BGP MiTM and Routing security

BGP speakers themselves can inject bogus routing information, either by masquerading as any other legitimate BGP speaker, or by distributing unauthorized routing information as themselves. Historically, misconfigured and faulty routers have been responsible for widespread disruptions in the Internet. The legitimate BGP peers have the context and information to produce believable, yet bogus, routing information, and therefore have the opportunity to cause great damage. The cryptographic protections of TCPMD5 and operational protections cannot exclude the bogus information arising from a legitimate peer. The risk of disruptions caused by legitimate BGP speakers is real and cannot be ignored.

 Recent BGP MiTM attack


Adversary - An adversary is an entity (e.g., a person or an organization) that is perceived as malicious, relative to the security policy of a system. The decision to characterize an entity as an adversary is made by those responsible for the security of a system. Often, one describes classes of adversaries with similar capabilities or motivations rather than specific individuals or organizations.

Attack - An attack is an action that attempts to violate the security policy of a system, e.g., by exploiting a vulnerability. There is often a many-to-one mapping of attacks to vulnerabilities because many different attacks may be used to exploit a vulnerability.

Autonomous System (AS) - An AS is a set of one or more IP networks operated by a single administrative entity.

AS Number (ASN) - An ASN is a 2- or 4-byte number issued by a registry to identify an AS in BGP.

Certification Authority (CA) - An entity that issues digital certificates (e.g., X.509 certificates) and vouches for the binding between the data items in a certificate.

Countermeasure - A countermeasure is a procedure or technique that thwarts an attack, preventing it from being successful. Often, countermeasures are specific to attacks or classes of attacks.

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) - A path vector protocol used to convey "reachability" information among ASes in support of inter-domain routing.

False (Route) Origination - If a network operator originates a route for a prefix that the operator does not hold (and that has not been authorized to originate by the prefix holder), this is termed false route origination.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) - An organization managing (and typically selling) Internet services to other organizations or individuals.

Internet Number Resources (INRs) - IPv4 or IPv6 address space and ASNs.

Internet Registry - An organization that manages the allocation or distribution of INRs. This encompasses the Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANA), Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), National Internet Registries (NIRs), and Local Internet Registries (LIRs) (network operators).

Man in the Middle (MITM) - A MITM is an entity that is able to examine and modify traffic between two (or more) parties on a communication path.

Network Operator - An entity that manages an AS and thus emits (E)BGP updates, e.g., an ISP.

Network Operations Center (NOC) - A network operator employs a set of equipment and a staff to manage a network, typically on a 24/7 basis. The equipment and staff are often referred to as the NOC for the network.

Prefix - A prefix is an IP address and a mask used to specify a set of addresses that are grouped together for purposes of routing.

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) - A PKI is a collection of hardware, software, people, policies, and procedures used to create, manage, distribute, store, and revoke digital certificates.

Relying Parties (RPs) - An RP is an entity that makes use of signed products from a PKI, i.e., it relies on signed data that is verified using certificates and Certificate Revocation Lists (CRLs) from a PKI.

RPKI Repository System - The RPKI repository system consists of a distributed set of loosely synchronized databases.

Resource PKI (RPKI) - A PKI operated by the entities that manage INRs and that issue X.509 certificates (and CRLs) that attest to the holdings of INRs.

RPKI Signed Object - An RPKI signed object is a data object encapsulated with Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS) that complies with the format and semantics defined in [RFC6488].

Route - In the Internet, a route is a prefix and an associated sequence of ASNs that indicates a path via which traffic destined for the prefix can be directed. (The route includes the origin AS.)

Route Leak A route leak is said to occur when AS-A advertises routes that it has received from AS-B to the neighbors of AS-A, but AS-A is not viewed as a transit provider for the prefixes in the route.

Threat - A threat is a motivated, capable adversary. An adversary that is not motivated to launch an attack is not a threat. An adversary that is motivated but not capable of launching an attack also is not a threat.

Vulnerability - A vulnerability is a flaw or weakness in a system's design, implementation, or operation and management that could be exploited to violate the security policy of a system.

Threat Characterization

Network Operators: A network operator may be a threat. An operator may be motivated to cause BGP routers it controls to emit update messages with inaccurate routing info, e.g., to cause traffic to flow via paths that are economically advantageous for the operator. Such updates might cause traffic to flow via paths that would otherwise be rejected as less advantageous by other network operators. Because an operator controls the BGP routers in its network, it is in a position to modify their operation in arbitrary ways. Routers managed by a network operator are vehicles for mounting MITM attacks on both control and data plane traffic. If an operator participates in the RPKI, it will have at least one CA resource certificate and may be able to generate an arbitrary number of subordinate CA certificates and ROAs. It will be authorized to populate (and may even host) its own repository publication point. If it implements PATHSEC, and if PATHSEC makes use of certificates associated with routers or ASes, it will have the ability to issue such certificates for itself. If PATHSEC digitally signs updates, it will be able to do so in a fashion that will be accepted by PATHSEC-enabled neighbors.

Hackers: Hackers are considered a threat. A hacker might assume control of network management computers and routers controlled by operators, including operators that implement PATHSEC. In such cases, hackers would be able to act as rogue network operators (see above). It is assumed that hackers generally do not have the capability to effect MITM attacks on most links between networks (links used to transmit BGP and subscriber traffic). A hacker might be recruited, without his/her knowledge, by criminals or by nations, to act on their behalf. Hackers may be motivated by a desire for "bragging rights", for profit, or to express support for a cause "hacktivists". We view hackers as possibly distinct from criminals in that the former are presumed to effect attacks only remotely (not via a physical presence associated with a target) and not necessarily for monetary gain. Some hackers may commit criminal acts (depending on the jurisdiction), and thus there is a potential for overlap between this adversary group and criminals.

Criminals: Criminals may be a threat. Criminals might persuade (via threats or extortion) a network operator to act as a rogue operator (see above) and thus be able to effect a wide range of attacks. Criminals might persuade the staff of a telecommunications provider to enable MITM attacks on links between routers. Motivations for criminals may include the ability to extort money from network operators or network operator clients, e.g., by adversely affecting routing for these network operators or their clients. Criminals also may wish to manipulate routing to conceal the sources of spam, DoS attacks, or other criminal activities.

Registries: Any registry in the RPKI could be a threat. Staff at the registry are capable of manipulating repository content or mismanaging the RPKI certificates that they issue. These actions could adversely affect a network operator or a client of a network operator. The staff could be motivated to do this based on political pressure from the nation in which the registry operates (see below) or due to criminal influence (see above).

Nations: A nation may be a threat. A nation may control one or more network operators that operate in the nation, and thus can cause them to act as rogue network operators. A nation may have a technical active wiretapping capability (e.g., within its territory) that enables it to effect MITM attacks on inter-network traffic. (This capability may be facilitated by control or influence over a telecommunications provider operating within the nation.) It may have an ability to attack and take control of routers or management network computers of network operators in other countries. A nation may control a registry (e.g., an RIR) that operates within its territory and might force that registry to act in a rogue capacity. National threat motivations include the desire to control the flow of traffic to/from the nation or to divert traffic destined for other nations (for passive or active wiretapping, including DoS).

Attack Characterization

Attacks are classified based on the target of the attack, an element of the routing system, or the routing security infrastructure on which PATHSEC relies. In general, attacks of interest are ones that attempt to violate the integrity or authenticity of BGP traffic or that violate the authorizations associated with entities participating in the RPKI. Attacks that violate the implied confidentiality of routing traffic, e.g., passive wiretapping attacks, are not considered a requirement for BGP security.