Total Eclipse of the Heart – Disrupting the InterPlanetary File System

Authors: 

Bernd Prünster, Institute of Applied Information Processing and Communications (IAIK), Graz University of Technology; Alexander Marsalek, A-SIT Secure Information Technology Center Austria; Thomas Zefferer, A-SIT Plus GmbH

Abstract: 

Peer-to-peer networks are an attractive alternative to classical client-server architectures in several fields of application such as voice-over-IP telephony and file sharing. Recently, a new peer-to-peer solution called the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) has attracted attention, with its promise of re-decentralising the Web. Being increasingly used as a stand-alone application, IPFS has also emerged as the technical backbone of various other decentralised solutions and was even used to evade censorship. Decentralised applications serving millions of users rely on IPFS as one of their crucial building blocks. This popularity also makes IPFS attractive for large-scale attacks. We have identified a conceptual issue in one of IPFS's core libraries and demonstrate its exploitation by means of a successful end-to-end attack. We evaluated this attack against the IPFS reference implementation on the public IPFS network, which is used by the average user to share and consume IPFS content. The results obtained from mounting this attack on live IPFS nodes show that arbitrary IPFS nodes can be eclipsed, i.e. isolated from the network, with moderate effort and limited resources. Compared to similar works, we show that our attack scales well even beyond current network sizes and can disrupt the entire public IPFS network with alarmingly low effort. The vulnerability set described in this paper has been assigned CVE-2020-10937. Responsible disclosure procedures have led to mitigations being deployed. The issues presented in this paper were publicly disclosed together with Protocol Labs, the company coordinating the IPFS development in October 2020.

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BibTeX
@inproceedings {277164,
author = {Bernd Pr{\"u}nster and Alexander Marsalek and Thomas Zefferer},
title = {Total Eclipse of the Heart {\textendash} Disrupting the {InterPlanetary} File System},
booktitle = {31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-31-1},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {3735--3752},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity22/presentation/prunster},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,
}

Presentation Video