Introduction

Let us learn about a replay attack in detail. Data is used everywhere and has become crucial in today’s world. With data becoming more and more important to all of us, its security also becomes a foremost concern. All industries and organizations, no matter how big or small, use data and that includes many sensitive and confidential information that cannot be seen by people who are not supposed to see it. This is where security comes into the picture. There are several ways using which a data set is made secure so that it is only used by people who are authorized to see it.

All organizations use a secure connection or their way of protecting their data, but still, at times an unauthorized person or a hacker gets access to our information and poses a threat to the confidentiality, integrity, and authentication of our data and it is called a security attack. A replay attack is a type of security attack and we will discuss in detail what is replay attack in this article. 

  1. Definition
  2. Working
  3. Prevention

1. Definition 

A replay attack is a type of security attack, where an unauthorized person or a hacker gains access to confidential data by acting as the original sender and capturing the traffic and sending a communication to its original destination. The hacker can fraudulently delay or resend a network communication by intercepting the network traffic.

This attack thus misdirects the receiver into thinking that the message is an authenticated message when it is actually sent by a hacker. The attack can simply work successfully by just resending the message. This is where the name of the attack comes from. Since the receiver or the client receives the same message twice, it is called the Replay Attack. 

2. Working

To explain replay attack to you, let us consider a real world example of this attack. Take for example a company where a client asks for a financial transfer by sending an encrypted and secured message to the authorized person responsible for the financial administration of the company. Now an attacker listens to this message and captures it which puts him in a position of power and authorization to simply send the message again.

Since the message that he sent was the authorized message and correctly encrypted it looks completely legitimate to the financial administrator. So unless the financial administrator already has a good reason to suspect something there is no way that anyone can differentiate between the two messages, the one sent by the company employee and the one sent by the hacker.

As the replay attack definition states, in this security attack the same message is received twice by the client or the receiver, out of which one is by the hacker and both of which are exactly the same and encrypted in a legitimate manner. And the example explains how this is possible in the real world. There are no advanced skills required for this type of attack. The hacker just needs to decrypt a message once it captures it from the network. The attacker does not even have to read or decipher the message, he just has to resend the entire thing as it is. This makes the attack even more dangerous. 

3. Prevention

Now that you understand what a replay attack is and how it works, let’s talk about replay attack prevention. To prevent an attack, the most important thing is to have the right encryption for all messages and information. In general, messages that are encrypted have ‘keys’ within them. That means they can be decoded at the end of the transmission by using the key. So, as we saw earlier, in this attack, it doesn’t matter if the attacker decodes the message or not, he can just resend the whole message, including the key, forward and it will look legitimate. This is why this kind of encryption does not work for replay protection. 

To prevent such attacks, one solution is to establish a communication network with a random session key. A random session key is a type of code or key which is only valid for one transaction and cannot be used again. So the attacker will not be able to resend the same message again. 

Another idea to prevent replay attacks is to use timestamps in all messages you send. If you use a timestamp, it will decrease the time during which the attacker can start their attack and resend the message drastically. The attacker will have to eavesdrop, capture the message and resend the message very quickly. Otherwise, with the help of the timestamp, you will be able to figure out which is the legitimate message and which is not. 

There is another idea that many people use to prevent attacks, is to use a one time password on all transactions and communications. This is similar to the random session key, as the password expires after one transaction is complete and is discarded. So even if the message is captured and recorded by the attacker, he will not be able to resend it as the password or code is no longer valid. 

These are some of the common and popular techniques that are used by people to protect themselves and their data from replay attacks. You can use any of these or some other encryption technique.

Conclusion 

Using and having confidential and important data means having to protect it. It is extremely crucial that we take all steps in a power to protect our data and information from attackers and hackers that misuse the information in any way. There are many attacks that take place in today’s world and one of them is the replay attack.

The replay attack is dangerous as not many advanced skills are required to make this kind of attack and it can be easily done just by resending the message. We discussed in detail what a replay attack is, how it is used, and how to prevent replay attacks. Using the right and the best kind of encryption is the most important thing to do to protect all kinds of data.

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.

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