Prototype security software blocks DDoS attacks

Security researchers show lightweight, host-based access-control scheme that dumps attack packets without overwhelming memory, CPU

Researchers have come up with host-based security software that blocks distributed denial-of-service attacks without swamping the memory and CPU of the host machines.The filtering, called identity-based privacy-protected access control (IPCAF), can also prevent session hijacking, dictionary attacks and man-in-the-middle attacks, say researchers at Auburn University in their paper, "Modeling and simulations for Identity-Based Privacy-Protected Access Control Filter (IPCAF) capability to resist massive denial of service attacks."

This new method is suggested as a replacement for IP-address filtering, which is sometimes used to block DDoS attacks but is problematic because IP addresses can be spoofed, says Chwan-Hwa "John" Wu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Auburn and lead author of the paper.

The method also greatly reduces the resources attacked machines have to expend in order to figure out whether requests are legitimate, he says.

Under IPCAF authorized users and the servers they try to reach receive a one-time user ID and password to authenticate to each other. After that they cooperate to generate pseudo IDs and packet-field values for each successive packet so packets get authenticated one at a time.

The receiving machines simply check the field value in each packet in order to decide whether to reject it. Only after the filter value checks out are more memory and CPU resources allocated to further process the packets, Wu says.

DDoS attacks can cripple access servers and disable resources needed by legitimate users, resulting in recent high-profile outages at Twitter and Bitbuket.

The major challenge to attacked machines is that they must commit memory and CPU resources to figuring out whether requests are legitimate. Separate appliances can sort out bad packets and proxy legitimate ones to the attacked machines, but that requires capital outlay for the devices and ongoing maintenance and management, he says.

By contrast, IPCAF runs on servers and client machines and does its work with negligible impact on performance of the machines involved, he says. For instance, the CPU on a machine running IPCAF and processing legitimate requests during testing was 10.21 per cent. That rose to 11.78 per cent when the same machine was under attack, Wu says.

He says machines using Pentium-class processors can filter packets in 6 nanosec using IPCAF, whereas the same machines would take a few milliseconds to make the same decision using public key infrastructure. That's about a million times slower with PKI. The significance is that the machines can get attack packets out of the way quickly before they start backing up and degrading response times to the point that users notice, Wu says.

To conserve processing power, IPCAF employs a lightweight hashing method -- hash-based message authentication code (HMAC) -- to generate the filter value it will use to authenticate each successive packet.

He says during lab tests, when a 10Gbps link to a server was filled with legitimate traffic and then with attack packets, network latency increased by 30 nanosec. "For humans, there is no difference," he says. Users don't sense the attack is underway, he says, and it remains possible for network security teams to trace the command and control center behind attacks.

Wu says the goal of the research is to create a commercial version of the software for use in business networks, but was uncertain when that might happen. He and his colleagues are still working on how their software might trace the source of attacks.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags ddos

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Greene

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?