Mitigating memcached Amplification Attacks

Updated by Linode Written by Linode

Contribute on GitHub

Report an Issue | View File | Edit File

What is Memcrashed?

Recently there has been a significant increase in large-scale UDP reflection and amplification attacks across the internet. These attacks were all using the memcached protocol and originating from port 11211. Attackers send ordinary-sized UDP packets from a spoofed IP address to a server running memcached. These requests elicit extremely large packet responses from memcached, which quickly congest the victim’s network and results in a Denial of Service (DoS) scenario.

The vulnerability of memcached to aiding in massive Denial of Service attacks was presented at the POC 2017 security conference in Seoul, South Korea, in a paper titled Deluge – How to generate 2TB/s reflection DDoS data flow via a family network. Dubbed Memcrashed by Cloudflare, these attacks are now being observed in the wild, reaching several hundred gigabits per second of inbound UDP memcached traffic.

What has Linode done to mitigate this attack?

  • Inbound and outbound UDP 11211 traffic is blocked at the edge of our network. This is only a temporary solution.

  • Your Linode can not send or receive UDP traffic on port 11211 from outside of Linode’s network. Linodes can still communicate with each other over Linode’s network using UDP 11211.

I’m running memcached. What do I do?

Memcached should not be exposed to the internet. There are a few basic steps you can take to secure your memcached instance.

  • If you require memcached to communicate over a private network:

    1. Bind memcached to a specific private IP address and port.

    2. Configure your Linode’s firewall accordingly. If you need help setting up a firewall on your distribution, see our firewall guides for more information.

  • If you do not require memcached to communicate over any network connection, disable UDP for memcached and ensure it is only listening on localhost.

CentOS

  1. Memcached is configured by default to listen for incoming connections from any IP address on RHEL-based distributions, on both TCP and UDP. Change this to only listen on localhost, and as an added precaution, disable UDP for memcached.

    Edit the OPTIONS line in the memcached config file:

    /etc/sysconfig/memcached
    1
    
    OPTIONS="-l 127.0.0.1 -U 0"
  2. Restart memcached. If your system uses systemd:

    sudo systemctl restart memcached
    

    If your system uses SysV:

    sudo service memcached restart
    

Debian and Ubuntu

  1. Memcached is configured to listen on localhost by default in Debian and Ubuntu. This configuration is not susceptible to the amplification exploit, but you should still verify you’re not running a vulnerable setup:

    grep 127.0.0.1 /etc/memcached.conf
    

    That should return:

    -l 127.0.0.1
    

    As you can see, memcached is listening on the localhost IP address.

    You can also use ss or netstat to check your system’s listening UDP ports:

    sudo ss -apu
    sudo netstat -lpu
    

    Memcached should again show that it’s listening on localhost, or address 127.0.0.1, as shown below:

    root@localhost:~# ss -aup
    State      Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address:Port                 Peer Address:Port
    UNCONN     0      0      127.0.0.1:11211                    *:*                     users:(("memcached",pid=5021,fd=30),("memcached",pid=5021,fd=29),("memcached",pid=5021,fd=28),("memcached",pid=5021,fd=27))
    
  2. Disable memcached’s use of UDP as an additional precaution:

    cat <<EOT >> /etc/memcached.conf
    
    # Disable UDP
    -U 0
    EOT
    
  3. Restart memcached. If your system uses systemd:

    sudo systemctl restart memcached
    

    If your system uses SysV:

    sudo service memcached restart
    

Join our Community

Find answers, ask questions, and help others.

comments powered by Disqus

This guide is published under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license.