Mitigation of inter-domain Policy Violations at Internet eXchange Points

University essay from KTH/Network Systems Laboratory (NS Lab)

Abstract: Economic incentives and the need to efficiently deliver Internet have led to the growth of Internet eXchange Points (IXPs), i.e., the interconnection networks through which a multitude of possibly competing network entities connect to each other with the goal of exchanging traffic. At IXPs, the exchange of traffic between two or more member networks is dictated by the Border gateway Protocol (BGP), i.e., the inter-domain routing protocol used by network operators to exchange reachability information about IP prefix destinations. There is a common “honest-closed-world” assumption at IXPs that two IXP members exchange data traffic only if they have exchanged the corresponding reachability information via BGP. This state of affairs severely hinders security as any IXP member can send traffic to another member without having received a route from that member. Filtering traffic according to BGP routes would solve the problem. However, IXP members can install filters but the number of filtering rules required at a large IXP can easily exceed the capacity of the network devices. In addition, an IXP cannot filter this type of traffic as the exchanged BGP routes between two members are not visible to the IXP itself. In this thesis, we evaluated the design space between reactive and proactive approaches for guaranteeing consistency between the BGP control-plane and the data-plane. In a reactive approach, an IXP member operator monitors, collects, and analyzes the incoming traffic to detect if any illegitimate traffic exists whereas, in a proactive approach, an operator configures its network devices to filter any illegitimate traffic without the need to perform any monitoring. We focused on proactive approaches because of the increased security of the IXP network and its inherent simplified network management. We designed and implemented a solution to this problem by leveraging the emerging Software Defined Networking (SDN) paradigm, which enables the programmability of the forwarding tables by separating the control- and data-planes. Our approach only installs rules in the data-plane that allow legitimate traffic to be forwarded, dropping anything else. As hardware switches have high performance but low memory space, we decided to make also use of software switches.  A “heavy-hitter” module detects the forwarding rules carrying most of the traffic and installs them into the hardware switch. The remaining forwarding rules are installed into the software switches. We evaluated the prototype in an emulated testbed using the Mininet virtual network environment. We analyzed the security of our system with the help of static verification tests, which confirmed compliance with security policies. The results reveal that with even just 10% of the rules installed in the hardware switch, the hardware switch directly filterss 95% of the traffic volume with non-uniform Internet-like traffic distribution workloads. We also evaluated the latency and throughput overheads of the system, though the results are limited by the accuracy of the emulated environment. The scalability experiments show that, with 10K forwarding rules, the system takes around 40 seconds to install and update the data plane. This is due to inherent slowness of the emulated environment and limitations of the POX controller, which is coded in Python.

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