Forwarding Loop Attacks in Content Delivery Networks

Abstract

We describe how malicious customers can attack the availability of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) by creating forwarding loops inside one CDN or across multiple CDNs. Such forwarding loops cause one request to be processed repeatedly or even indefinitely, resulting in undesired resource consumption and potential Denial-of-Service attacks. To evaluate the practicality of such forwarding-loop attacks, we examined 16 popular CDN providers and found all of them are vulnerable to some form of such attacks. While some CDNs appear to be aware of this threat and have adopted specific forwarding-loop detection mechanisms, we discovered that they can all be bypassed with new attack tech- niques. Although conceptually simple, a comprehensive defense requires collaboration among all CDNs. Given that hurdle, we also discuss other mitigations that individual CDN can implement immediately. At a higher level, our work underscores the hazards that can arise when a networked system provides users with control over forwarding, particularly in a context that lacks a single point of administrative control.

Publication
Network and Distributed System Symposium
Date