A SYN flood occurs when a host becomes so overwhelmed by SYN segments initiating incomplete connection requests that it can no longer process legitimate connection requests.
Before You Begin
For background information, read Network DoS Attacks Overview.
Two hosts establish a TCP connection with a triple exchange of packets known as a three-way handshake: A sends a SYN segment to B; B responds with a SYN/ACK segment; and A responds with an ACK segment. A SYN flood attack inundates a site with SYN segments containing forged (spoofed) IP source addresses with nonexistent or unreachable addresses. B responds with SYN/ACK segments to these addresses and then waits for responding ACK segments. Because the SYN/ACK segments are sent to nonexistent or unreachable IP addresses, they never elicit responses and eventually time out. See Figure 45.
Figure 45: SYN Flood Attack
By flooding a host with incomplete TCP connections, the attacker eventually fills the memory buffer of the victim. Once this buffer is full, the host can no longer process new TCP connection requests. The flood might even damage the victim's operating system. Either way, the attack disables the victim and its normal operations.
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