A Logical Controller Architecture for Network Security

Ph. D. Defense
Speaker Name
Yuanjun Yao
Date and Time
Virtual on Zoom

Networked infrastructure-as-a-service testbeds are evolving with higher capacity and more advanced capabilities. Modern testbeds offer stitched virtual circuit capability, programmable dataplanes with software-defined networking (SDN), and in-network processing on adjacent cloud servers. With these capabilities they are able to host virtual network service providers (NSPs) that peer and exchange traffic with edge subnets and with other NSPs in the testbeds. Testbed tenants may configure and program their NSPs to provide a range of functions and capabilities. Programmable NSPs enable innovation in network services and protocols following the pluralist philosophy of network architecture.

Advancing testbeds offer an opportunity to harness their power to deploy production NSPs with topology and value-added features tailored to the needs of specific user communities. For example, one objective of this research is to define abstractions and tools to support built-to-order virtual science networks for data-intensive science collaborations that share and exchange datasets securely at high speed. A virtual science network may combine dedicated high-speed circuits on advanced research fabrics with integrated in-network processing on virtual cloud servers, and links to exchange traffic with customer campus networks and/or testbed slices. We propose security-managed science networks with additional security features including access control, embedded virtual security appliances, and managed connectivity according to customer policy. A security-managed NSP is in essence a virtual software-defined exchange (SDX) that applies customer-specified policy to mediate connectivity.

This dissertation proposes control abstractions for dynamic NSPs, with a focus on managing security in the control plane based on programmable security policy. It defines an architecture for automated NSP controllers that orchestrate and program an NSP's SDN dataplane and manage its interactions with customers and peer NSPs. A key element of the approach is to use declarative trust logic to program the control plane: all control-plane interactions---including route advertisements, address assignments, policy controls, and governance authority---are represented as signed statements in a logic (trust datalog). NSP controllers use a logical inference engine to authorize all interactions and check for policy compliance.

To evaluate these ideas, we develop the ExoPlex controller framework for secure policy-based networking over programmable network infrastructures. An ExoPlex NSP combines a logical NSP controller with an off-the-shelf SDN controller and an existing trust logic platform (SAFE), both of which were enhanced for this project. Experiments with the software on testbeds---ExoGENI, ESnet, and Chameleon---demonstrate the power and potential of the approach. The dissertation presents the research in four parts.

The first part introduces the foundational capabilities of research testbeds that enables the approach, and presents the design of the ExoPlex controller framework to leverage those capabilities for hosted NSPs. We demonstrate a proof-of-concept deployment of an NSP with network function virtualization, an elastic dataplane, and managed traffic security on the ExoGENI testbed.

The second part introduces logical trust to structure control-plane interactions and program security policy. We show how to use declarative trust logic to address the challenges for managing identity, resource access, peering, connectivity and secure routing. We present off-the-shelf SAFE logic templates and rules to demonstrate a virtual SDX that authorizes network stitching and connectivity with logical trust.

The third part applies the controller architecture to secure policy-based interdomain routing among transit NSPs based on a logical trust plane. Signed logic exchanges propagate advertised routes and policies through the network. We show that trust logic rules capture and represent current and evolving Internet security protocols, affording protection equivalent to BGPsec for secure routing and RPKI for origin authentication. The logic also supports programmable policy for managed connectivity with end-to-end trust, allowing customers to permission the NSPs so that customer traffic does not pass through untrusted NSPs (path control).

The last part introduces SCIF, which extends logical peering and routing to incorporate customizable policies to defend against packet spoofing and route leaks. It uses trust logic to define more expressive route advertisements and compliance checks to filter advertisements that propagate outside of their intended scope. For SCIF, we extended the ExoPlex SDN dataplanes to configure ingress packet filters automatically from accepted routes (unicast Reverse Path Forwarding). We present logic templates that capture the defenses of valley-free routing and the Internet MANRS approach based on a central database of route ingress/egress policies (RADb/RPSL). We show how to extend their expressive power for stronger routing security, and complement it with path control policies that constrain the set of trusted NSPs for built-to-order internetworks.


Advisor: Jeffrey Chase Committee: Bruce Maggs, Kamesh Munagala, Paul Ruth