Tag Archives: NTP Pool Project

Counting NTP Clients

Wherever you’re running an NTP server: It is really interesting to see how many clients are using it. Either at home, in your company or worldwide at the NTP Pool Project. The problem is that ntp itself does not give you this answer of how many clients it serves. There are the “monstats” and “mrulist” queries but they are not reliable at all since they are not made for this. Hence I had to take another path in order to count NTP clients for my stratum 1 NTP servers. Let’s dig in:

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Why should I run own NTP Servers?

… since we all can use pool.ntp.org ? Easy answer: Many modern (security) techniques rely on accurate time. Certificate validation, two-factor authentication, backup auto-deletion, logs generation, and many more. Meanwhile we use an unauthenticated protocol (via stateless UDP) from unauthenticated sources (NTP pool) to rely on! Really?

TL;DR: If you want to operate a secure environment you should use your own on-site stratum 1 NTP servers along with authentication. This is the only way to eliminate time spoofing attacks from the outside. Don’t reduce your overall security to a stateless and unauthenticated (read: easy-to-spoof) network protocol!

If you are using couple of different NTP sources it might be not that easy for an attacker to spoof your time – though not unfeasible at all. And think about small routers with VPN endpoints and DNSSEC resolving enabled, or IoT devices such as cameras or door openers – they don’t even have a real-time clock with battery inside. They fully rely on NTP.

This is what this blogpost series is all about. Let’s dig into it. ;)

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