ceClub: Cascading Denial-of- Service Attacks on Wi-Fi Networks

David Starobinski (Boston University)
Wednesday, 7.3.2018, 11:30

We unveil the existence of a vulnerability in Wi-Fi (802.11) networks, which allows an adversary to remotely launch a Denial-of- Service (DoS) attack that propagates both in time and space. This vulnerability stems from a coupling effect induced by hidden nodes. Cascading DoS attacks can congest an entire network and do not require the adversary to violate any protocol. We demonstrate the feasibility of such attacks through experiments with real Wi-Fi cards and extensive ns-3 simulations. To gain insight into the root-causes of the attack, we model the network as a dynamical system and analyze its limiting behavior and stability. The model accurately predicts that a phase transition (and hence a cascading attack) is possible when the retry limit parameter of Wi-Fi is greater or equal to 7. Last, we propose a counter-measure based on the idea of optimizing the duration of packet transmissions. Specifically, we show how to optimally set the packet duration so that, on the one hand, cascading DoS attacks are avoided and, on the other hand, throughput is maximized.

Joint Work with Liangxiao Xin (Boston University) and Guevara Noubir (Northeastern University).

David Starobinski is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Systems Engineering, and Computer Science (by affiliation) at Boston University. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in 1999. In 1999-2000, he was a post-doctoral researcher in the EECS department at UC Berkeley. In 2007-2008, he was an invited Professor at EPFL (Switzerland). Dr. Starobinski received a CAREER award from the U.S. National Science Foundation (2002), an Early Career Principal Investigator (ECPI) award from the U.S. Department of Energy (2004), the 2010 BU ECE Faculty Teaching Award, and best paper awards at the WiOpt 2010 and IEEE CNS 2016 conferences. He is currently an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security and a Faculty Fellow at the U.S. DoT Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. His research interests are in wireless networking, network economics, and cybersecurity.

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