May 16, 2022
Malicious actors use OS fingerprinting techniques to exploit enterprise computer systems for theft, malware, data misuse, and ransomware practices. This article shares insight into OS fingerprinting, how it works, and its risks to help you better understand and mitigate this cyber threat.
With Cybersecurity Ventures estimating 2022 to experience nearly 6 billion Internet users, there is going to be a corresponding rise in cyber threats. Moreover, with the growing number of threat actors who can maliciously use computer systems to cause all kinds of harm, organizations and individuals alike need to prepare themselves and safeguard their information assets against threats such as OS fingerprinting. OS fingerprinting could be the entry point for a more significant threat that can have severe implications by exposing the vulnerabilities of the information systems used by organizations. Let's delve deeper into what OS fingerprinting is.
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The process of analyzing datagrams (data packets) that a computer system distributes across a network to determine the underlying operating system is known as ‘operating system’ or OS Fingerprinting. In simple terms, OS fingerprinting determines a computer's operating system by examining the data it transmits across a network. Both security professionals and hackers use OS Fingerprinting to analyze and map remote networks and determine the security vulnerabilities that might be present and can be exploited.
There are two types of OS fingerprinting:
nmap -o target_ip_address
nmap -o target_domain_name
p0f -f filename
or, the following command will list all available interfaces on a network
Threat actors and cybersecurity engineers (usually ethical hackers) utilize OS fingerprinting for different reasons. Cybercriminals exploit machines for malicious purposes, whereas cybersecurity professionals perform OS fingerprinting as part of vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT) to unearth vulnerabilities to protect the information systems. However, the underlying process of OS fingerprinting remains the same.
One can only implement OS fingerprinting on data packets that have completed a TCP handshake. A TCP handshake is a three-step confirmation between two computer systems for starting a TCP session that ensures SYN for Synchronize, SYN-ACK for Synchronize Acknowledgement, and ACK for Acknowledgement.
There are various parameters of a TCP/IP protocol, including:
Different OS has different values for these parameters, which threat actors can analyze to determine the vulnerabilities in the system's OS.
After knowing the type of OS a system uses, a threat actor can exploit its vulnerabilities to gain access to the system and its confidential data. Furthermore, gaining access to an administrative system can put an organization's entire network at risk and open doors for data theft, IP theft, financial losses, malware deployment, ransomware, corporate espionage, and more cyber threats.
OS Fingerprinting can reveal information about the type of the OS, its version, information about the SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), domain names, which malicious actors can leverage to target systems.
Recognition of OS fingerprinting can help assess your organization's cybersecurity posture and help address the vulnerable points. The risk of easier detection accompanies active OS fingerprinting, but passive OS fingerprinting can be challenging to identify as the data being exported is cleverly hidden. If your organization lacks a proper security professional team, it would be best to invest in a vulnerability management solution to assess and monitor your network for OS fingerprinting attacks.
The most popular tools used for OS fingerprinting along with what they provide are:
The following points highlight what one can do to prevent OS fingerprinting:
OS fingerprinting can cause considerable harm to your organization by revealing vulnerabilities in your networks through the operating systems. As no operating system is perfect and has specific vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit for malicious purposes, organizations must take effective measures, provided in this article, for protection against OS fingerprinting threats. Furthermore, investing in an effective vulnerability management solution can be the best way to ensure 24x7 protection against today's evolving cyber threats.
1. OS Fingerprinting. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2022, from Firewalls.com website: https://www.firewalls.com/blog/security-terms/os-fingerprinting/
2. Tech. (2020, July 25). OS Fingerprinting. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from ITperfection - Network Security website: https://www.itperfection.com/network-security/os-fingerprinting-active-passive-firewall-hacking-cybersecurity-network-security-tcp-nmap-xprobe2-ettercap-p0f/
3. (N.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2022, from Securitytrails.com website: https://securitytrails.com/blog/cybersecurity-fingerprinting
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