skip to main content


This content will become publicly available on October 12, 2024

Title: Blockchain for Securing Custom/User-Defined Protocols in P4 Programmable Switches
P4 (Programming Protocol-Independent Packet Processors) represents a paradigm shift in network programmability by providing a high-level language to define packet processing behavior in network switches/devices. The importance of P4 lies in its ability to overcome the limitations of OpenFlow, the previous de facto standard for software-defined networking (SDN). Unlike OpenFlow, which operates on fixed match-action tables, P4 offers an approach where network operators can define packet processing behaviors at various protocol layers. P4 provides a programmable platform to create and implement custom network switches/devices protocols. However, this opens a new attack surface for threat actors who can access P4-enabled switches/devices and manipulate custom protocols for malicious purposes. Attackers can craft malicious packets to exploit protocol-specific vulnerabilities in these network devices. This ongoing research work proposes a blockchain-based model to secure P4 custom protocols. The model leverages the blockchain’s immutability, tamperproof ability, distributed consensus for protocol governance, and auditing to guarantee the transparency, security, and integrity of custom protocols defined in P4 programmable switches. The protocols are recorded as transactions and stored on the blockchain network. The model's performance will be evaluated using execution time in overhead computation, false positive rate, and network scalability.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2029295
NSF-PAR ID:
10471041
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
IEEE 14th Annual Ubiquitous Computing, Electronics & Mobile Communications (UEMCON 2023)
Date Published:
Subject(s) / Keyword(s):
["Packet processor (P4), SDN, Open Flow, Blockchain, Programmable Network"]
Format(s):
Medium: X
Location:
New York
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Programming Protocol-independent Packet Processors (P4) is an open-source domain-specific language to aid the data plane devices in programming packet forwarding. It has a variety of constructs optimized for this purpose. With P4, one can program ASICs, PISA chips, FPGAs, and many network devices since the language constructs allow true independence in some aspects that OpenFlow could not support. However, there are some challenges facing this technology. The first challenge is that P4 does not account for malicious traffic detection in the data plane pipeline. 2. The controllers have no secure medium of attack signature exchange. This ongoing work presents a multichain solution for detecting malicious traffic and exchanging attack signatures among controllers. This architecture uses an Artificial Immune System (AIS) based Intrusion Detection System (IDS), which runs on a distributed blockchain network, to introspect the P4 data plane to analyze and detect anomaly traffic flows. This IDS resides on the SideChain smart contracts and constantly monitors the traffic flow at the data planes based on introspection. Once malicious traffic is detected on any SideChain, the signatures are extracted and passed through the signature forwarding node to the MainChain for real-time storage. The malicious signatures are sent to all controllers via the mainchain network. We minimize the congestion the solution can cause to the P4 network by utilizing a load balancer to serve the SideChain. To evaluate the performance, we evaluate the False Positive Rate (FPR), Detection Rate (DR), and Accuracy (ACC) of the IDS. We also compute the execution time, performance overhead, and scalability of the proposed solution. 
    more » « less
  2. Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) are transforming Data Center (DC), Telecom, and enterprise networking. The programmability offered by P4 enables SDN to be more protocol-independent and flexible. Data Centers are increasingly adopting SmartNICs (sNICs) to accelerate packet processing that can be leveraged to support packet processing pipelines and custom Network Functions (NFs). However, there are several challenges in integrating and deploying P4 based SDN control as well as host and sNIC-based programmable NFs. These include configuration and management of the data plane components (Host and sNIC P4 switches) for the SDN control plane and effective utilization of data plane resources. P4NFV addresses these concerns and provides a unified P4 switch abstraction framework to simplify the SDN control plane, reducing management complexities, and leveraging a host-local SDN Agent to improve the overall resource utilization. The SDN agent considers the network-wide, host, and sNIC specific capabilities and constraints. Based on workload and traffic characteristics, P4NFV determines the partitioning of the P4 tables and optimal placement of NFs (P4 actions) to minimize the overall delay and maximize resource utilization. P4NFV uses Mixed Integer Linear Programming (MILP) based optimization formulation and achieves up to 2. 5X increase in system capacity while minimizing the delay experienced by flows. P4NFV considers the number of packet exchanges, flow size, and state dependency to minimize the delay imposed by data transmission over PCI Express interface. 
    more » « less
  3. IEEE (Ed.)
    Through the massive use of mobile devices, data clouds, and the rise of Internet of Things, enormous amount of data has been generated and analyzed for the benefit of society. NoSQL Databases and specially key-value stores be­ come the backbone in managing these large amounts of data. Most of key-value stores ignore transactions due to their ef­fect on degrading key-value store's performance. Meanwhile, programmable switches with the software-defined networks and the Programming Protocol-Independent Packet Processor (P4) lead to a programmable network where in-network computa­ tion can help accelerating the performance of applications. In this paper, we proposed a networking support for transaction processing in distributed key-value stores. Our system leverages the programmable switch to act as a transaction coordinator. Using a variation of the time stamp ordering concurrency control approach, the programmable switch can decide to proceed in transaction processing or abort the transaction directly from the network. Our experimental results on an initial prototype show that our proposed approach, while supporting transactions, improves the throughput by up to 4X and reduces the latency by 35% when compared to the existing architectures. 
    more » « less
  4. One of the main roles of the Domain Name System (DNS) is to map domain names to IP addresses. Despite the importance of this function, DNS traffic often passes without being analyzed, thus making the DNS a center of attacks that keep evolving and growing. Software-based mitigation approaches and dedicated state-of-the-art firewalls can become a bottleneck and are subject to saturation attacks, especially in high-speed networks. The emerging P4-programmable data plane can implement a variety of network security mitigation approaches at high-speed rates without disrupting legitimate traffic. This paper describes a system that relies on programmable switches and their stateful processing capabilities to parse and analyze DNS traffic solely in the data plane, and subsequently apply security policies on domains according to the network administrator. In particular, Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) is leveraged to extract the domain name consisting of any number of labels and hence, apply filtering rules (e.g., blocking malicious domains). Evaluation results show that the proposed approach can parse more domain labels than any state-of-the-art P4-based approach. Additionally, a significant performance gain is attained when comparing it to a traditional software firewall -pfsense-, in terms of throughput, delay, and packet loss. The resources occupied by the implemented P4 program are minimal, which allows for more security functionalities to be added. 
    more » « less
  5. Although Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WANs) are now widely deployed in several production networks, they are largely restricted to traffic engineering ap- proaches based on layer 4 (L4) of the network protocol stack. Such approaches result in improved Quality-of-Service (QoS) of the network overall without necessarily focussing on the requirements of a specific application. However, the emergence of application protocols such as QUIC and HTTP/2 needs an in- vestigation of layer 5-based (L5) approaches in order to improve users’ Quality-of-Experience (QoE). In this paper, we leverage the capabilities of flexible, P4-based switches that incorporate protocol-independent packet processing in order to intelligently route traffic based on application headers. We use Adaptive Bit Rate (ABR) video streaming as an example to show how such an approach can not only provide flexible traffic management but also improve application QoE. Our evaluation consists of an actual deployment in a research testbed, Chameleon, where we leverage the benefits of fast paths in order to retransmit video segments in higher qualities. Further, we analyze real-world ABR streaming sessions from a large-scale CDN and show that our approach can successfully maximize QoE for all users in the dataset. 
    more » « less