Securing BGP: A Case Study (9)

There are a number of systems that have been proposed to validate (or secure) the path in BGP. To finish off this series on BGP as a case study, I only want to look at three of them. At some point in the future, I will probably write a couple of posts on what actually seems to be making it to some sort of deployment stage, but for now I just want to compare various proposals against the requirements outlined in the last post on this topic (you can find that post here).

The first of these systems is BGPSEC—or as it was known before it was called BGPSEC, S-BGP. I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining how S-BGP works, as I’ve written a series of posts over at Packet Pushers on this very topic:

Part 1: Basic Operation
Part 2: Protections Offered
Part 3: Replays, Timers, and Performance
Part 4: Signatures and Performance
Part 5: Leaks

Considering S-BGP against the requirements:

  • Centralized versus decentralized balance: S-BGP distributes path validation information throughout the internetwork, as this information is actually contained in a new attribute carried with route advertisements. Authorization and authentication are implicitly centralized, however, with the root certificates being held by address allocation authorities. It’s hard to say if this is the correct balance.
  • Cost: In terms of financial costs, S-BGP (or BGPSEC) requires every eBGP speaker to perform complex cryptographic operations in line with receiving updates and calculating the best path to each destination. This effectively means replacing every edge router in every AS in the entire world to deploy the solution—this is definitely not cost friendly. Adding to this cost is the simply increase in the table size required to carry all this information, and the loss of commonly used (and generally effective) optimizations.
  • Information cost: S-BGP leaks new information into the global table as a matter of course—not only can anyone see who is peered with whom by examining information gleaned from route view servers, they can even figure out how many actual pairs of routers connect each AS, and (potentially) what other peerings those same routers serve. This huge new chunk of information about provider topology being revealed simply isn’t acceptable.

Overall, then, BGP-SEC doesn’t meet the requirements as they’ve been outlined in this series of posts. Next week, I’ll spend some time explaining the operation of another potential system, a graph overlay, and then we’ll consider how well it meets the requirements as outlined in these posts.