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18 April 2009, 19:42

Easy attacks on network backbones

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At the Black Hat Europe conference, held in Amsterdam, the security experts Daniel Mende and Enno Rey of the Heidelberg ERNW company demonstrated surprisingly easily executed attacks on protocols and techniques that are used in backbone networks of telecoms and internet carriers. Although the technical details of this special area are seriously incomprehensible for laymen, in their presentationPDF and a white paperPDF, Mende and Rey give the plain advice that firms should closely check the trustworthiness and the security arrangements of their network service provider and should encrypt their network traffic.

They say it's surprisingly simple for anyone who has access to backbone networks to manipulate the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) without being noticed. Using an MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) intrusion, for example, all of a specific company's network traffic, and its DNS and LDAP accesses, can be diverted to alien servers. The authors also provide suitable software to do the job.

They point out that the security arrangements of "Carrier Ethernet", which carries a company's Ethernet traffic over an external service provider's backbone lines, are also often patchy. Carrier Ethernet is increasingly being used for cloud services for example, or the SAN (storage area networks) replication of large storage systems between different company sites.


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