(Ether)Oops! - Ethernet-based Wired Networks at Risk

A new attack method dubbed EtherOops has been devised that would allow an attacker to exploit faulty Ethernet cables to pass through corporate firewalls.

The EtherOops attack

Researchers Ben Seri, Gregory Vishnepolsky, and Yevgeny Yusepovsky have identified a new technique that can help an attacker infiltrate targeted networks via faulty Ethernet (networking) cables.
  • EtherOops attack is basically a packet-in-packet attack, in which several network packets are nested inside each other. While the outer shell comprises benign packets, the inner ones carry malicious code or commands.
  • When any fault occurs in the cable, the damaged cable suffers from electrical interferences, thus destroying the outer shell and activating the internal payloads.

Consequences

Attackers can use the EtherOops attack to infiltrate the targeted networks directly from the Internet or from a DMZ segment, and move laterally across various segments of internal networks.

Other threats to Ethernet-based networks

There have been several occasions when some bugs or vulnerabilities were identified in the network components, which may impact and compromise the Ethernet connectivity. 
  • In mid-June 2020, a serious vulnerability (CVE-2020-13238) was found in Mitsubishi’s MELSEC iQ-R series CPU modules, which could allow an attacker to cause the Ethernet port to enter a DoS condition.
  • Around end-March, a vulnerability (CVE-2020-5527) was identified in the Mitsubishi Electric MELSOFT, which could allow a remote attacker to cause a denial of service condition on the Ethernet communication functions.

Conclusion

Although wireless networks have several known attack methods and preventive steps, the Ethernet-based wired networks are lacking in both sufficient awareness and ample security methods. To ensure the security of wired networks, organizations must follow security guidelines, such as storing, analyzing, and monitoring the logs of network sockets and equipment, assigning separate subnets to different departments, and minimizing the exposure of network devices, cables, ports, and other critical infrastructure.