Security in Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)

Security in Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)

Suvradip Chakraborty, Bhaskar Sardar
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch682
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Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is a dynamic routing protocol that routes inter domain traffic, connecting Autonomous Systems (AS’s) to form the decentralized backbone of the Internet (Rekhter, et. al., 2006). BGP provides reachability information to the ASs and disseminates external information internally within an AS. With the exponential growth of ASs, BGP has become one of the most critical components of the Internet’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, the limited guarantees provided by BGP sometimes contribute to serious instability and outages. While many routing failures have limited impact and scope, others may lead to significant and widespread damage. Most of the risk to BGP comes from accidental failures, but there is also a significant risk that attackers could disable parts or all of network, disrupting communications, commerce, and possibly putting lives and property in danger. BGP’s mutual trust model involves no explicit presentation of credentials, no propagation of instruments of authority, nor any reliable means of verifying the authenticity of the information being propagated through the routing system. Hostile attackers can attack the network by exploiting this trust model in inter domain routing to meet their own ends (Butler et. al, 2010). For example, on May 2005, an AS falsely claimed to originate Google’s prefix and parts of the internet could not reach Google’s search engine for roughly an hour as traffic was misdirected to the attacking AS. This article focuses on the various kinds of attacks on BGP and studies the solutions both in use and proposed to overcome the security vulnerabilities of BGP and discusses the open research issues. The next section provides background information on inter-domain routing and BGP. Subsequent sections focus on the security issues and attacks on BGP and their countermeasures.



The Internet is composed of large number of ASs, which relay traffic to each other on behalf of their customers. The process of routing within an AS is called intra-domain routing which is mainly carried out by the Interior Gateway Protocols (IGPs), while routing among the ASs is called inter domain routing. BGP is the de-facto interdomain routing protocol that uses path vector form of distance vector routing algorithm. All major ISPs use BGP to distribute global routing information, internally and between each other. Figure 1 shows the connectivity model of BGP.

Figure 1.

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)


BGP neighbors, called peers, are established by manual configuration between routers to create a TCP session on port 179. TCP adds reliability and flexibility to BGP. Once the TCP connection is established between the peers, OPEN messages are exchanged by which BGP speakers can negotiate optional capabilities of the session, including multiprotocol extensions and various recovery modes. Once the OPEN message is acknowledged by the peer router, UPDATE messages are used to exchange reachability information. The other BGP messages include NOTIFICATION message which is sent by a router to indicate the termination of a BGP peering session, ROUTE REFRESH message that is sent to request a retransmission of routing information. A BGP speaker sends 19-byte KEEP-ALIVE message every 30 seconds to maintain the connection. Each BGP route object is a prefix and a set of attributes: <ASPath vector, Origin, Next Hop, Local Preference, Atomic Aggregate…>. One of the most critical attribute for BGP is ASPath which is an ordered enumeration of AS values that form the path of ASs from the origin AS to the current AS across all possible paths. The originating AS adds it’s AS number to the ASPath at first. Each of the transit AS, which imports the route, appends its own AS number to the ASPath before advertising the route to its peers. When a BGP speaker is presented with multiple paths to the same address prefix from a number of peers, the BGP speaker selects the “best” path to use which can be influenced by a number of factors and attributes- both mandatory which includes shortest ASPath, next hop attributes and discretionary (optional) such as local preference, community attribute, atomic aggregate, multi-exit discriminator etc.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP): A transport layer protocol that provides error control and flow control and thus provides reliability and flexibility.

Message Digest 5 (MD5): A cryptographic one way hash function used for maintaining integrity of the transit messages.

IP: Internet Protocol.

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP): The sole interdomain routing protocol responsible for finding rouing paths between the ASs.

Interdomain Routing: The process of exchanging routing information between the ASs.

Denial of Service Attack: An attack in which an attacker does not allow the legitimate users to access the required service(s) by disrupting connectivity or creating instabilities.

Intradomain Routing: The process of exchanging routing information within an AS. The dominant intradomain routing protocols are RIP, OSPF, IS-IS etc.

SBGP: Secure BGP.

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