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Issue No. 06 - Nov.-Dec. (2012 vol. 9)
ISSN: 1545-5971
pp: 798-810
Danai Chasaki , University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Tilman Wolf , University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Security issues in computer networks have focused on attacks on end systems and the control plane. An entirely new class of emerging network attacks aims at the data plane of the network. Data plane forwarding in network routers has traditionally been implemented with custom-logic hardware, but recent router designs increasingly use software-programmable network processors for packet forwarding. These general-purpose processing devices exhibit software vulnerabilities and are susceptible to attacks. We demonstrate—to our knowledge the first—practical attack that exploits a vulnerability in packet processing software to launch a devastating denial-of-service attack from within the network infrastructure. This attack uses only a single attack packet to consume the full link bandwidth of the router's outgoing link. We also present a hardware-based defense mechanism that can detect situations where malicious packets try to change the operation of the network processor. Using a hardware monitor, our NetFPGA-based prototype system checks every instruction executed by the network processor and can detect deviations from correct processing within four clock cycles. A recovery system can restore the network processor to a safe state within six cycles. This high-speed detection and recovery system can ensure that network processors can be protected effectively and efficiently from this new class of attacks.
Program processors, Routing protocols, Computer crime, Internet, Network security, Embedded systems, embedded system security, Network security, network attack, programmable router, network processor, processing monitor

T. Wolf and D. Chasaki, "Attacks and Defenses in the Data Plane of Networks," in IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing, vol. 9, no. , pp. 798-810, 2012.
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