Cross-app poisoning in software-defined networking
October 15, 2018
Software-defined networking (SDN) continues to grow in popularity because of its programmable and extensible control plane realized through network applications (apps). However, apps introduce significant security challenges that can systemically disrupt network operations, since apps must access or modify data in a shared control plane state. If our understanding of how such data propagate within the control plane is inadequate, apps can co-opt other apps, causing them to poison the control plane's integrity. We present a class of SDN control plane integrity attacks that we call cross-app poisoning (CAP), in which an unprivileged app manipulates the shared control plane state to trick a privileged app into taking actions on its behalf. We demonstrate how role-based access control (RBAC) schemes are insufficient for preventing such attacks because they neither track information flow nor enforce information flow control (IFC). We also present a defense, ProvSDN, that uses data provenance to track information flow and serves as an online reference monitor to prevent CAP attacks. We implement ProvSDN on the ONOS SDN controller and demonstrate that information flow can be tracked with low-latency overheads.