Withdrawing the BGP Re-Routing Curtain: Understanding the Security Impact of BGP Poisoning through Real-World Measurements

Jared M. Smith (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Kyle Birkeland (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Tyler McDaniel (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Max Schuchard (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

The security of the Internet's routing infrastructure has underpinned much of the past two decades of distributed systems security research. However, the converse is increasingly true. Routing and path decisions are now important for the security properties of systems built on top of the Internet. In particular, BGP poisoning leverages the de facto routing protocol between Autonomous Systems (ASes) to maneuver the return paths of upstream networks onto previously unusable, new paths. These new paths can be used to avoid congestion, censors, geo-political boundaries, or any feature of the topology which can be expressed at an AS-level. Given the increase in use of BGP poisoning as a security primitive for security systems, we set out to evaluate the feasibility of poisoning in practice, going beyond simulation.

To that end, using a multi-country and multi-router Internet-scale measurement infrastructure, we capture and analyze over 1,400 instances of BGP poisoning across thousands of ASes as a mechanism to maneuver return paths of traffic. We analyze in detail the performance of steering paths, the graph-theoretic aspects of available paths, and re-evaluate simulated systems with this data. We find that the real-world evidence does not completely support the findings from simulated systems published in the literature. We also analyze filtering of BGP poisoning across types of ASes and ISP working groups. We explore the connectivity concerns when poisoning by reproducing a decade old experiment to uncover the current state of an Internet triple the size. We build predictive models for understanding an ASes vulnerability to poisoning. Finally, an exhaustive measurement of an upper bound on the maximum path length of the Internet is presented, detailing how recent and future security research should react to ASes leveraging poisoning with long paths. In total, our results and analysis attempt to expose the real-world impact of BGP poisoning on past and future security research.