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Scanning the Internet for Liveness

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Internet-wide scanning depends on a notion of liveness: does a target IP address respond to a probe packet? However, the interpretation of such responses, or lack of them, is nuanced and depends on multiple factors, including: how we probed, how different protocols in the network stack interact, the presence of filtering policies near the target, and temporal churn in IP responsiveness. Although often neglected, these factors can significantly affect the results of active measurement studies. We develop a taxonomy of liveness which we employ to develop a method to perform concurrent IPv4 scans using ICMP, five TCP-based, and two UDP-based protocols, comprehensively capturing all responses to our probes, including negative and cross-layer responses. Leveraging our methodology, we present a systematic analysis of liveness and how it manifests in active scanning campaigns, yielding practical insights and methodological improvements for the design and the execution of active Internet measurement studies.
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Scanning the Internet for Liveness
Shehar Bano Philipp Richter Mobin Javed Srikanth Sundaresan
University College London MIT LUMS Pakistan, ICSI Berkeley Princeton University
Zakir Durumeric Steven J. Murdoch Richard Mortier Vern Paxson
Stanford University University College London University of Cambridge UC Berkeley, ICSI Berkeley
ABSTRACT
Internet-wide scanning depends on a notion of liveness: does a tar-
get IP address respond to a probe packet? However, the interpreta-
tion of such responses, or lack of them, is nuanced and depends on
multiple factors, including: how we probed, how different proto-
cols in the network stack interact, the presence of filtering policies
near the target, and temporal churn in IP responsiveness. Although
often neglected, these factors can significantly affect the results of
active measurement studies. We develop a taxonomy of liveness
which we employ to develop a method to perform concurrent IPv4
scans using ICMP, five TCP-based, and two UDP-based protocols,
comprehensively capturing all responses to our probes, including
negative and cross-layer responses. Leveraging our methodology,
we present a systematic analysis of liveness and how it manifests in
active scanning campaigns, yielding practical insights and method-
ological improvements for the design and the execution of active
Internet measurement studies.
CCS Concepts
Networks Signaling protocols; Transport protocols; Appli-
cation layer protocols; Network dynamics; Cross-layer proto-
cols;
Keywords
Active Measurement, Scanning, Cross-protocol, Census
1. INTRODUCTION
Internet-wide scanning has emerged as a key measurement tech-
nique to study a diverse set of the Internet’s properties, including
address space utilization [5, 16], host reachability [4], topology [6,
36, 18], service availability [20, 21], vulnerabilities [11, 17, 23],
and service discrimination [19]. In simplest terms, active scanning
campaigns involve the sending of one or more probe packets to
a target IP address and observing a response (or absence thereof)
from the targeted host. If a host replies to a probe packet, we refer
to it as alive. Individual measurement campaigns (see above) are
typically crafted to elucidate individual properties of the Internet
and its host population. Yet despite the widespread use of active
scanning and its critical importance for Internet measurement, we
still lack a systematic framework that allows us to understand IP
liveness and, more importantly, how it manifests in the form of
host replies to active probing. What type of probe packets should
we send if we, for example, want to maximize the responding host
population? What type of responses can we expect and which fac-
tors determine such responses? What degree of consistency can we
expect when probing the same host with different probe packets?
Fundamentally, liveness is not a straightforward binary matter,
but varies depending on: (i) probe type and the target or target
network’s policies related to firewalling and filtering, (ii) temporal
churn due to targets going up and down, and (iii) protocol inter-
dependencies that result in probes to one target eliciting responses
from another (e.g., ICMP Error responses to TCP probes). While
seemingly nuanced, such characteristics have the potential to sig-
nificantly affect the result of active measurement campaigns. We
argue that developing a systematic understanding of these issues
yields methodological improvements and practical implications for
active measurements at large. Towards achieving this goal, we
make the following contributions in this paper.
First, we propose a taxonomy of liveness, examining what it
means to say that a target IP address is alive and how liveness can
be inferred considering responses to active probing (§2). This tax-
onomy develops our understanding of liveness at different layers,
and covers responses across protocols and from non-targets (e.g.,
middleboxes). Informed by our taxonomy, we introduce a method-
ology for performing Internet-wide scans concurrently across a
set of different protocols at various layers, including ICMP, pop-
ular TCP services and popular UDP services (§3). Our diverse
set of probe packets allows us to study the responsiveness or non-
responsiveness of individual host populations to specific protocols.
Our scans are comprehensive in that we capture all replies to our
probe packets, including negative (e.g., TCP Rst packets) as well
as cross-layer replies (e.g., ICMP error replies). This enables us
to uncover otherwise invisible host populations and to study cross-
layer protocol interactions. Based on our gathered data, we present
an in-depth view of liveness (§4), slicing our analysis along two
dimensions: (i)probe type (i.e., what type of packet we send), and
(ii)reply (i.e., what kind of response we receive).
Our analysis yields important insights for both the design of ac-
tive scanning campaigns as well as the interpretation of scanning
results. Our key findings include: (i) TCP and UDP probes in-
crease the population responsive over ICMP by 18%, (ii) compre-
hensively capturing reply traffic (i.e., taking into account negative
reply packets) increases the responsive population by more than
13%, (iii) TCP stacks do not consistently respond with a TCP Rst
for non-available services—in our measurements only 24% of hosts
with an active TCP stack respond to all the probes, (iv) our concur-
rent scans allow us to identify nearly 2M tarpits that would bias
measurements that do not take them into account, and (v) we report
on the correlation of responsiveness across protocols uncovering
potential filtering practices.
We believe that our measurements paint the most comprehensive
and least noisy picture of the state of Internet liveness available to
date. Our taxonomy of IP liveness can serve as a basis for design-
ing and executing future measurement studies, particularly when it
Network Layer
start
any
reply
?
dark
reply from
probed
IP?
dark
responding IP:
Network Layer
Alive
Network Layer
Alive
probe
type
?
ICMP
TCP
reply
?
TCP
Transport Layer Active
TCP
Rst
Transport Layer Alive
TCP
SynAck Application
reply?
Application Layer
Alive
Application Layer
Active
yes
Transport Layer Application Layer
UDP
no no
finish
expected
behaviour
?
Figure 1: Flow chart showing liveness inference. We consider liveness at different layers based on responses to our probes.
comes to decisions such as what type of probe packets should be
employed and what type of responses should be captured, how to
interpret responses, as well as whether it is appropriate to use the
output of one scan as input for subsequent measurements. We re-
lease the code and data of this work as open source to allow for
reproducibility of the results, and to enable further research.
2. TAXONOMIZING IP LIVENESS
To systematize our understanding of IP liveness and its inference
using active probing, we introduce the following terminology.
Network-layer liveness. An IP address is network-layer alive if
it responds to a probe with an IP packet. This is the most basic
liveness criterion.
Transport-layer liveness. An IP address is considered transport-
layer active if it is capable of sending TCP packets (whether
SynAck or Rst) from at least one port. That is, the transport pro-
tocol stack of the IP address is operational, sending packets with
transport layer semantics. An IP address is transport-layer alive if
it accepts TCP connections on a specific port number, indicated by
a SynAck response to a probe.
Application-layer liveness. Application-layer active means that
the IP address sends a payload, valid or invalid, for at least one
application protocol. An IP address is application-layer alive if it
speaks the probed application protocol.
Figure 1 shows a flowchart of our methodology for inferring live-
ness, which depends both on the probe type and the reply, per our
taxonomy above. Observe that probes of different types have vary-
ing degrees of specificity (e.g., a TCP Syn probe targets a specific
port number, whereas an ICMP Echo probe targets a vanilla IP ad-
dress), as well as different inference power: ICMP Echo requests
can only infer network layer liveness, while TCP probes can infer
transport layer liveness in addition. The dependency on the probe
type is important to realize, as different probes can reveal differ-
ent views of liveness at a given layer. For example, IP addresses
might not directly reveal network layer liveness (e.g., we might not
receive an ICMP EchoReply in response to an ICMP Echo probe),
while we can observe them to be transport layer alive using TCP
probes, indirectly inferring their network liveness. Since UDP is
connectionless and relies on ICMP for negative replies, we do not
have an explicit notion of transport layer liveness for UDP. Our
UDP probes contain application-specific requests, but the corre-
sponding responses can indicate network- or application-layer live-
ness (i.e., ICMP Error replies indicate network layer liveness while
UDP replies can indicate application layer liveness and network
layer liveness).
In the remainder of this work, we employ this taxonomy to ana-
lyze liveness through active probing scans. We focus our analysis
on network and transport layers, but include application layer live-
ness in the taxonomy for completeness.
3. SCANNING IP LIVENESS
In this section, we discuss our experimental setup, and scanning
methodology and considerations. We focus on intra-scan liveness,
that is how the visible IP population varies when considering differ-
ent probe types and captured responses across the same scan cam-
paign. Characterization of long-term temporal churn (i.e., the birth
and death of responsive IP addresses) and diurnal behaviour, as
well as spatial churn (i.e., difference in responses due to diverse
scan locations) is outside the scope of this work.
Overview. We collect data from simultaneous scans covering 8
protocols performed on September 5, 2017. For validation, we per-
formed the same scans also on 4th and 7th September, finding con-
sistent results. We target the entire IPv4 address space, less a black-
list covering 14.7% of the total IPv4 address space. The blacklist
includes private and reserved space (covering 14% of IPv4) and
users opting out of measurements (0.7% of IPv4 at the time of mea-
surement). The entire scan takes less than 24 hours to complete and
generates 2.3 TB of data. We select ports that run well-documented
applications, and cover both the server as well as (at least partially)
the client space. We restrict the analysis to eight concurrent scans
for feasibility. We perform one network layer ICMP Echo scan, five
transport layer TCP Syn scans covering popular ports 22 (SSH), 23
(Telnet), 80 (HTTP), 443 (HTTPS), and 7547 (CPE WAN Man-
agement Protocol, CWMP [3]) and two popular UDP-based appli-
cations, DNS and NTP.
Tools. We use ZMap [40] for the network, transport, and UDP-
based application layer scans. ZMap uses raw sockets, crafting
ICMP Echo, TCP Syn and UDP packets embedded directly into
Ethernet frames. In contrast to earlier studies using ZMap, we
tightly synchronize simultaneous scans of several protocols and
probe each IP address for all protocols within a short time window,
minimizing the effect of temporal churn. Moreover, we customize
ZMap so as to capture any reply to our probes including negative
responses such as ICMP errors and TCP Rsts. We use SiLK [38] for
scan data analysis. We convert all IP sets of interest to SiLK IPset
data structure that uses a compressed binary tree structure to store
IPs. We mainly use relevant SiLK tools (such as rwsettool) to
perform fast set operations on this data.
Cross-protocol scans. Internet liveness legitimately changes over
time due to temporal churn, for example caused by hosts going up
and down and dynamic IP address assignment [32]. To minimize
the effect of temporal churn, we probe each IP address for all of
our protocols within a short time window. To do so, we partition
the IPv4 space into /3 blocks, and configure parallel scans to probe
IPs in the same order by using the same seed value for the ZMap
address generator within each block. This block-scanning strat-
egy provides an opportunity to synchronize at the start of each new
block. We quantify the resulting lag by recording the timestamp of
every millionth packet sent by ZMap to measure the maximum time
between different protocol probes sent to the same target. While it
can be up to 25 minutes, over 80% of probes are sent to the target
within a 10 minute window.
Reply capture completeness. To provide a comprehensive picture
of liveness across different layers, we must capture all replies to our
probe packets, not just those expected for a successful response.
However, by default ZMap does not record ICMP error messages
for TCP scans, and only records ICMP PortUnreachable responses
for UDP. We modified ZMap to capture all ICMP error messages
in response to our probes. We link these error responses back to the
probe that generated them by checking the header of the original
packet, included in the payload of the error-response packets. Since
stock ZMap only records TCP Rst packets with the Ack bit set
(as others fail ZMap’s validation checks for a deterministic Ack
number), we also modified it to record all TCP Rst packets.
Packet loss mitigation. Executing multiple concurrent scans on
shared hardware increases the risk of packet loss, at the host and
due to transient network problems. To minimize in-network loss,
we probe redundantly. Since network losses often occur in bursts,
we modify ZMap to perform delayed retransmissions. We make
ZMap store each IP address it scans for the first time in a queue of
size N. When the queue is full, ZMap begins de-queuing and re-
transmitting, interleaving with new probes. The delay between the
original and retransmitted probes depends on the size of the queue
and ZMap’s packet-sending rate. We use N= 1M and a scan rate
of 100kpps, giving a delay of 20 seconds. Our probe redundancy
increases the population of active IP addresses (i.e., responsive to
ICMP Echo probes) by 2.2%. We determine this percentage by run-
ning two ZMap instances (with no retransmission) in parallel, with
a delay of 1 minute between them. To calculate the retransmission
hit-rate, we aggregate responsive IPs across both scans, while we
only consider the first scan to determine the hit-rate of single-packet
transmission. Additionally, we employ additional pcap filters in
ZMap and adjust host buffer sizes to avoid local packet loss when
running multiple ZMap instances on the same host. We inspected
scan monitoring logs to confirm that no scans experienced drops at
the NIC or in pcap.
4. CHARACTERIZING IP LIVENESS
We next analyze our scan data to answer a number of practical
questions on how the probe type and the corresponding responses
affect the view of liveness at the network and transport layers.
4.1 Network Layer Liveness
Overall, our scans recorded 487M network alive IPs (IPall) out
of 3.6B probed.
What is the coverage of different probe types?
Reachability, performance, and topology studies often employ
ICMP Echo and traceroute to scan the Internet for network alive-
ness. Here, we investigate the effect of the probe type on the mea-
sured network alive population: Figure 2a shows the coverage of
IPall over different scans by protocol. Overlapping IPs poten-
tially respond over multiple probe types while unique IPs respond
to only one probe type. As others have found [16, 21, 22, 4], we
see that ICMP Echo probes are most effective in discovering net-
work active IPs, revealing 79% of IPall, followed by TCP probes.
UDP probes, however, illuminate a very restrictive view. Further
we find that 16% of IPall can only exclusively be discovered via
TCP, and a small but significant 2% can only be discovered via
UDP probes. The high percentage of exclusive coverage from TCP
is somewhat surprising, suggesting widespread filtering/firewalling
of ICMP traffic within networks and at target hosts. A number of
studies measure network aliveness at the granularity of /24 address
ICMP TCP
(all)
UDP
(all)
UNION
IP addresses
0
150M
300M
450M 79.0%
59.1%
31.0%
183M
79M
9M
385M
288M
151M
487M
unique overlapping
(a) Network layer alive IP addresses.
ICMP TCP
(all)
UDP
(all)
UNION
/24 address blocsk
0
1.5M
3M
4.5M
163K 222K 23K
4.90M 5.05M
4.46M
5.27M
unique overlapping
(b) Network layer alive /24 blocks.
Figure 2: Network layer aliveness inferred by scan types.
blocks [13, 6, 36, 18]. Figure 2b shows the aliveness breakdown
for /24 blocks, where we find that the effect of the probe type is
much less pronounced. The set of /24 blocks discovered by indi-
vidual probes is far more uniform in its coverage of /24all (the set
of all discovered /24s). Surprisingly, our TCP scans show the high-
est coverage, discovering some 5M active /24 blocks, slightly more
(3%) than ICMP Echo.
What is the coverage of different probe responses?
A probe can trigger multiple types of responses, for example
TCP Syn can trigger TCP SynAck, TCP Rst, or ICMP Error re-
sponses. Interpretation of network aliveness depends on what re-
sponses are captured. In the previous analysis, we aggregated all
replies per scan, for example an ICMP response to a TCP Syn
probe is treated equivalently to a SynAck response. Figure 3a
decomposes scan replies to characterize their contribution to the
overall scan coverage of IPall. Replies to ICMP Echo probes are
dominated by ICMP EchoReply as we would expect. However,
ICMP Error responses comprise a sizable portion of TCP, and are
the dominant means of inferring network aliveness via UDP. We
find that 2.3% of IPall are discoverable only through ICMP Error
responses, with ICMP probes lighting up 20% of such IPs, TCP
probes some 76%, and UDP probes 35%. This might be due to
routers and middleboxes that are configured to ignore direct probes
but indirectly reveal activity via ICMP Error packets [15], as well
as due to filtering and firewalling in networks and end hosts.
What do ICMP error responses reveal?
ICMP Error messages, even though often neglected, not only in-
crease the visible population of network alive IP addresses, but can
also reveal characteristics of the target host and network. In Fig-
ure 3b, we break down ICMP Error messages into four categories:
(i) ICMP PortUnreachable is a type-3 (Destination unreachable)
message typically generated by end hosts when a port is not active,
(ii) ICMP HostUnreachable is a type-3 message sent by gateway
devices (e.g., routers) when the host is unreachable, (iii) ICMP
OtherUnreachable represents all other type-3 messages sent by
IP addresses
echo reply
ICMP error
both
TCP reply
ICMP error
both
UDP reply
ICMP error
both
0 200M 400M
98.8%
0.7%
0.5%
88.7%
9.0%
2.3%
14.3%
81.3%
4.4%
ICMP scan TCP scans UDP scans
(a) Breakdown of responses to scan types.
ICMP TCP UDP
fraction of ICMP errors
0.0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1.0
port unreach host unreach other unreach
other multipleother
13.3%
59.4%
9.9%
8.6%
8.8%
23.5%
19.1%
53.8%
1.4%
2.2%
84.5%
2.5%
12.3%
0%
0.7%
(b) Breakdown of ICMP Error responses to scan types.
Figure 3: Breakdown of responses to scan types.
gateway devices when the destination is unreachable (e.g., protocol
unreachable [27]), and (iv) ICMP Other represents the remaining
three ICMP Error packets (ICMP TimeExceeded, ICMP Redirect,
and ICMP SourceQuench) that we observed in our data. We con-
sider the source IP of any of the above packets as network alive
even if it is generated by an IP other than the one we probed.
Our TCP and UDP scans generate the majority of ICMP Port-
Unreachable messages, typically generated directly by the end host.
Indeed, it is expected behavior (RFC 1122) that hosts generate
such messages if no service is a available on a given port num-
ber. However, our scans also resulted in a large number of ICMP
Error messages that were generated by intermediate devices on the
path towards the target. The majority of such messages are indica-
tive of network misconfigurations, or firewalling. The latter is very
prominent: among the ICMP OtherUnreachable messages for TCP
and UDP, we find that code 13 “Communication administratively
prohibited” dominates (representing about 80% of such messages),
hinting towards either routers or gateways (e.g., Carrier-Grade NAT
deployments [33, 37]) on the path towards the target. Another 15%
of ICMP OtherUnreachable messages correspond to code 0 “Des-
tination network unreachable” and code 10 “Host administratively
prohibited”. In future work, we plan to inspect ICMP messages
more closely to reason about firewalling.
4.2 Transport Layer Liveness
Recall that we measure transport layer liveness by conducting
TCP SYN scans on five different ports. In total, we find 262M
12345
number of responsive TCP ports per IP address
IP addresses (N=262M)
0
30M
60M
90M
28%
19%
11%
16%
24%
only SynAck
both
only Rst
(a) TCP stack completeness/consistency.
HTTP
SSH
HTTPS
CWMP
Telnet
IP addresses
0 50M 100M 150M 200M
SynAck Rst both
41.8% 55.2%
13.9% 86.1%
28.6% 71.4%
17.1% 81.8%
91.7% SynAck: 8.2%
(b) Breakdown of transport layer responses.
Figure 4: Transport layer liveness.
transport active IPs (i.e., those responding to TCP Syn with a
TCP Rst or TCP SynAck) representing 53.8% of IPall.
How does the probed port affect the responsive population?
If hosts responded consistently across TCP ports, we would ex-
pect to see the same number of transport active IPs across all
five scans since an IP would respond with either TCP SynAck or
TCP Rst for each probe, in accordance with RFC standards. We
find, however, that the number of active hosts varies vastly when
probed on different port numbers. Figure 4a breaks down trans-
port active IPs into 5 classes: IPs that responded only on one probed
port, IPs that responded on exactly 2 ports, and so forth. We also
show whether the responses were TCP SynAck, TCP Rst, or both,
per class. Only 24% of active hosts respond to probe packets on
all five ports. This, in turn, shows that the vast majority of hosts
selectively suppress responses for particular application protocols,
due to firewalling and/or filtering. Their visibility or non-visibility
in active scanning campaigns heavily depends on the choice of the
probed port numbers. Following up on this observation, we next
look at the coverage of the 262M TCP active IP address population
by protocol and response type (Figure 4b). HTTPS is the most ac-
tive port number, with 180M IPs, surprisingly followed closely by
CWMP with 159M IPs. We find that the HTTP port is surprisingly
less active than the HTTPS port, and the Telnet port shows the least
activity of all the probed protocols. Each of the probed ports con-
tributes a unique set of otherwise unresponsive hosts: some 11.5%
of all TCP activity can exclusively be found by probing the CWMP
port. SSH, HTTP, and HTTPS provide unique coverage of 3–6%
of active IPs, while the exclusive coverage of Telnet is low (0.8%).
What is the coverage by probe response type?
As introduced in our taxonomy (§2), we make a distinction be-
tween transport layer activity and aliveness per RFC 793: TCP
stacks should respond to TCP Syn probes with a TCP SynAck if a
service is listening on the probed port, or TCP Rst otherwise [28].
We term the subset of the transport active population that responds
with a TCP SynAck as ‘TCP alive’, indicating a service is running
on that port. Figure 4b shows that except for HTTP, for a given
protocol, the TCP alive population is vastly smaller than the TCP
active population on that port. Hence, negative replies (TCP Rst)
are crucial for capturing the population of TCP active hosts com-
prehensively. We also find surprising results regarding the TCP
alive (i.e., replying with a TCP SynAck) population: the size of the
of CWMP alive population is surprisingly large, and as a point of
comparison, it is greater than the SSH alive population. CWMP
provides means for remote management of end-user devices such
as modems, routers, gateways, set-top boxes, and VoIP-phones [7].
A possible explanation could be related to widespread distribution
of CWMP-speaking CPE devices by ISPs.
How do fabricated responses affect the measured population?
One consideration in enumerating the TCP alive population of
any given protocol are network tarpits: IPs masquerading as fake
hosts, responding positively with a TCP SynAck to all TCP Syn
probes [1]. We discovered 1.9M transport alive IPs that appear in
all TCP scans. To confirm that these are tarpits, we scanned these
IPs on a random high port six days after the original scan—89%
responded positively, strengthening our belief that these are tarpits.
(Further analysis of the identified potential tarpits would require
studying the application-layer behaviour—or absence thereof—of
the concerned hosts, which we will undertake in future work.) If,
as is common practice, transport alive IPs are taken as a proxy for
the service population (e.g., IPs that respond to TCP Syn probe on
port 80 with SynAck represent Web servers), then the 1.9M tarpit
IPs inflate HTTP, HTTPS, and CWMP footprints by 3–4% of their
original size, SSH by 10% and Telnet as high as 23%. To mitigate
bias due to tarpits in studies conducting transport-layer measure-
ments from which to make application-layer inferences, simultane-
ously probing a high random port number for liveness can aid in
identifying such instances.
4.3 Cross-protocol Liveness
In this section, we investigate what fraction of the host popula-
tion that responds to a certain probe/protocol can also be captured
when probed for different protocols. Understanding these interde-
pendencies is vital for designing multi-stage scanning campaigns,
as well as for understanding consistency in filtering behavior across
protocols. Figure 5 shows the conditional probabilities for activity
(which includes both positive and negative responses) of our probed
TCP- and UDP-based protocols. For ICMP, we consider network-
layer aliveness (i.e., IPs that respond with ICMP EchoReply). We
make several observations: the bottom-most row shows that a sig-
nificant fraction of transport active hosts (26% on average for TCP
services and 12% for UDP) cannot be discovered via ICMP. This
is an important consideration, given that it is common practice to
use the subset of ICMP-alive IP addresses for further scans, e.g.,
to measure service availability. Correlation across TCP and UDP
protocols is generally lower when contrasted to protocols within
each family. Secondly, the TCP and UDP blocks indicate varying
degrees of correlation in filtering behavior across services, when
seen pair-wise. On one hand, we find consistent filtering practices:
for example, a Telnet-active host is very likely to elicit a response
1
0.33
0.34
0.39
0.33
0.28
0.26
0.28
0.74
1
0.7
0.85
0.56
0.61
0.44
0.45
0.74
0.68
1
0.82
0.73
0.74
0.5
0.57
0.73
0.72
0.71
1
0.62
0.63
0.44
0.47
0.72
0.56
0.74
0.73
1
0.64
0.46
0.51
0.75
0.74
0.92
0.9
0.79
1
0.53
0.59
0.88
0.66
0.78
0.78
0.69
0.66
1
0.76
0.87
0.63
0.81
0.78
0.73
0.68
0.71
1
Figure 5: Conditional activity per probe type. (For ICMP, we con-
sider network-layer aliveness.)
from both SSH and HTTPS. Put another way, if a given host is ac-
tive for Telnet, then with high probability (>=0.9), it is active per
SSH and HTTPS. On the other hand, for CWMP only 56% of ac-
tive hosts respond to HTTP probes, indicating an underlying filter-
ing pattern of the CWMP-active population. We plan to investigate
cross-protocol filtering practices in more depth in future work.
5. RELATED WORK
Measurement of Internet liveness has received considerable at-
tention in contexts including network topology, performance and
reachability [16, 30, 36, 35, 6], outages [31, 30], service char-
acterization [25, 20, 29], security vulnerability tracking [11, 17,
23], and service discrimination [19]. Measurement studies relied
on passive vantage points [8, 9, 32], active probing [21, 12, 16,
24], and both in combination [2]. We focus here on inference of
liveness via active probing. Internet-wide scanning has historically
taken significant time and resources. Early work limited its scope to
BGP prefixes [39, 21, 36], though subsequent work demonstrated
the inadequacy of control-plane data to measure data-plane con-
ditions [4, 34]. Another way to limit the scope of active prob-
ing is to use “hitlists” to target active hosts. Early hitlists com-
prised IP addresses selected from various passive sources [26, 18].
Later work shifted towards more informed random selection of tar-
get IP addresses offering greater coverage and higher likelihood
of liveness [6, 14], and using Internet censuses to derive respon-
sive, complete, and stable hitlists [13]. Heidemann et al. conducted
the first full IPv4 scan over the course of 2–3 months in 2007 [16].
IRLScanner scans the advertised IPv4 address space, obtained from
a RouteViews BGP dump and the local border router, in approxi-
mately 24 hours [21]. Recently, ZMap [12] and its application layer
counterpart ZGrab [10] dramatically reduced the time to complete
a full IPv4 scan to a few hours. These tools operate on commodity
hardware, and data from regular Internet scans using these tools is
made publicly available at scans.io. These data enabled a large
number of follow-on Internet-wide security-modeling and perfor-
mance studies. All these studies discuss practical considerations in
active probing, such as temporal churn, the types of probes, fire-
walls, and the scanning tool itself triggering blocking.
Our work adds to this rich body of literature by systematically
examining how liveness manifests over different protocols and
across layers with active probing, the factors affecting these views,
and how they are correlated.
6. CONCLUSION
Liveness—whether or not a target IP address responds to a probe
packet—is a nuanced concept without a simple yes/no answer. Re-
sponsiveness directly depends on the probe type, the configuration
of the targeted host, as well as on firewalling and filtering behav-
iors at the edge or within networks. The interpretation of responses
(positive, negative, absent) in turn allows for drawing conclusions
about liveness on different layers. Towards the goal of system-
atically understanding these issues, we presented a taxonomy of
liveness that encapsulates the inherent dependencies between dif-
ferent protocols and layers. We developed and evaluated a method-
ology for performing concurrent Internet-wide scans across mul-
tiple protocols, comprehensively capturing positive, negative, and
cross-layer responses to our probes. We find that responsive host
populations are highly sensitive to the choice of probe: while ICMP
discovers the highest number of raw IPs, our TCP and UDP mea-
surements exclusively contribute a fifth to the total population of re-
sponsive hosts. Collecting ICMP Error messages for TCP and UDP
scans significantly improves coverage and provides new opportuni-
ties to interpret scan results. At the transport layer, our concurrent
measurements reveal that the majority of hosts exhibit inconsistent
behavior when probed on different ports and that capturing nega-
tive responses significantly improves scanning completeness. Our
study of cross-protocol liveness shows that, while responsiveness
for protocols is correlated, using the result of one scan to bootstrap
another should be taken with care, since every probe type intro-
duces an individual bias.
In the future, we plan to deepen our understanding of active scan-
ning in multiple dimensions, looking at: (i) liveness at the appli-
cation layer, (ii) how liveness varies over time and IP space, and
(iii) the multivariate probability distributions of transport layer live-
ness, and exploring using existing results and their correlations to
reduce scan traffic.
Acknowledgments
Shehar Bano was supported by The EU H2020 DECODE project
under grant agreement number 732546 and in part by EPSRC Grant
EP/N028104/1 ‘Glass Houses’. Steven J. Murdoch and Shehar
Bano (for part of this work) were supported by The Royal Society
[grant number UF110392]; Engineering and Physical Sciences Re-
search Council [grant number EP/L003406/1]. Philipp Richter was
supported by the MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative, William
and Flora Hewlett Foundation grant 2014-1601. Richard Mortier
was supported by grant EPSRC EP/K031724/2. Vern Paxson
was supported by NSF grants CNS-1237265 and CNS-1518921.
Thanks to Jonathan Spring for his valuable feedback. Thanks to
the SysAdmins at University College London, especially John An-
drews, for their support.
Source code and data release
The source code of our modifications to ZMap, scripts to run
block-wise scans, and analysis can be found at https://github.
com/sheharbano/scan_liveness (and also https://doi.org/10.5281/
zenodo.1209947). Data created during this research is available
at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1068899.
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... The state of active scanning research was pushed forward significantly by ZMap [27], which allows researchers to scan the entire IPv4 address space in less than an hour. Several works have since used the tool to investigate the deployment of different protocols and applications in the Internet, e.g., liveness [28], TCP initial window [29], and QUIC [30]. Others have looked into passive data traces for a different viewpoint on deployment measurements. ...
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