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1m_tcp_syn_queue_cookies

1m_tcp_syn_queue_cookies

OS: Linux

This alert presents the average number of sent SYN cookies due to the full TCP SYN queue over the
sixty seconds. Receiving this means that the incoming traffic is excessive. SYN queue cookies are
used to resist any potential SYN flood attacks.

  • This alert is raised to warning when the average exceeds 1.
  • When the metric exceeds an average of 5 sent SYN cookies in sixty seconds it will enter critical state.
SYN Queue Cookies

The SYN Queue stores inbound SYN packets (specifically: struct inet_request_sock). It is
responsible for sending out SYN+ACK packets and retrying them on timeout.
After transmitting the SYN+ACK, the SYN Queue waits for an ACK packet from the client - the last
packet in the three-way-handshake. All received ACK packets must first be matched against the
fully established connection table, and only then against data in the relevant SYN Queue. On
SYN Queue match, the kernel removes the item from the SYN Queue, successfully creates a full
connection (specifically: struct inet_sock), and adds it to the Accept Queue. 1


This alert likely indicates a SYN flood.

A SYN flood is a form of denial-of-service attack in which an attacker rapidly initiates a
connection to a server without finalizing the connection. The server has to spend resources
waiting for half-opened connections, which can consume enough resources to make the system
unresponsive to legitimate traffic. 2


SYN Cookies

SYN cookies are a technique used to resist IP address spoofing attacks. The technique’s primary
inventor, Daniel J. Bernstein, defines SYN cookies as “particular choices of initial TCP sequence
numbers by TCP servers.” In particular, the use of SYN cookies allows a server to avoid dropping
connections when the SYN queue fills up. Instead of storing additional connections, a SYN queue
entry is encoded into the sequence number sent in the SYN+ACK response. If the server then
receives a subsequent ACK response from the client with the incremented sequence number, then the
server is able to reconstruct the SYN queue entry using information encoded in the TCP
sequence number and proceed as usual with the connection. 3


References and sources
  1. SYN packet handling
  2. SYN Floods
  3. SYN Cookies
  4. ip-sysctl.txt
  5. Transmission Control Protocol

Troubleshooting Section

If the traffic is legitimate, then increase the limit of the SYN queue.

If you can determine that the traffic is legitimate, consider expanding the limit of the SYN
queue through configuration;
(If the traffic is not legitimate, then this is not safe! You will expose more resources to an attacker if the traffic is not legitimate.)

  1. Open the /etc/sysctl.conf file and look for the entry “net.core.somaxconn”. This value will
    affect both SYN and accept queue limits on newer Linux systems.
  2. Set the value accordingly (By default it is set to 128) net.core.somaxconn=128 (if the value
    doesn’t exist, append it to the file)
  3. Save your changes and run;
    root@netdata~ #sysctl -p 
    
    to apply the changes.

Note: Netdata strongly suggests knowing exactly what you are configuring before making system
changes.