Editor’s note: For a brush up on BGP, how it works, and its Internet security implications, see our two-part series.
Because of its antiquated design, BGP (border gateway protocol) changes can be the cause of daily Internet outages. As a backbone protocol of the Internet, whether by mistake or by malicious intent, BGP is capable of halting even the largest Internet sites and services. And while a typical BGP change alert includes useful Autonomous System (AS) information, thousands occur every day and lack any detail about the motive behind the initial change. And according to OpenDNS Network Engineering Manager Andree Toonk, the change process in BGP leaves lots of questions unanswered.
During BGP events, Toonk says, customers have many initial questions including: ‘Did this only affect me?’ and ‘Was it targeted?’ But it can be difficult to find answers to these questions as confirming sources are in short supply. Toonk said he wanted to provide a new, real-time source for answers when BGP goes wrong.
Along with a team of OpenDNS engineers and CTO Dan Hubbard, he conceptualized a live stream during a recent hackathon project. Hubbard and Toonk are scheduled to present their work at Blackhat USA 2015 on August 6. Named BGP Stream, the system’s primary function initially will be to post live updates about outages, potential hijacks, and leaks to a Twitter account (@bgpstream).
According to Toonk, an important component to the project was creating a stream of live updates that can help cut out all the noise, since daily changes to BGP measure in the thousands. To help networking professionals and ISPs decide what outages or alerts are important, BGP Stream will use correlating indicators to qualify which events are larger and more important.
“The big challenge is to figure out if [a change] is normal or not,” Toonk said. “Sometimes a new ASN will pop up and look like a hijack, but it could be normal behavior for an organization that has multiple ASNs.” Analyzing correlating info like whether the ASNs involved are from the same country, or if there is a historical relation between the two, weighed against many other factors, can give good indication to a routing update’s legitimacy.
Follow @bgpstream on Twitter for updates, and if you are attending Blackhat USA 2015, be sure to attend Hubbard and Toonk’s session on BGP Stream.