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What Is VLAN Hopping?

VLAN hopping is used by hackers to gain access to computer networks.
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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 March 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Hackers use a variety of means to enter computer systems and networks. Virtual local area network (VLAN) hopping allows hackers to get past network security. There are a couple of methods for VLAN hopping used to access data, introduce viruses, and acquire personal information and passwords. Both involve sending batches of data called packets to a port, or software-defined access point into the virtual network. Creating a false switch or tricking the switch into receiving and sending data are the two computer security exploit methods used by hackers.

Network VLAN hopping is sometimes accomplished when a hacker creates a program that acts like a switch. By emulating the proper signal and protocol, the switch can be entered and essentially opened. This gives the hacker unlimited access to the VLANs accessible through that particular port.

Access to the network is also possible by sending data frames to two different switches. The receiving switch is set to be open to incoming data, and then forwards these data to another destination. Hackers can undo any security measure in place on devices that map the VLANs in the network. No matter which method they use, full access to computer data is possible, which intruders can delete, change, or corrupt on any connected device. Passwords and bank account information can also be accessed and viruses, malware, and spyware can be passed on.

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Intrusion into virtual networks is one of the most significant methods of compromising computer network security. The switches in a VLAN are usually set to find a channel to send and receive data, called trunking. Automatic trunking can be turned off to protect network from VLAN hopping. Network administrators and users should also follow VLAN security protocols issued by the companies that supply the switches. The default VLAN is the most vulnerable, so using a different virtual network can often make it harder for hackers to break in.

Network security can be assessed by utilizing VLAN hopping tools. Mausezahn is a program that allows data packets to be sent in large quantities across the network. Able to generate network traffic, it can test how secure firewalls are. The software can also measure how the network functions in response to different types and volumes of traffic. Users of the software can even intentionally violate network rules in order to find any vulnerabilities or bugs; this way, problems can be corrected before hackers attempt VLAN hopping or other attack methods.

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