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Securing BGP Not As Difficult As You'd Think

But few service providers and organizations bother to deploy security for BGP, security expert says.

BLACK HAT USA -- Las Vegas -- The Internet's Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) seems to be the new darling of hackers and nation-states, but BGP expert Wim Remes says BGP abuse is nothing new -- and securing it is actually fairly simple.

"I think the biggest issue is the understanding of trust on the Internet," says Remes, EMEA strategic services manager at Rapid7. Remes says there are basic ways to lock down the security of BGP, but not many service providers or organizations are doing it.  

"These security technologies for BGP work very well, they are inexpensive to implement, and there's no incentive for ASN owners to implement them," says Remes, who here today outlined BGP security options in his State of BGP Security session.

But Remes says the big overarching issue today is trust on the Internet, which boiled over after Edward Snowden's leak of controversial NSA surveillance practices. 

Meantime, cybercriminals as well as nation-states increasingly have abused the Internet's underlying BGP traffic-routing fabric to hijack or disrupt networks for profit or political reasons. BGP can be abused via router impersonation, distributed denial of service attacks, and traffic hijacking.

OpenDNS's Dan Hubbard here this week will launch a new free tool called BGP Stream that tweets out alerts on suspicious BGP/Autonomous System Number (ASN) updates and changes so network owners, ISPs, and hosting providers can keep abreast of malicious network changes that could hijack or otherwise disrupt their traffic. Hubbard, OpenDNS's CTO, says BGP "the new black" in the attackers' arsenal.

Rapid7's Remes recommends BGP monitoring, plus hardening BGP routers and the systems used to configure and monitor BPG infrastructure as well as "strict access control" to those systems.

Deploying Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI) for BGP routing is another obvious security option, according to Remes. RPKI validates that route assignments came from a legitimate source rather than a malicious one, thus preventing re-routing of traffic to malicious destinations. Remes says implementing RPKI is inexpensive, and fairly simple. "When a router receives updates, they are signed" by local regional registries, he says.

It takes less than 15 minutes to deploy the open-source RPKI validator software from RIPE, he notes.

ISPs as well as other large organizations could adopt it, he says. RPKI provides validation much like DNSSec does for DNS traffic. RPKI also lets you "create different levels of trust between yourself and your peers," he says.

BGP monitoring is another easy and useful practice, he says. The University of Colorado, for instance, gathers and monitors BGP traffic and offer a real-time stream of BGP events. Hurricane Electric runs a BGP dashboard and dataset for tracking BGP issues, and CYMRU also monitors BGP  traffic.

Luxembourg-based CERT CIRCL runs the BGP Ranking project, which correlates BGP data with malicious activity such as malware and IP blacklists.

"There's more than enough BGP data available," Remes says.

So what should enterprises do about BGP security? "Understand which assets you own … monitor your own ASNs, or [cloud-based ones]," he says. "Someone could be targeting you or your service you rely on," so it helps to track the BGP traffic, he says.

But adoption of RPKI stands at only about 7 percent, Remes says, and it won't even reach 50 percent until 2020, according to RIPE estimates. That's not good enough, according to Remes:  "ASN owners should aspire to do better than that."

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