An Edge-to-Edge Filtering Architecture Against DoS

By: 
Felipe Huici and Mark Handley
Appears in: 
CCR April 2007

Defending against large, distributed Denial-of-Service attacks is challenging, with large changes to the network core or to end-hosts often suggested. To make matters worse, spoofing adds to the difficulty, since defenses must resist attempts to trigger filtering of other people’s traffic. Further, any solution has to provide incentives for deployment, or it will never see the light of day. We present a simple and effective architectural defense against distributed DoS attacks that requires no changes to the end-hosts, minimal changes to the network core, is robust to spoofing, provides incentives for initial deployment, and can be built with off-the-shelf hardware.

Public Review By: 
Ernst Biersack

Defense against DoS attacks is definitely an important practical problem given the fact that potential attackers may control botnets with hundreds of thousands of machines. This paper adopts the approach of marking IP traffic close at the source, which then gets encapsulated and tunneled to a decapsulator near the destination. A server under attack can ask the decapsulator to suppress certain traffic destined to that server:
In this case, the decapsulator determines the “entry point” encapsulator from which the unwanted traffic is coming and asks the encapsulator to filter the unwanted traffic. This approach has the advantage that the en- and decapsulation boxes are deployed at the edge of the network, not requiring any changes to the core network. The paper presents performance results showing that off-the-shelf HW is sufficient to perform en-/decapsulation at a speed of hundreds of Mbit/sec, which means that requiring packet rewrites (at least at the edge) is not a show-stopper any more.
However, efficient en-/decapsulation is only one piece of a successful DoS defense system. Such a system also critically relies on securely establishing the decapsulator-to-destination mapping and on the filtering mechanism to work reliably. Getting these functions deployed in a robust, large-scale fashion seems to be a major hurdle that limits the chances for this approach to get widely deployed. There exists already made a number of proposals for DoS defense systems as well as some commercial systems that have been successfully deployed. As the reviewers observed, this paper does not clearly state why the approach proposed is superior other DoS defense systems. Dismissing commercial systems on the basis they require "special boxes" does not convince given the fact that the solution proposed here requires the deployment of en-/decapsulator boxes.