What is BGP FlowSpec?

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I recently messed about with some Junos Automate Scripts that one of my colleagues had previously been working on, that could be used to add static routes to enable Remote Triggered Blackhole (RTBH) Filtering (which can be found here), and I found it was a bit rough around the edges (for people who aren’t cli junkies). As I do, I started looking into RTBH and saw that it’s a heavy-handed solution in trying to combat DDoS attacks against a network. RTBH technology has been around for a number of years now and has been defined in RFC 3882 and RFC 5635. In its most basic of terms, you can either blackhole all traffic from a source address and/or to a destination address by injecting the attacking/attacked prefix into BGP with a community that will rewrite the next-hop to a pre-configured discard route on edge routers. If you have massive DDoS trying to block every source address, it would be like going fishing with a shotgun. By blocking the destination address the attacker will have got their desired outcome. With that in mind, using RTBH is ideally a last resort solution. There is an alternative more subtle way of blocking unwanted attack traffic from our network. This alternative method is known as BGP FlowSpec.

What is BGP FlowSpec

BGP FlowSpec is defined in RFC 5575. RFC 5575 defines a new Multi-Protocol BGP Extension MP-BGP, in addition, with new Network Layer Reachability Information NLRI. The new NLRI collects 12 types of Layer 3 and Layer 4 details that are used to define a Flow Specification then actions are assigned to these routes dependant on the user’s needs. If you wanted to look at FlowSpec in a simple form, it is a firewall filter that is injected into BGP to filter out specific port(s) and protocol(s) just as a normal ACL would do. BGP uses NLRI to exchange routing details between BGP speakers, each of the MP-BGP Extensions have their own NLRI details that are identified by their Address Family Indicator AFI and Subsequent Address Family Indicator AFI. Usually IPv4 unicast routes (also known as BGP families) are the default for BGP peers, if non IPv4 unicast routes need to be exchanged ie IPv6, EVPN, L2VPN, FlowSpec routes, then MP-BGP defines the relevant NLRI of the router that should have the next-hop of the destination families. This had been defined in RFC 2858 and RFC 4760. As stated above, as of writing, there has been 12 NLRI types defined for BGP FlowSpec, these fields will be added to NLRI field within the BGP Update Message and advertised to peers. In addition, FlowSpec does not support IPv6 yet.

FlowSpec NLRI Types

These are the 12 FlowSpec NLRI types:

Type NLRI Component
1 Destination Prefix
Defines the destination prefix to match
2 Source Prefix
Defines the source prefix
3 IP Protocol
Contains a set of {operator, value} pairs that are used to match the IP protocol value byte in IP packets.
4 Port
This is defines whether TCP, UDP or both will be packets will be influenced
5 Destination Port
Defines the destination port that will be influenced by FlowSpec
6 Source Port
Defines the source port that will be influenced by FlowSpec
7 ICMP Type
8 ICMP Code
9 TCP flags
10 Packet Length
Match on the total IP packet length (excluding Layer 2 but including IP header)
11 DSCP
Match on the Class Of Service flag
12 Fragment Encoding

NOTE: Not all 12 types have to be defined for FlowSpec to be enabled

FlowSpec Actions

RFC 5575 has defined 4 minimum Actions that routes matching FlowSpec NRLI types can take. These actions are carried as BGP extended communities added to the FlowSpec route. These actions are:

Traffic-Rate Community

The Traffic-Rate community is non-transitive, that tells the receiving BGP peer, what to rate limit matching traffic to. If the traffic needs to be discarded or dropped, this will be limit of 0 should be used.

Traffic-Action Community

The Traffic-Action community is used to sample defined traffic. This allows sampling and logging metrics to be collected from the FlowSpec route, that could be used to get a better understand of the attack traffic.

Redirect Community

The Redirect community allows the FlowSpec traffic to be redirected into a Virtual Routing and Forward Instance VRF. As the same Route-Targets and Route-Distinguisher can be used, you are able to import routes into a dedicated blackhole VPN or any other VPNv4.

Traffic-Marking Community

The Traffic-Marking community is used to modify the Differentiated Service Code Point DSCP bits of a transiting IP packet to the defined value. This could be used to set to FlowSpec routes to highest discard probability, allowing traffic not to dropped/discarded until co

FlowSpec Rule Ordering

It is important to note, that unlike normal firewall filters, FlowSpec routes use a different method of ordering rules. Most firewall filters and/or ACLs use the top-down approach, where in, once the filter has a match any other rules afterward are not inspected. With FlowSpec a deterministic algorithm to order the rules is used. By comparing the left component of each FlowSpec NLRI, the algorithm will use the following details to order FlowSpec Routes:

    1. If the types differ, the lowest type is used. If the types are the same then component values within that component are compared
    2. For IP values, the lowest IP prefix is chosen. If the IP addresses are the same then most specific prefix is used
    3. For all other types, the binary string of the contents is compared to determine the order

Validation Checks

Validate checks within FlowSpec are important, because you could get into a situation where, if no validation checks are done, FlowSpec route(s) could be injected by an attacker that doesn’t own a set of prefix(es) that could blackhole traffic. Like any other unicast BGP route, the next-hop address must resolve for the route to be usable, as per the normal BGP path selection process. In addition, to a valid next-hop, RFC 5775 has defined the follow must be valid of a Flow Specification:

    1. The originator of the flow specification matches the originator of the best-match unicast route for the destination prefix embedded in the flow specification.
    2. There are no more specific unicast routes, when compared with the flow destination prefix, that have been received from a different neighbouring AS than the best-match unicast route, which has been determined in step 1

The overall goal is to confirm that the originator of the FlowSpec route is the same as the originator of the BGP unicast route, this is done by either using BGP’s AS Path attribute or if that isn’t present (in iBGP situation) then the Peering IP address is used.

FlowSpec and Junos

Configuring FlowSpec on a JunOS device is actually quite straightforward. I’m being naughty and I don’t actually have a topology set up to show the full verification ‘show command’ outputs on the cli, but when I get the time to set something up, I’ll be back to edit this post. With all that said, Let’s getting cracking :p

The scenario is that we have an attack from 172.90.87.15 on TCP port 80 to the web-server 8.9.0.1. First we will inject a FlowSpec route to discard all TCP port 80 traffic to 8.9.0.1 when the source is from 172.90.87.15. We will need to make sure that we can order the terms as per the RFC requirement, this is done under the show routing-options flow stanza:

[email protected]# show routing-options flow                       
term-order standard;

Then enable MP-BGP family flow to BGP group

[email protected]# show protocols bgp group test 
type internal;
family inet {
    unicast;
    flow

Next configure the FlowSpec Route under routing-options flow route stanza:

[edit routing-options flow route test]
[email protected]# show 
match {
    destination 8.9.0.1/32;
    source 172.90.87.15/32;
    protocol tcp;
    port 80;
}
then discard;

With these are the options available under match and then flags. You will note that they are largely the same flags that were stated in the RFC

Match FlagsThen Flags
[edit routing-options flow]
[email protected]# set route test match ?  
Possible completions:
+ apply-groups         Groups from which to inherit configuration data
+ apply-groups-except  Don't inherit configuration data from these groups
  destination          Destination prefix for this traffic flow
+ destination-port     Destination TCP/UDP port
+ dscp                 Differentiated Services (DiffServ) code point (DSCP) (0-63)
+ fragment             
+ icmp-code            ICMP message code
+ icmp-type            ICMP message type
+ packet-length        Packet length (0-65535)
+ port                 Source or destination TCP/UDP port
+ protocol             IP protocol value
  source               Source prefix for this traffic flow
+ source-port          Source TCP/UDP port
+ tcp-flags            TCP flags
[edit routing-options flow]
[email protected]# set route test then ?                          
Possible completions:
  accept               Allow traffic through
+ apply-groups         Groups from which to inherit configuration data
+ apply-groups-except  Don't inherit configuration data from these groups
  community            Name of BGP community
  discard              Discard all traffic for this flow
  next-term            Continue the filter evaluation after matching this flow
  rate-limit           Rate in bits/sec to limit the flow traffic (9600..1000000000000)
  routing-instance     Redirect to instance identified via Route Target community
  sample               Sample traffic that matches this flow

Once committed you will be able to verify Flowspec routes because they are installed into their own routing table inetflow.0 and if dedicated, VRF for FlowSpec routes and the table will be under routing-instance-name.inetflow.0. You can also check FlowSpec firewall filter by running the command show firewall filter __flowspec_default_inet__

FlowSpec TableFlowSpec Firewall Filter
[email protected]> show route table inetflow.0 extensive 

inetflow.0: 6 destinations, 6 routes (6 active, 0 holddown, 0 hidden)
8.9.0.1,172.90.87.15,proto=6,port=80/term:3 (1 entry, 1 announced)
TSI:
KRT in dfwd;
Action(s): discard,count
        *Flow   Preference: 5
                Next hop type: Fictitious
                Address: 0x94359c4
                Next-hop reference count: 6
                State: 
                Local AS: 65123 
                Age: 4:10 
                Validation State: unverified 
                Task: RT Flow
                Announcement bits (1): 0-Flow 
                AS path: I
                Communities: traffic-rate:0:0
[email protected]> show firewall filter __flowspec_default_inet__    

Filter: __flowspec_default_inet__                              
Counters:
Name                                                Bytes              Packets
8.9.0.1,172.90.87.15,proto=6,port=80                    0                    0
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Keeran Marquis

Network Engineer
Keeran Marquis is a Network Engineer. His main goal is to learn everything within the Networking field, pick up a little bit of scripting, be a poor man sysadmin and share whatever he knows! All Posts are his own views, opinions and experiences, no guarantees they will work for you but point you in the right direction 🙂
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