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What is a Teardrop attack? How to prevent it?

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  • 4 min read

A teardrop attack is a Denial-of-Service attack where the hacker sends massive amounts of bug-laden data to the victim’s device, which causes the device to crash. Before understanding a Teardrop attack, you must know how the data moves from one server to another.

Data travels in what we call Data packets. Data packets are small, broken fragments of the data that are assigned a particular stamp. The whole process is a bit tricky, and usually, the data transmission follows seven layers (OSI model) or four layers (TCP/IP model). Each layer has a specific task to perform and, in turn, forwards the data packets to the other layers.

Now that you have a vague idea of how the data flows over the internet, we will get back to the main topic -the teardrop attack.

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How does Teardrop attack work?

E-commerce store Volusion breached: Financial data stolenTeardrop attacks target the network layer of the protocols. The network layer performs three main functions.

  • It designates each data packet with the correct IP of the sender and receiver. This logical addressing ensures that the data reaches the right destination.
  • It also divides the outgoing messages into packets and assembles the incoming packets into messages.
  • It also determines the best path for data transmission.

In the Teardrop attack, the bug-laden data packets get overlapped, and the victim’s machine gets confused while rearranging them. Simultaneously, the hacker sends more data packets to the device, causing more confusion and eventually leading to a system crash.

This attack was common to the earlier versions of the Windows OS. However, the attacks once again resurfaced in 2018, thereby prompting Microsoft to release the security patch.

Also Read: What is a Watering hole attack, and how is it carried out?

How to prevent Teardrop attack?

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You can prevent Teardrop attack or Denial-of-Service attacks in general, by following the instructions given below.

  • Protecting the network layer: As these attacks target the network layer, you must defend it at all costs. You can set up a proper firewall network so that the junk data gets filtered.
  • Use caching servers: Caching servers are useful mitigation tools. In the event of an attack, these servers can provide static content so that the website can still run.
  • DNS routing: In this method, the incoming HTTP/S requests are transferred to another server. After that, the server forwards legitimate data packets while discarding the illegitimate ones.

Apart from that, you can ask your internet service provider to block all unwanted traffic to the website. We hope that with this tutorial helped you in understanding the Teardrop attacks and the ways to mitigate it. Let us know in the comments section below if you’d like us to cover some other cybersecurity article.

Also Read: What is a Credential-based cyberattack?

Effects of a Teardrop attack

A teardrop attack can have the following effects on a victim’s computer:

  • System crash or sudden reboot.
  • Slowdown of the device or repeated lag.
  • Errors in necessary operating systems applications and tools. Sometimes, these applications are critical for device security and services.
  • Congestion in the network or constant disturbance in the network.
  • Loss of data.
  • Loss of revenue to the business.

Who are the likely victims of a Teardrop attack?

Understanding that the Teardrop attack can be used on any device using TCP/IP protocol would be best. However, older devices are more likely to be victims of this attack.

These devices may be:

  • Windows NT, Windows 3.1x, Windows 95, Windows 7, Windows Vista
  • Older macOS versions.
  • Linux version earlier than 2.0.32 and 2.1.63

Modern systems have various methods in place to counter the effects of a teardrop attack, such as:

  • Regular validation of the data sets and size of the fragment.
  • Discarding suspicious data sets.
  • Randomisation of data.
  • Limiting data reassembly to prevent app corruption.

A teardrop attack is one of the most well-known DoS cyber attacks exploiting a TCS/IP protocol vulnerability. New devices and networks are implementing methods to counter teardrop attacks. However, older devices are still vulnerable to the attack.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: