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Internet-scale network surveys collect data by probing large subsets of the public IP address space. While such scanning behavior is often associated with botnets and worms, it also has proved to be a powerful methodology for security research. Recent studies, beginning with the EFF's SSL Observatory, have demonstrated that Internet-wide scanning can help reveal new kinds of vulnerabilities, monitor deployment of mitigations, and shed light on previously opaque distributed ecosystems. Unfortunately, this methodology has been more accessible to attackers than to researchers without access to botnets or willingness to spread self-replicating code. Comprehensively scanning the public address space with off-the-shelf tools like Nmap requires weeks of time or many machines.
To make Internet-wide scanning more accessible, my research team recently introduced <a href="https://zmap.io">ZMap</a>, an open-source network scanner that is designed from the ground up to perform Internet-scale port scans. In our tests using a gigabit Ethernet uplink, ZMap scans the entire IPv4 address space in under 45 minutes from a single machine, more than 1300 times faster than Nmap. By the time of the talk, we'll have switched to a 10 gigE uplink, which should theoretically support scanning the entire address space in under 5 minutes. I'll explain how ZMap's architecture enables such high performance by taking advantage of fast modern hardware and recent improvements to the Linux kernel.
We'll work through a series of practical examples that explore the security applications of very fast Internet-scale scanning, both offensive and defensive, and I'll share experiences from conducting more than 300 Internet-wide scans over the past 18 months, totaling well over 1 trillion probes. I'll describe how we completed hundreds of scans targeting every public HTTPS server (each scan larger than the entire SSL Observatory) in order to shed light on the growth of HTTPS deployments and expose security problems within the HTTPS ecosystem, such as misissued CA certs and widespread server misconfiguration. I'll show how high-speed scanning can be used to expose vulnerable hosts, using IPMI and UPnP vulnerabilities as recent examples. Malicious attackers could abuse this capability to exploit 0day vulnerabilities affecting millions of hosts within hours of a problem's discovery, and better defenses are badly needed. Finally, I'll discuss applications to Internet freedom, including discovering unadvertised services such as hidden Tor bridges (used for censorship resistance) and Bluecoat devices (used for state-sponsored censorship).
High-speed scanning can be a powerful tool in the hands of security researchers, but users must be careful not to cause harm by inadvertently overloading networks or causing unnecessary work for network administrators. I'll discuss the complaints and other reactions my group's scanning has generated--on one occasion we were mistaken for an Iranian DoS attack on U.S. banks, and we received a visit from the FBI--and I'll suggest several guidelines and best practices for good Internet citizenship while scanning.
We are living in a unique period in the history of the Internet: widely available networks are becoming fast enough to quickly and exhaustively scan the IPv4 address space, yet IPv6 (with its much larger address space) has not yet been widely deployed. I hope this talk will help researchers make the most of this window of opportunity.