For some time now, I’ve been graphing all unsolicited network traffic destined for my network. For instance, it’s quite useful for detecting slow scans, which will show up as the diagonally aligned green scatter points in this plot (click to zoom):

Slow portscan, from high ports to low ports.

Other scans and probes often happen faster, when the attacker isn’t much concerned about being detected. These will appear in the plot as a lot of vertically aligned scatter points. In the plot shown below, the attackers have scanned a limited set of ports for about 30 minutes.

A fast portscan will appear as a vertical line.

Backfire time

After writing a previous blog article about the plots as well as discussing the setup with my colleagues, and even showing what can happen with such a feature, there was really no reason to act surprised when weird patterns started to appear in the firewall plots.

The first synchronized portscan resulted in a chicken. Because of the logarithmic scale of the plot, the attacksdrawings will have higher precision when aiming for the high ports.

No egg, though. Now we know for sure

Then after a few weeks of just the normal hostile activity and a few not-so-successful creative port scans, a very well defined ant suddenly appeared.

Time for some debugging.

In the firewall plot, TCP connections will be plotted as green and UDP connections will be plotted as light blue. After a few poorly disguised questions regarding whether I was plotting other protocols and, if so, which colors they would be, it became evident that some new plan was being hatched. And, lo and behold:

So this is what ghosts in the machine look like.

After these creative scannings took place, I implemented support for graphing rejected/blocked IPv6 activity in other colours: IPv6/TCP in red and IPv6/UDP in white. Practical use aside, my feeling that a colleague would take up this as a challenge was correct:

Xmas tree fireplot
Exploit in 4 colours