Preventing Malicious SDN Applications From Hiding Adverse Network Manipulations

Christian Röpke, Thorsten Holz

ACM SIGCOMM Workshop on Security in Softwarized Networks: Prospects and Challenges (SecSoN 2018), Budapest, Hungary, 2018


In Software-Defined Networks (SDN), so called SDN controllers are responsible for managing the network devices building such a network. Once such a core component of the network has been infected with malicious software (e.g., by a malicious SDN application), an attacker typically has a strong interest in remaining undetected while compromising other devices in the network. Thus, hiding a malicious network state and corresponding network manipulations are important objectives for an adversary. To achieve this, rootkit techniques can be applied in order to manipulate the SDN controller's view of a network. As a consequence, monitoring capabilities of SDN controllers as well as SDN applications with a security focus can be fooled by hiding adverse network manipulations.

To tackle this problem, we propose a novel approach capable of detecting and preventing hidden network manipulations before they can attack a network. In particular, our method is able to drop adverse network manipulations before they are applied on a network. We achieve this by comparing the actual network state, which includes both malicious and benign configurations, with the network state which is provided by a potentially compromised SDN controller. In case of an attack, the result of this comparison reveals network manipulations which are adversely removed from an SDN controller's view of a network. To demonstrate the capabilities of this approach, we implement a prototype and evaluate effectiveness as well as efficiency. The evaluation results indicate scalability and high performance of our system, while being able to protect major SDN controller platforms.