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July 2003

Hping: How to better understand how hackers attack

Understand your enemy, and you'll know how to stop him. When I "discovered" the packet-crafting tool Hping, I gained real insight into precisely how the bad guys attack networks...and how to stop them cold. Hping is a TCP/IP packet assembler/analyzer, running on most *nix versions. It supports various protocols, including TCP, UDP and ICMP. Good guys commonly use it to scan ports for holes that bad guys try to exploit. It's also useful for testing network machines by firing precompiled exploits at them. But Hping's packet-crafting function is what really opened my eyes. As a network security analyst for a large organization, I thought I understood TCP/IP pretty well -- certainly enough to perform my day-to-day job. But actually getting under the hood and assembling packets gave me an in-depth understanding of the protocol. More importantly, I understood precisely how attackers -- the really skilled ones -- practice their craft. This is more than just an academic exercise. Hping allows you to manipulate the various values in a ...

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