How Vodafone Greece degrades my Internet experience

The title may sound a bit pompous, but please read on and you’ll see how certain decisions can cripple, or totally disrupt modern Internet services and communications as these are offered(?) by Vodafone’s mobile Internet solutions.

== The situation ==
I’ve bought a mobile Internet package from Vodafone Greece in order to be able to have 3G access in places where I don’t have access to wifi or ethernet. I am also using a local caching resolver on my laptop (Debian Linux), running unbound software, to both speed up my connections and to have mandatory DNSSEC validation for all my queries. Many of you might ask why do I need DNSSEC validation of all my queries since only very few domains are currently using DNSSEC, well I don’t have a reply that applies to everyone, let’s just say for now that I like to experiment with new things. After all, this is the only way to learn new things, experiment with them. Let’s not forget though that many TLDs are now signed, so there are definitely a few records to play with. Mandatory DNSSEC validation has led me in the past to identify and investigate a couple other problems, mostly having to do with broken DNSSEC records of various domains and more importantly dig deeper into IPv6 and fragmentation issues of various networks. This last topic is so big that it needs a blog post, or even a series of posts, of it’s own. It’s my job after all to find and solve problems, that’s what system or network administrators do (or should do).

== My setup ==
When you connect your 3G dongle with Vodafone Greece, they sent you 2 DNS servers (two out of,, through ipcp (ppp). In my setup though, I discard them and I just keep “nameserver” in my /etc/resolv.conf in order to use my local unbound. In unbound’s configuration I have set up 2 forwarders for my queries, actually when I know I am inside an IPv6 network I use 4 addresses, 2 IPv4 and 2 IPv6 for the same 2 forwarders. These forwarders are hosted where I work (GRNET NOC) and I have also set them up to do mandatory DNSSEC validation themselves.
So my local resolver, which does DNSSEC validation, is contacting 2 other servers who also do DNSSEC validation. My queries carry the DNS protocol flag that asks for DNSSEC validation and I expect them to validate every response possible.

As you can see in the following screenshot, here’s what happens when I want to visit a website. I ask my local caching resolver, and that resolver asks one of it’s forwarders adding the necessary DNSSEC flags in the query.
The response might have the “ad” (authenticated) DNSSEC flag, depending whether the domain I’m visiting is DNSSEC signed or not.

[Screenshot of DNS queries]

== The problem ==
What I noticed was that using this setup, I couldn’t visit any sites at all when I connected with my 3G dongle on Vodafone’s network. When I changed my /etc/resolv.conf to use Vodafone’s DNS servers directly, everything seemed work as normal, at least for browsing. But then I tried to query for DNSSEC related information on various domains manually using dig, Vodafone’s resolvers never sent me back any DNSSEC related information. Well actually they never sent me back any packet at all when I asked them for DNSSEC data.

Here’s an example of what happens with and without asking for DNSSEC data. The first query is without requesting DNSSEC information and I get a normal reply, but upon asking for the extra DNSSEC data, I get nothing back.
[Screenshot of +dnssec query through Vodafone’s servers]

== Experimentation ==
Obviously changing my forwarders configuration in unbound to the Vodafone DNS servers did not work because Vodafone’s DNS servers never send me back any DNSSEC information at all. Since my unbound is trying to do DNSSEC validation of everything, obviously including the root (.) zone, I need to get back packets that contain these records. Else everything fails. I could get unbound working with my previous forwarders or with Vodafone’s servers as forwarders, only by disabling the DNSSEC validation, that is commenting out the auto-trust-anchor-file option.

Then I started doing tests on my original forwarders that I had in my configuration (and are managed by me). I could see that my query packets arrived at the server and the server always sent back the proper replies. But whenever the reply contained DNSSEC data, that packet was not forwarded to my computer through Vodafone’s 3G network.

More tests were to follow and obviously my first choice were Google’s public resolvers, and Surprise, surprise! I could get any DNSSEC related information I wanted. The exact same result I got upon testing with OpenDNS resolvers, and From a list of “fairly known” public DNS servers that I found here, only ScrubIT servers seems to be currently blocked by Vodafone Greece. Comodo DNS, Norton DNS, and public Verizon DNS all work flawlessly.

My last step was to try and get DNSSEC data over tcp instead of udp packets. Surprise, surprise again, well not at all any more… I could get back responses containing the DNSSEC information I wanted.

== Conclusion ==
Vodafone Greece for some strange reason (I have a few ideas, starting with…disabling skype) seems to “dislike” large UDP responses, among which are obviously DNS replies carrying DNSSEC information. These responses can sometimes be even bigger than 1500bytes. My guess is that in order to minimize hassle for their telephone support, they have whitelisted a bunch of “known” DNS servers. Obviously the thought of breaking DNSSEC and every DNSSEC signed domain for their customers hasn’t crossed their minds yet. What I don’t understand though is why their own DNS servers are not whitelisted. Since they trust other organizations’ servers to send big udp packets, why don’t they allow DNSSEC from their own servers? Misconfiguration? Ignorance? On purpose?

The same behavior can (sometimes -> further investigation needed here) be seen while trying to use OpenVPN over udp. Over tcp with the same servers, everything works fine. That reminds me I really need to test ocserv soon…

== Solution ==
I won’t even try to contact Vodafone’s support and try to convince their telephone helpdesk to connect me to one of their network/infrastructure engineers. I think that would be completely futile. If any of you readers though, know anyone working at Vodafone Greece in _any_ technical department, please send them a link to this blog post. You will do a huge favor to all Vodafone Greece mobile Internet users and to the Internet itself.

The Internet is not just for HTTP stuff, many of us use it in various other ways. It is unacceptable for any ISP to block, disrupt, interrupt or get in the middle of such communications.
Each one of us users should be able to use DNSSEC without having to send all our queries to Google, OpenDNS or any other information harvesting organization.

== Downloads ==
I’m uploading some pcaps here for anyone who wants to take a look. Use wireshark/tcpdump to read them.

A. tcpdump querying for a non-DNSSEC signed domain over 3G. One query without asking for DNSSEC and two queries asking for DNSSEC, all queries go to DNS server All queries arrived back. The tcpdump was created on

B. tcpdump querying for a DNSSEC signed domain over 3G. One query without asking for DNSSEC and three queries asking for DNSSEC, all queries go to DNS server The last three queries never arrived back at my computer. The tcpdump was created on

C. tcpdump querying for a DNSSEC signed domain over 3G. One query without asking for DNSSEC and another one asking for DNSSEC, all queries go to DNS Server All queries arrived back. The tcpdump was created on my computer using the PPP interface.

Review of the first Athens CryptoParty

On Sunday the 11th of November we finally had our first CryptoParty in Athens, Greece. We hosted it at the Athens Hackerspace.

We organized our first CryptoParty in a very ad-hoc way. A pad was set up and advertised on Twitter/Facebook. Almost immediately people started writing their thoughts, views and interests there. We soon had a list of topics that people were interested in and another list of people willing to give presentations/workshops. Later on we set up a doodle so people would choose the most convenient dates for them. From the group of 50 people that originally expressed their interest to attend the CryptoParty, at least 20 voted on the doodle. That’s how the final date of November the 11th was chosen.

It was surprising/refreshing that even though everything was organized through an anonymously editable pad, nobody tried to vandalize it.

The actual event
Through the pad, we chose 3 topics for the first meeting. “Using SSL/TLS for your Internet communications”, an “introduction to Tor” and another “introduction to I2P”.
The time for the event was set for 12:00 in the morning, probably a very bad choice. The next one should definitely be later in the afternoon or even night. We learn by our mistakes though…People started showing up at around 11:30, but the event didn’t start until 12:30 when someone from gave a 5′ intro talk about what the hackerspace is to people who had never been there before. People kept coming even until 13:00 and the audience had grown to more than 30 people.
After the three workshops/presentations around 10-15 people stayed and we ordered pizza.

All in all I’d say it was fairly successful since more than 30 people came and actually did things to improve their security.

The presentations/workshops
Using SSL/TLS for your Internet communications” (in English) was my effort to show people how cleartext data travels through the Internet and how any intermediate “bad guy”/LEA can easily read or manipulate your data. People were instructed to install wireshark so they could actually see for themselves what the actual problem is. It was very “nice” to see their surprise upon watching cleartext packets flowing through their network cards. It was even nicer to see their surprise when I used tcpdump on hackerspace’s router to redirect traffic to wireshark running on a Debian laptop to display their data, without having “direct” access to their computer. Then people were introduced to the idea of Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS), and how HTTPS protects their web data from prying eyes. After this tiny “privacy apocalypse” it was very easy to convince users to install HTTPS-Everywhere. And so they did. Afterwards they got instructions on how they should change SSL/TLS settings for their E-email and IM clients.
My original intention was to “scare” people a bit. It was funny to see their faces when they logged in to yahoo mail and they could see their emails cleartext on wireshark. People don’t understand how data travels through the Internet unless they experience it for themselves. I’m glad that people who had absolutely no idea about HTTPS are now using HTTPS-Everywhere to protect themselves. Hopefully they’ll show that to their friends as well.

Introduction to Tor” (in Greek) gave people an idea at what anonymity is, how it differs from security and how users should be combining both TLS and Tor usage for security and anonymity at the same time. A brief explanation of what hidden services are was given as well. Even though George asked people to download and install Tor Browser Bundle and use it, we’ll definitely need more “hands on” Tor workshops in the future. It will be interesting to convince more people to actually use it and why not, even set up their own hidden services.

Invisible Internet Project a.k.a. I2P” (in English) by @alafroiskiotos was probably the hardest of the three presentations to keep up for people that had no previous idea about anonymity networks. It’s unique architecture and some difficulties in it’s usage raised a lot of interesting questions by attendees.

Thoughts on future CryptoParties
After the end of the workshops/presentations we had a lengthy discussion with the attendees as to what they would like to see/experience in the future CryptoParties. Unfortunately people were not very vocal. Very few participated and openly expressed their thoughts/opinions. A great part of the discussion was spent trying to figure out whom should CryptoParty presentations/workshops target at, users? developers? geeks? It’s obviously very hard to target all groups of people at the same time.

So here are my thoughts on what future CryptoParties should be. CryptoParties should be about changing user habits, they should be closer to workshops than presentations. They should be focused mainly on users not developers nor computer science students. Just simple users. People don’t want theoretical talks about cryptography, they need advice they can use in their daily lives. It’s already very hard to talk about modern crypto to people who haven’t got a strong mathematical background, you have to oversimplify things. Oversimplifying things then makes geeks/nerds unhappy and still doesn’t “teach” people about proper crypto. Even a fairly “simple” HTTPS negotiation contains key crypto concepts that are very difficult for a “crypto-newbie” to grasp. So it’s a lose-lose situation.

We need to teach, or better convince, users on using good, secure, audited tools and not just tell them about technologies and concepts. We, weirdos, might like that, but most users don’t. People need our help to learn how to avoid “fancy” tools and false security prophets. We need to show them how security should be applied in a layered approach. Getting people to care about their own privacy is key to the success of CryptoParties in the way I see them. To achieve that, we, people that know a few things more than the average Joe, should all become volunteers to such efforts. We should be joining CryptoParties in order to help others and not in order to improve ourselves and our knowledge. (Actually when you study in order to make a good workshop/presentation you improve your own knowledge as well, but let’s leave that beside for now.) We can have our separate geeky/nerdy events to present fancy tech and cool crypto stuff, but let’s keep CryptoParties simple and practical. Oh and we’ll need to repeat things again and again and again. That’s the only way people might change their habits.

If you want to find out more about the next Athens CryptoParty keep an eye at Hackerspace’s events and the athens cryptoparty pad. Join us!

Good luck to all the CryptoParties worldwide!

Fosswar 2011 – How we did it

As said in my previous post about Fosscomm 2011, during the conference there was a wargame consisting of 5 challenges. We played in a team consisting mainly of the following members: manji/manjiki, trelo_mpifteki, mickflemm and me. Along with us was maisk mainly acting as our manager (!!) shouting at us when we did something he did not like. He was of course a great help (sometimes :P).

Few words about the team
As most people who regularly read this blog already know, I consider myself a sysadmin even though I currently work at a company that produces Linux based xDSL routers where I do most of the things required about networking and system interaction like QoS, VoIP, IPv6, firewall, etc. My coding is confined among the realms of scripting languages. Manji is also a sysadmin who has lately started to mess with VoIP. Trelo_mpifteki is mostly a java developer and so is maisk. mickflemm is a coder and a very good one, frequently messing with Linux kernel’s wireless driver support. Obviously, we are certainly not the typical wargame players…

The challenges
Be sure to download the challenges from:

As soon as the wargame was on we split the challenges among us. Since mickflemm was the only coder he started to mess with challenge number 5 (reverse engineering). Me and trelo_mpifteki started to look at challenge number 1 (networking) while manji started poking at challenge number 3 (networking).

Challenge 1:
Type: Networking
Players: kargig, trelo_mpifteki
The first challenge said just this:

Connect to the elite port and find the secret message.

Everyone knows that elite = 31337
So we just did a nc X.Y.Z.W 31337 (where X.Y.Z.W is the IP address of the server) and the following message appeared:

IP protocol = 1
id = 1337
seq = 0xCAFE
orig = 0xDEAD

As it is easily understood one must create a packet, the problem is what kind of packet. And then was when I did a huge mistake stalling my team for more than 10 mins by insisting that Protocol 1 is IP. So we started trying to create an IP packet using scapy. Obviously we hit lots of problems because IP’s header clearly misses most of the above options, especially timestamp. Our next idea was to create a TCP packet in order to embed some of the options. This also lead to a dead end. The I looked again at my /etc/protocols file and I saw that Protocol 1 is ICMP. Timestamp is type 13, code 0 and the rest are just options. So our solution was this:

>>> packet_2= IP(dst='X.Y.Z.W')/ICMP(type=13, id=1337, seq=0xcafe, ts_ori=0xdead)
>>> send(packet_2)

Using Wireshark we captured the response packet which looked like this (this setup is on my box atm):

One can see the message: feedadeadface in it.

If you need to compile listenicmp.c yourself you have to do something like this:

 # aptitude install libpcap-dev
# gcc -o listenicmp listenicmp.c -lpcap

Challenge 2:
Type: Steganography
Players: kargig,trelo_mpifteki,maisk
For this challenge the organizers gave us a hint what we needed to find was close to the end of the image.jpg and after “BAADF00D”.

# hd image.jpg | tail -n 4
000152a0  d4 4d 77 22 b9 9a 68 ba  ad f0 0d 78 9c 0b c9 c8  |.Mw"..h....x....|
000152b0  2c 56 00 a2 44 85 e2 d4  e4 a2 d4 12 85 dc d4 e2  |,V..D...........|
000152c0  e2 c4 f4 54 3d 00 72 da  08 ef                    |...T=.r...|

so we found “ba ad f0 0d” and the next characters were “78 9c”. We googled those and came up with the result that it was the magic of zlib compression. So what we had to do was get the rest of the file after “ba ad f0 0d” and then uncompress that. To get the rest of the file we found the size of the file and subtracted the bytes (31) that were of interest to us:

# du -b image.jpg
86730  image.jpg
# split -b 86699 image.jpg koko
# mv kokoab final

Then we run python to decompress “final” file.

>>> import zlib
>>> ourfile=file('final')
>>> ourfile
<open file 'final', mode 'r' at 0xb7473020>
>>> chunk
>>> zlib.decompress(chunk)
'This is a secret message.'

Challenge 3:
Type: Networking
Players: manji,maisk,kargig

While me and trelo_mpifteki were trying to solve challenges 1 and 2, manji was looking into challenge 3 pcap file for weird things. Once again we were given a hint that we needed to look at strange headers. Finding strange headers in a 800+ kb pcap file is not an easy task though. At a point manji was looking for very big sequence numbers…and then we got another hint, that we shouldn’t look at those big numbers at all. When me and trelo_mpifteki finished the other two challenges we started looking at Wireshark.
We applied the following filter:
( == && ((tcp.seq == 0) || (tcp.seq ==1))
And the we had the following results in front of us:

Since we knew that the message was sent to “” we needed to look at packets originating from “”. The first thing I noticed were packets with strange TTLs, they were going up and I made a guess that the secret message could be hidden there. Transforming those TTL values to ASCII was a dead end. Then we started to look closer at every packet that sent to and we grouped them by destination port. There was clearly something going on with destination port 58900. A careful eye will also notice that packets towards port 58900 don’t have an MSS set while others mostly do. So, we expanded our filter with packets that also had destination port 58900:
(( == && ((tcp.seq == 0) || (tcp.seq ==1))) && (tcp.dstport == 58900)
and came up with this:

If you look closely at the selected packet from Wireshark, you’ll see that the sequence number while set to 0 (zero) contains the letter ‘r’ inside it. The next packet contained the letter ‘o’ and the next one the letter ‘t’. Writing all these letters down we had this sequence:



That was a rot13 encrypted message! with google’s help we found a rot13 decryptor. The decrypted message was:

That’s it! we had 3 out of 5 while no other team had more than 2. So we had wooooon! Congrats to everyone on our team!