication in such a
challenging environment where the network is mobile and is
vulnerable to attacks requires various resources and
architectures.
III. SECURITY GOALS IN ADHOC NETWORKS
The goals of security mechanism of MANETs are similar to
that of other network [5]. Security is a great issue in network
especially in MANETs where security attacks can affect the
nodes limited resources and consume them or waste the time
before rote chain broke. Security is a vectored term of multi
systems, procedures and functions that works together to reach
certain level of security attributes. Table 2 below shows those
attributes.
A. Availability
The main goal of availability is to node will be available to
its users when expected, i.e. survivability of network services
despite denial of service attack. For example, on the physical
and media access control layers, an adversary could employ
jamming to interfere with communication on physical channel
while on network layer it could disrupt the routing protocol
and continuity of services of the network. Again, in higher
levels, an adversary could bring down high-level services such
as key management service, authentication service.
B. Confidentiality
The goal of confidentiality is to keeping information secret
from unauthorized user or nodes. In other words, ensures
payload data and header information is never disclosed to
unauthorized nodes. The standard approach for keeping
information confidential is to encrypt the data with a secret
key that only intended receivers possess, hence achieving
confidentiality.

C. Integrity
The goal of integrity is to message being transmitted is
never corrupted. Integrity guarantees the identity of the
messages when they are transmitted. Integrity can be
compromised mainly in two ways.
Malicious altering: - A message can be removed, replayed or
revised by an adversary with malicious goal.
Accidental altering:- , if the message is lost or its content is
changed due to some benign failures, which may be
transmission errors in communication or hardware errors such
as hard disk failure.
D. Authentication
The goal of authentication is too able to identify a user and to
able to prevent impersonation. In infrastructure-based wireless
network, it is possible to implement a central authority at a point such
as base station or access point. But in MANETs, there is no central
administration so it is difficult to authenticate an entity.

E. Non repudiation
The main goal of non-repudiation is to the origin of a message
cannot deny having sent the message. This is useful when for
detection and isolation of compromised nodes. When node P receives
an erroneous message from Q, non-repudiation allows P to access Q
using this message and to convince other nodes that Q is
compromised.

F. Authorization
Authorization is a process in which an entity is issued a
credential, which specifies the privileges and permissions it has and
cannot be falsified, by the certificate authority. Authorization is
generally used to assign different access rights to different level of
users.

IV. APPLICATION LAYER ATTACKS


Application-layer security issues will become the
most important issues in the network security. For example,
Gartner shows that 75% of the successful attacks happened on
the application-layer, and 80% of enterprises will become the
victims of application-layer attacks. Observed from the
network-layer, these attacks may not contain malicious
activity, and they don't always generate abnormal network
traffic. However, most of the existing intrusion detection
techniques detect attacks only from the network-layer. So
these techniques can't identify the application-layer attacks
effectively. Although some signature-based approaches can
identify some application-layer attacks, such as some antivirus techniques can identify some application-layer attacks,
these techniques detect application-layer attacks only from the
characteristics of the application-layer attacks. So these
techniques can only identify some known application-layer
attacks, they can't identify the unknown or novel applicationlayer attacks effectively. Following are some application layer
attacks.
A. Repudiation attack
In the network layer, firewalls can be installed to keep packets in
or keep packets out. In the transport layer, entire connections can
be encrypted, end-to-end. But these solutions do not solve the
authentication or non-repudiation problems in general.
Repudiation refers to a denial of participation in all or part of the
communications [1]. For example, a selfish person could deny
conducting an operation on a credit card purchase, or deny any
on-line bank transaction, which is the prototypical repudiation
attack on a commercial system.
B. Data Corruption
In response to these defenses new Code Reuse Attacks
(CRAs) emerged that construct a malicious program by
stitching together carefully selected fragments of the existing
library code; these snippets are called gadgets. One example
of a CRA is the return-oriented programming (ROP) attack,
where each gadget ends with a return instruction to trigger the
execution of the next gadget pointed to by the next return
address on the stack. All the attacker has to do is to inject a
proper sequence of return addresses onto the stack to point to
the needed gadgets. ROP was shown to be Turing-complete on
a variety of platforms. Automated tools have been developed
that allow unsophisticated attackers to construct arbitrary
malicious programs using ROP [6].
Several defense mechanisms against ROP have been recently
proposed. Perhaps the simplest of these solutions are the ones
that utilize a shadow call/return stack, where the return
instructions are matched against the corresponding calls using
protected memory space. We assume that such an enforcement
of call-return pairs is already in place and therefore simple
ROP-based attacks are defeated.
Unfortunately, later a new form of CRA was developed that
does not rely on return instructions. In this jump oriented
programming (JOP) model, the attacker chains the gadgets

using a sequence of indirect jump instructions, rather than


return instructions. A special dispatcher gadget is used to
orchestrate the control flow among the gadgets. The jump
locations change based on the addresses popped off the stack
by the dispatcher gadget, and will ultimately result in the
execution of a system call [17].

V. TRANSPORT LAYER ATTACKS


TCP attacks are the major problem faced by Mobile
Ad hoc Networks (MANETs) due to its limited network and
host resources. Commonly, there are two types of Transport
Layer attacks 1) Session Hijacking 2) SYN Flooding. SYN
flooding attack occurs during the time of connection
establishment. Session hijacking occurs after TCP connection
is established. Through the observation of packets, attacker
gets knowledge about the sequence number. After getting the
knowledge of sequence number, attacker will start sending
packets with captured sequence number and hence continue
the session with server node.
A. Session Hijacking
Session hijack attacks are defined as taking over an active
TCP/IP communication session without their permission or
knowledge. When implemented successfully, attackers assume
the identity of the compromised user, enjoying the same
access to resources as the compromised user. Network
protocols like FTP, Telnet, and rlogin are especially attractive
to the attacker, because of the session oriented nature of their
connections and lack of implementation of any security during
login, authentication, or data transmission. In fact, data sent
using these protocols are sent in clear text which can be easily
be viewed by anyone monitoring the network. There are three
different types of session hijack attacks; active, passive, and
hybrid. The active attack is when the attacker hijacks a session
on the network. The attacker will silence one of the machines,
usually the client computer, and take over the client's position
in the communication exchange between the workstation and
the server. The active attack also allows the attacker to issue
commands on the network making it possible to create new
user accounts on the network, which can later be used to gain
access to the network without having to perform the session
hijack attack. Passive session hijack attacks are similar to the
active attack, but rather than removing the user from the
communication session, the attacker monitors the traffic
between the workstation and server [11].
B. SYN Flooding
It exploits the weakness in TCP specifications. In this attack,
an attacker sends a large number of spoofed SYN packets to
the victim server. Since the SYN request is spoofed, the victim
server never receives the final ACK packet from the client to
complete the 3-way handshake. Since the backlog queue of
victim server is of finite size, flooding of spoofed SYN
requests can easily exhaust the victim server's backlog queue,
causing all of new incoming legitimate SYN request to be
dropped.

in packet delivery
degradation.

and

network

performance

VI. NETWORK LAYER ATTACKS


B. Routing Maintenance Attacks
MANETs are based on open network architecture that allows
peer to peer connectivity between nodes. Link layer protocols
allow connectivity between neighboring nodes while the
network layer protocols extend connectivity to other nodes in
the network [2]. Network layer protocols greatly depend on
the cooperation among nodes for maintaining network routes
and delivery of packets from source to destination nodes. A
number of attacks are targeted at the network layer for the
purpose of disrupting network operations. Malicious nodes
can inject themselves in the network or use compromised
nodes that are already a part of the network to launch attacks
that interfere with network traffic. Such attacks can cause
significant delays in network, congestion and performance
degradation. Following is a detailed description of the network
layer attacks and their effects on MANETs.
A. Routing Discovery Attacks
The objective of these attacks is to cause deviation from the
standard routing discovery procedure by not following the
routing protocols specifications. Proactive routing protocols
are more vulnerable to these attacks since they keep the
routing information beforehand that can be readily exploited
in comparison to the demand driven protocols, which provide
routing information only when needed. Attacks at routing
discovery phase are further classified as:

Flooding Attacks: Flooding of routing messages,


such as Hello, RREQ, Acknowledgement message
flooding are common attacks. These attacks can
cause considerable network congestion, routing
delays and denial of network services.

Routing Table Overflow: A malicious or


compromised node can send false routing
information to the victim. The attacker tries to create
and advertise enough routes to other nodes in the
network that overflows victim's routing tables.

Routing Cache Poisoning: A malicious node that


wants to poison routes to some other node broadcasts
spoofed packets with route going through itself to
that node. This causes the neighboring nodes
overhearing the packet transmission to add the
poisoned route to their own routing tables. Packets
sent through this poisoned route will go through the
malicious node.

Routing Loops: Malicious nodes in a network may


receive network traffic and redirect it to other paths
of their own choice by suggesting that the new path is
the most optimal one. Such packets arrive back to the
malicious node in search of the actual optimal route
and can again be sent in routing loops causing delays

MANETs make use of certain routing maintenance


capabilities that allow the self-organizing network to repair
damages and establish broken links. Attackers can take
advantage of this situation and generate false control messages
that can initiate resource expensive route maintenance and
repairing operations. False link broken messages can be
advertised by a malicious node to inform other nodes of
unavailability of an existing link.
C. Data Transmission Attacks
The purpose of data transmission attacks is to obstruct the
flow of information in the network. Malicious nodes do so by
not forwarding the data packets to their destinations, causing
delays in transmission or by not forwarding the packets at all .
Based on the attack, data packets may be dropped, replayed,
flooded or delayed. Attackers can change the content of the
data packets or inject packets in the network.
D. Wormhole attack
As mobile ad hoc network applications are deployed,
security emerges as a central requirement. The wormhole
attack, a severe attack in ad hoc networks which is particularly
challenging to defend against. The wormhole attack is possible
even if the attacker has not compromised any hosts and even if
all communication provides authenticity and confidentiality.
In the wormhole attack, an attacker records packets (or bits) at
one location in the network, tunnels them (possibly
selectively) to another location, and retransmits them there
into the network [14].
The wormhole attack can form a serious threat in
wireless networks, especially against many ad hoc network
routing protocols and location-based wireless security
systems. For example, most existing ad hoc network routing
protocols, without some mechanism to defend against the
wormhole attack, would be unable to find routes longer than
one or two hops, severely disrupting communication.

E. Blackhole attack
BLACKHOLE attack is one of the attacks in which
attacker node advertises itself as having a good route to the
destination and tries to attract traffic towards itself. Once a
source node receives the route advertised by attacker node, it
selects the same route for data transmission and starts sending
data packets. When attacker node receives traffic from source,
it drops all of received packets which it had to forward further.
Due to this, packet delivery ratio gets decreased and all
resources utilization is wasted [4].

H. Rushing Attack
Many demand-driven protocols such as ODMRP, MAODV,
and ADMR, which use the duplicate suppression mechanism
in their operations, are vulnerable to rushing attacks. When
source nodes flood the network with route discovery packets
in order to find routes to the destinations, each intermediate
node processes only the first non-duplicate packet and
discards any duplicate packets that arrive at a later time.
Rushing attackers, by skipping some of the routing processes,
can quickly forward these packets and be able to gain access
to the forwarding group.
VII. DATA LINK LAYER ATTACKS
The dependability and security aspects of a MANET,
including reliability and availability, are of great importance
for mission-critical and other information-sensitive
applications. As a major threat to MANET security, quite a
few Denial of Service (DoS) attacks have been discovered and
discussed in the literature. According to their goals, DoS
attacks can be broadly classified into two classes: routing
disruption attacks and resource consumption attacks.
A. Disruption attack

F. Byzantine attack
Here, a compromised intermediate node or a set of
compromised intermediate nodes works in collusion and
carries out attacks such as creating routing loops, routing
packets on non-optimal paths, and selectively dropping
packets as in . Byzantine failures are hard to detect. The
network would seem to operate normally in the viewpoint of
nodes, though it may actually be exhibiting Byzantine
behavior [9].
Causes of Byzantines Failures
The Byzantine nodes in the selected active path set will
degrade the performance of the secure message transmission.
The malicious nodes may attack the transmission by 1) non
forwarding 2) traffic deviations and route modifications 3)
frequent route updates
G. Flooding attack
A malicious node, also called compromised node, can
sabotage the other nodes or even the whole network, by
launching a denial of service attack, by either dropping
packets or by flooding the network with a large number of
RREQs to invalid destinations in the network, thus jamming
the routes of communication. Flooding attack is one such type
of DoS attack, in which a compromised node floods the entire
network by sending a large number of fake RREQs to
nonexistent nodes in the network or by streaming large
volumes of useless DATA packets to the other nodes of the
network [12]. This results in network congestion, thus leading
to a Denial of Service.

A routing disruption attack attempts to cause legitimate data


packets to be routed in a dysfunctional way, whereas a
resource consumption attack injects packets into the network
to consume valuable network resources [7][8].
We divide routing disruption DoS attacks based on their
different levels of sophistication into three categories: outsider
attacks, insider attacks, and protocol-compliant attacks. In an
outsider attack, the attackers are assumed to have no
knowledge of the keys that are used to encrypt and
authenticate the data and routing control packets. Preventing
outside attackers from tampering with the data is
accomplished simply by encryption and authentication
schemes.
In an insider attack, the attacker has compromised or captured
a node, thus gaining access to encryption and authentication
keys. The primary method of detecting and mitigating insider
attacks is to monitor the packet forwarding behavior among
the nodes. Also, there are approaches that focus on thwarting
specific forms of insider attacks.
B. Traffic Analysis & Monitoring
Traffic Analysis is not necessarily an entirely passive activity.
It is perfectly feasible to engage in protocols, or seek to
provoke communication between nodes. Attackers may
employ techniques such as RF direction finding, traffic rate
analysis, and time-correlation monitoring. For example, by
timing analysis it can be revealed that two packets in and out
of an explicit forwarding node at time t and t+ are likely to be
from the same packet flow [16]. Traffic analysis in ad hoc
networks may reveal:
The existence and location of nodes;
The communications network topology;

The roles played by nodes;


The current sources and destination of communications;
and
The current location of specific individuals or functions
(e.g. if the commander issues a daily briefing at
10am, traffic analysis may reveal a source geographic
location).
VIII. PHYSICAL LAYER ATTACKS
A. Jamming
Jamming is one sort of denial of service attacks in the wireless
communication, which disrupts the operation of physical or
link layers in legitimate nodes by transferring illegitimate
signals. Jamming is one of such availability attacks which
can be easily carried out. It is defined as the intended
transmission of radio signals that disrupt legitimate
communication by decreasing signal to noise ratio. In this
form of attack, the attacker initially keeps monitoring the
wireless medium in order to determine the frequency at which
the destination node is receiving signals from the sender. It
then transmits signals on that frequency so that error-free
reception at the receiver is hindered. Frequency hopping
spread spectrum (FHSS) and direct sequence spread spectrum
(DSSS) are two commonly used techniques that overcome
jamming attacks.

B. Eavesdropping
Eavesdropping attack is the process of gathering information
by snooping on transmitted data on legitimate network.
Eavesdrop secretly overhear the transmission. However, the
information remains intact but privacy is compromised. This
attack is much easier for malicious node to carry on as
evaluate to wired network. Eavesdropping attack in MANET
shared the wireless medium, as wireless medium make it more
vulnerable for MANET malicious nodes can intercept the
shared wireless medium by using promiscuous mode which
allow a network device to intercept and read each network
packet that arrives.

IX. MULTI LAYER ATTACKS


A. Denial of service
In this attack malicious node floods irrelevant data to consume
network bandwidth or to consume the resources (e.g. power,
storage capacity or computation resource) of a particular node.
With fixed infrastructure networks, we can control denial of
service attack by using Round Robin Scheduling, but with
mobile ad hoc networks, this approach has to be extended to
adapt to the lack of infrastructure, which requires the
identification of neighbor nodes by using cryptographic tools,
and cost is very high.

For example, consider the following Fig. Assume a shortest


path exists from X to Z and R and Z cannot hear each other,
that nodes Q and R cannot hear each other, and that Y is a
malicious node attempting a denial of service attack. Suppose
X wishes to communicate with Z and that X has an unexpired
route to Z in its route cache. Transmits a data packet toward Z
with the source route X --> P --> Q --> Y --> R --> S --> Z
contained in the packets header. When Y receives the packet,
it can alter the source route in the packets header, such as
deleting S from the source route. Consequently, when R
receives the altered packet, it attempts to forward the packet to
Z. Since Z cannot hear R, the transmission is unsuccessful.

[4]

[5]
[6]

B. Attacks using impersonation


These attacks are called spoofing since the malicious node
hides its real IP address or MAC addresses and uses another
one. As current ad-hoc routing protocols like AODV and DSR
do not authenticate source IP address, a malicious node can
launch many attacks by using spoofing. For example, a hacker
can create loops in the network to isolate a node from the
remainder of the network. To do this, the hacker just has to
take IP address of other node in the network and then use them
to announce new route (with smallest metric) to the others
nodes. By doing this, he can easily modify the network
topology as he wants.

[7]

C. Man in the Middle Attack

[10]

The network attributes of MANETs makes it very easy for an


attacker to place itself between the sender and the receiver and
spy any information exchanged between the two. This attack
leads to more sophisticated attacks such as impersonation.
X. SUMMARY
Security is one of the main concerns for system like MANETs
in which all the channel and individual nodes are exposed to
any malicious node equally. This paper attempts to illustrate a
number of security threats in MANETs. Moreover we tried to
highlight the effect of different constraints of MANETs. We
have presented the security goals that we require to achieve
while designing routing protocols for MANETs. We have
discussed layer wise security threats with respect to MANETs.
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