The Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) is a network protocol which enables communication between the network devices. ARP operates at the Data Link layer of the OSI model. The Data link layer is responsible for the physical transmission of data over the network. ARP is used to map the network layer IP addresses to their corresponding Data Link layer MAC addresses, making it possible for devices to communicate with each other on the same network.
As we know that it is a fundamental requirement that each device in network will have unique MAC address & IP Address. ARP uses this principal and provide a table to upper layer that have MAC & IP addresses.
In this blog post, we will learn into the details of the ARP protocol, including how it works, the ARP table, and the significance of the protocol in networking. We will also discuss the potential security risks associated with ARP spoofing and the measures that can be taken to prevent it. By the end of this blog post, you will have a comprehensive understanding of the ARP protocol and its importance in the world of computer networking.
Why do we need ARP?
As we know that, in networking, devices communicate with each other using different addresses depending on the layer of the network stack they are operating on. The Internet Protocol (IP) address is used to identify devices on the network layer. Similarly the Media Access Control (MAC) address is used to identify devices on the Data Link layer. The Data Link layer is responsible for the physical transmission of data over the network, and this is where the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) comes in.
ARP enables devices to map IP addresses to their corresponding MAC addresses, which is very important and basic block for communication b/w devices on the same network. Without ARP, devices would not be able to communicate with each other on the Data Link layer, which could cause significant issues in the network.
What is ARP table?
The ARP table is a lookup table that stores the most recently used mappings between IP addresses and MAC addresses for devices on the same network.
The ARP table is important because it enables devices to more quickly and efficiently communicate with each other on the same network. When a device wants to communicate with another device on the same network, it first checks its ARP table to see if it already has the MAC address of the destination device. If the MAC address is already in the ARP table, the device can immediately use that information to communicate with the destination device without having to send an ARP request. This can help to reduce network traffic and improve network performance.
However, we should keep in our mind that the ARP table is not static & permanent table. It is constantly updated to reflect changes in the network. Devices can join or leave the network, and their MAC addresses can change, which means that the ARP table needs to be regularly updated to ensure that the correct mappings are being used. This is why the ARP table is a temporary cache, and why it has a timeout period after which the entries are removed.
How does ARP work?
As, now we are aware of the concept of ARP, let us deep dive and understand how does it work on the network with the help of example.
ARP Request: When any device wants to communicate with some another device on the same network then it first checks its own ARP table to confirm if it has the MAC address of the destination device or not. If the MAC address is not in the table, the device will send an ARP request, which is a broadcast message, to all devices on the network. In this request it is asking for the MAC address of the device with the specified IP address.
Example: Let’s say Device A wants to communicate with Device B, and Device A has Device B’s IP address but not its MAC address. Device A will check its ARP table. If it find that the MAC address of device B is not in the ARP table, then it will send an ARP request which is broadcasted to all devices on the network asking for the MAC address of the device with Device B’s IP address. As shown below, Device A (with IP Address 10.0.0.50) has sent an ARP request (i.e., Who has x.x.x.x).
The ARP request will have the target’s IP Address, senders IP Address and senders MAC address. As it does not know the MAC address of the target so it will fill it with 0. As mentioned above, the ARP request is broadcasted.
ARP Reply: When the device with the corresponding IP address receives the ARP request, it replies with its message that have its MAC address, which is then cached in the ARP table of the requesting device.
Example: When the Device B receives the ARP request from Device A, and since it has the corresponding IP address, it replies with its MAC address. Device A then caches Device B’s MAC address in its ARP table.
We also need to note that, if the targets IP address is not in local network and is some another network, then it is the responsibility of the router to reply back.
Updating the ARP Table: The requesting device can now use the MAC address to communicate with the destination device. The requesting device will update it own ARP table so that in near future, if it requires to communicate again with this IP address then it will be using the MAC address from the ARP table instead of resolving it from network.
Example: As now, the Device A has Device B’s MAC address in its ARP table, it can use the MAC address to communicate with Device B.
As mentioned previously, the ARP table is a temporary table cached on devices, which means that the MAC addresses it stores are only valid for a limited time. This is because devices can change their MAC addresses or leave the network, which would render the cached MAC addresses invalid. As such, the ARP table entries typically have a timeout, after which they are removed from the table.
Gratuitous ARP messages are typically sent by devices when they joins a network, or when its IP address or MAC address changes. By sending a gratuitous ARP message, the device can quickly notify other devices on the network of the change, without waiting for ARP requests to be sent. This can help improve network efficiency and reduce the time it takes for address resolution to occur.
GARP messages can also be used to detect duplicate IP addresses on the network. If a device receives a gratuitous ARP message from another device with its own IP address, then it can detect the conflict and alert network administrators. In addition, some network devices, such as routers and switches, can use GARP to update their own ARP tables and reduce the need for ARP broadcasts.
ARP Spoofing is a type of network attack where an attacker sends fake Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) messages on a local area network (LAN) in order to associate the attacker’s MAC address with the IP address of another device on the network. This can allow the attacker to intercept, modify or disrupt network traffic between the victim device and other devices on the network.
In an ARP Spoofing attack, the attacker sends fake ARP messages to other devices on the network, claiming to be the victim device and associating the attacker’s MAC address with the victim device’s IP address. This can cause other devices on the network to send their traffic to the attacker instead of the intended recipient, allowing the attacker to intercept or modify the traffic before forwarding it on to the intended recipient.
ARP Spoofing can be used for a variety of purposes, such as stealing login credentials, monitoring network traffic, or launching further attacks on the network. It can also be used to perform a denial-of-service (DoS) attack by flooding the network with fake ARP messages, causing the network to become congested and slow down or even crash.
There are several ways to prevent ARP Spoofing attacks, such as using static ARP entries or implementing security measures such as port security and 802.1X authentication. In addition, network administrators can use tools such as ARPwatch and Wireshark to monitor network traffic and detect any signs of ARP Spoofing.
Preventing ARP Spoofing attacks
There are many ways to prevent ARP Spoofing attacks. Some of the most common methods are:
Static ARP Entries: One way to prevent ARP Spoofing is to configure static ARP entries on all devices in the network. With static ARP entries, each device has a predefined mapping of IP addresses to MAC addresses that cannot be altered by attackers. However, this approach can be time-consuming and impractical for large networks.
Port Security: Another method is to implement port security on network switches, which can prevent unauthorized devices from connecting to the network. Port security can be configured to allow only trusted devices to connect to the network, and can also be set up to detect and block unauthorized devices.
VLANs: Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) can also be used to prevent ARP Spoofing attacks. By segmenting the network into multiple VLANs, devices on different VLANs are isolated from each other, reducing the impact of any potential attacks. VLANs can be implemented on network switches and routers.
802.1X Authentication: Another way to prevent ARP Spoofing is to implement 802.1X authentication, which requires users to authenticate their identity before being allowed to connect to the network. This can help prevent unauthorized devices from connecting to the network and launching ARP Spoofing attacks.
ARP Spoofing Detection Tools: There are several tools available that can detect ARP Spoofing attacks, such as ARPwatch and Wireshark. These tools monitor network traffic and alert network administrators when they detect suspicious activity.
It is important to note that these methods can work together to provide layered security, and that no single method is foolproof. For example, a combination of VLANs, 802.1X authentication, and ARP Spoofing detection tools can provide comprehensive protection against ARP Spoofing attacks. By taking a multi-layered approach to network security, organizations can better protect their networks from potential attacks.
ARP command on Linux
On Linux, the
arp command is a command-line tool that is used to display and modify the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) cache. Here are some examples of how to use the
arp command on Linux:
Below is a table that summarizes the options and arguments of the
arp command on Linux:
|Displays the current ARP cache.
|Deletes the entry in the ARP cache with the specified IP address.
|Displays the ARP cache for the specified network interface.
|IP Address MAC Address
|Adds a static entry to the ARP cache with the specified IP address and MAC address.
|Verbose output mode that displays more information.
|Displays numeric IP addresses instead of hostnames.
|Reads a list of IP addresses and MAC addresses from the specified file and adds them to the ARP cache.
|Flushes the entire ARP cache.
|Specifies the cache timeout value in seconds.
|Displays the help message for the
arp command is very useful tool for troubleshooting network issues and managing the ARP cache on a Linux system.
- RFC 826: “An Ethernet Address Resolution Protocol”: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc826
- RFC 903: “A Reverse Address Resolution Protocol”: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc903
- RFC 1027: “Using ARP to Implement Transparent Subnet Gateways”: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1027
- RFC 1390: “Transmission of IP and ARP over FDDI Networks”: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1390
- RFC 5227: “IPv4 Address Conflict Detection”: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc5227
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