Skip to main content

Configuring BGP to Block Denial-of-Service Attacks
RFC 3882

Document Type RFC - Informational (October 2004)
Author Doughan Turk
Last updated 2015-10-14
RFC stream Independent Submission
IESG Responsible AD Alex D. Zinin
Send notices to (None)
RFC 3882
Network Working Group                                            D. Turk
Request for Comments: 3882                                   Bell Canada
Category: Informational                                   September 2004

           Configuring BGP to Block Denial-of-Service Attacks

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).


   This document describes an operational technique that uses BGP
   communities to remotely trigger black-holing of a particular
   destination network to block denial-of-service attacks.  Black-holing
   can be applied on a selection of routers rather than all BGP-speaking
   routers in the network.  The document also describes a sinkhole
   tunnel technique using BGP communities and tunnels to pull traffic
   into a sinkhole router for analysis.

Table of Contents

   1.  Existing BGP-Triggered Black holing Techniques . . . . . . . .  2
   2.  Enhanced BGP-Triggered Black holing Technique. . . . . . . . .  3
   3.  Sinkhole Tunnels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
   4.  Security Considerations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   5.  Acknowledgments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   6.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   7.  Author's Addresses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   8.  Full Copyright Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8

Turk                         Informational                      [Page 1]
RFC 3882          Configuring BGP to Block DoS Attacks    September 2004

1.  Existing BGP-Triggered Black-holing Techniques

   Current BGP-triggered black-holing techniques rely on altering the
   BGP next hop address of a network targeted by an attack throughout
   the iBGP network.  A customized iBGP advertisement is generated from
   a router participating in the destination/attacked AS where the next
   hop address for the targeted network or host is modified to point to
   an RFC 1918 [RFC1918] (private internet) address.  Most routers on
   the Internet, especially edge routers, have static routes pointing
   RFC 1918 addresses to the null interface.  Those static routes drive
   all traffic destined to the network under attack to the null

   When an iBGP-speaking router inside the destination AS receives the
   iBGP update, the advertised prefix will be added to the routing table
   with a next hop of one of the networks listed in RFC 1918.  The
   router will then attempt to resolve the RFC 1918 next-hop in order to
   qualify the route and derive a forwarding interface.  This process
   will return a valid next hop as the null interface.  Assuming the
   router is properly configured to direct RFC 1918 destined traffic to
   a null interface, traffic destined to the attacked network gets
   dropped, making the attacked network unreachable to the attacker and
   everyone else.

   While this technique shields the internal infrastructure from the
   attack, protecting a large number of devices, it has the undesirable
   side effect of rendering the targeted/attacked network unreachable
   throughout the entire destination AS.  Even if a static route
   pointing an RFC 1918 address to a null interface is not configured on
   all routers within the destination AS, the modified next hop makes
   the traffic un-routable to its legitimate destination.

   Network operators usually use the BGP-triggered black holes for a
   short period of time.  The technique causes traffic drops on all
   ingress points of the AS for traffic destined to the attacked
   network.  By default, routers dropping traffic into a null interface
   should send an "ICMP unreachable" message to the source address
   belonging to the origin/attacking AS.

   Once the procedure reaches this point, one of the source addresses of
   the attack traffic is hijacked by introducing a device with the same
   source IP address into the BGP domain of the destination/attacked AS.
   The device hijacking the source address collects the ICMP unreachable
   packets.  The source addresses of these ICMP unreachable packets
   reveal which edge routers within the destination/attacked AS the
   attack is coming from.  The network operator may then opt to manually
   stop the traffic on the routers from which attack traffic is

Turk                         Informational                      [Page 2]
RFC 3882          Configuring BGP to Block DoS Attacks    September 2004

2.  Enhanced BGP-Triggered Black-holing Technique

   This paper describes a technique developed to instruct a selected set
   of routers to alter the next hop address of a particular prefix by
   use of the BGP protocol.  The next hop can either be a null interface
   or, as discussed later on in this paper, a sinkhole tunnel interface.
   This technique does not invoke an access list or rate limiting
   statement to treat attack traffic, nor does it involve a network wide
   change of the attacked prefix next hop address.  The next hop will
   only be changed on a selection of routers with the aid of BGP
   communities within the destination/attacked AS.

   To prepare the network for this technique, the network operator needs
   to define a unique community value for each destination AS border
   router that could potentially drive attack traffic to the victim.
   For example, a network with a BGP autonomous system number 65001 has
   two border routers (R1 and R2).  Community value 65001:1 is assigned
   to identify R1, community value 65001:2 is assigned to identify R2,
   and community value 65001:666 is assigned to identify both R1 and R2.

   After the BGP community assignment, R1 and R2 must be configured with
   the following:

   1. Static route pointing an RFC 1918 network to a null interface.

   2. AS-Path access list that matches local BGP prefix advertisement.

   3. BGP community access list to match the community value assigned by
      the network operator for the particular router (i.e., 65001:1 for

   4. BGP community access list to match the community value assigned by
      the network operator for all routers (i.e., 65001:666 for R1 and

   5. Under the BGP process, an iBGP import route policy should be
      applied on received iBGP advertisements to do the following logic.
      (Statements are in a logical AND order)

      a. A policy statement to permit routes that match the following
         criteria and apply the following changes.

         i.   Match for a community specific to that router (i.e.,
              65001:1, for R1).

         ii.  Match the AS-Path to locally generated BGP advertisements.

         iii. Set the BGP next hop to an RFC 1918 network.

Turk                         Informational                      [Page 3]
RFC 3882          Configuring BGP to Block DoS Attacks    September 2004

         iv.  Overwrite the BGP community with the well-known community

      b. A policy statement to permit routes that match the following
         criteria and apply the following changes.

         i.   Match for a community that covers all routers (i.e.,

         ii.  Match the AS-Path to locally generated BGP advertisements.

         iii. Set the BGP next hop to an RFC 1918 network.

         iv.  Overwrite the BGP community with the well-known community

   After the policies have been configured on R1 and R2, the network
   operator can, in the case of an attack, advertise the targeted
   network that could be one or more /32 "host" routes into iBGP of the
   destination/attacked AS.  The advertisement must contain the
   community value associated with the router(s) where the attack is
   arriving in addition to the well-known community (no-export).  Using
   BGP communities preserves the original next hop address of the
   targeted network on all routers where the special route policy
   configuration is not present.  iBGP will then carry the prefix
   advertisement to all routers in the destination/attacked AS.  All
   routers within the destination AS, except the ones that match the
   community stamped on the prefix, will be oblivious to the community
   value and will install the network route with the legitimate next hop
   address.  Routers that match the community will also install the
   network route into their routing table but will alter the next hop
   address to an RFC 1918 network and then to a null interface as per
   the route policies configuration and recursive route lookup.  The
   reason for matching locally announced networks is to make sure that
   no eBGP peer can misuse this community to drive any network to a null
   interface.  Blackholing the targeted/attacked hosts is recommended,
   but not the entire address block they belong to so that the blackhole
   effect has the minimum impact on the attacked network.

   This technique stops traffic from getting forwarded to the legitimate
   destination on routers identified as transit routers for attack
   traffic and that have route map matches for the community value
   associated with the network advertisement.  All other traffic on the
   network will still get forwarded to the legitimate destination thus
   minimizing the impact on the targeted network.

Turk                         Informational                      [Page 4]
RFC 3882          Configuring BGP to Block DoS Attacks    September 2004

3.  Sinkhole Tunnels

   Following the "Enhanced BGP-Triggered Black-holing Technique", it may
   become a requirement to take a look at the attack traffic for further
   analysis.  This requirement adds to the complexity of the exercise.
   Usually with broadcast interfaces, network operators install network
   sniffers on a spanned port of a switch for analysis of traffic.
   Another method would be to announce a network prefix that covers the
   attack host address into iBGP, altering the next hop into a sinkhole
   device that can log traffic for analysis.  The latter technique
   results in taking down the services offered on the targeted/attacked
   IP addresses.  Inter-AS traffic will be sucked into the sinkhole,
   along with Intra-AS traffic.  Packet level analysis involves
   redirecting traffic away from the destination host to a sniffer or a
   router.  As a result, if the traffic being examined includes
   legitimate traffic, that legitimate traffic will never make it to the
   destination host.  This will result in denial of service for the
   legitimate traffic.

   A better alternative would be to use a sinkhole tunnel.  A sinkhole
   tunnel is implemented at all possible entry points from which attacks
   can pass into the destination/attacked AS.  Using the BGP community
   technique, traffic destined to the attacked/targeted host could be
   re-routed to a special path (tunnel) where a sniffer could capture
   the traffic for analysis.  After being analyzed, traffic will exit
   the tunnel and be routed normally to the destination host.  In other
   words, the traffic will pass through the network to a sniffer without
   altering the next hop information of the destination network.  All
   routers within the destination/attacked AS iBGP domain will have the
   proper next hop address.  Only the entry point router will have the
   altered next hop information.

   To detail the procedure, a sinkhole router with an optional sniffer
   attached to its interface is installed and configured to participate
   in the IGP and iBGP of the attacked AS.  Next, a tunnel is created,
   using MPLS Traffic Engineering as an example, from all border routers
   attacks can potentially enter from (Inter-AS traffic) to the sinkhole
   router.  When a host or network is under attack, a customized iBGP
   advertisement is sent to announce the network address of the attacked
   host(s) with the proper next hop that insures traffic will reach
   those hosts or networks.  The customized advertisement will also have
   a community string value that matches the set of border routers the
   attack is entering from, as described in section 2.  The new next hop
   address configured within the route policy section of all border
   routers should be the sinkhole IP address.  This IP address belongs
   to the /30 subnet assigned to the tunnel connecting the border router
   to the sinkhole router.

Turk                         Informational                      [Page 5]
RFC 3882          Configuring BGP to Block DoS Attacks    September 2004

   Routers that do not have a match for the community string will do
   regular routing.  Lack of a community string match on these routers
   will insure that the special route policy does not change the next
   hop address.  Traffic entering from border routers that do not have a
   match to the special community will pass through regular router
   interfaces to the legitimate destination.  It might also be required
   to allow the traffic to reach its destination after being captured.
   In this case, a default network route is configured to point to any
   interface attached and configured on the iBGP network.  This would
   also include the same physical interface the tunnel is built on.
   Since the next hop address is not changed on the sinkhole device,
   traffic entering this device from the tunnel will be sent back to the
   network due to the presence of the default route.  Routing protocols
   will then take care of properly routing the traffic to its original
   destination (attacked network).

   It becomes apparent that this technique can also be used for purposes
   other than analyzing attack traffic.  Legitimate traffic could also
   be pulled out of normal routing into a tunnel and then reinserted
   into the backbone without altering the next hop addressing scheme
   throughout the iBGP network.

   MPLS Traffic Engineering with its many features, is a good method of
   sliding traffic to the sinkhole device.  Features like QoS policies
   can be applied on the attack traffic, thus preventing it from
   competing on resources with legitimate traffic.

   To be able to alter the next hop on the border router, a subnet of an
   RFC 1918 network is statically routed to the tunnel interface.  An
   example of the static route is:

      ip route Tunnel0

   Setting the next hop of the target IP address to will
   force the traffic to go through the tunnel.

   Traffic is received at the sinkhole interface via the TE tunnel.
   Subsequently, three methods could be installed, namely rate-limiting
   policies, QoS policies, and access lists.  These policies could rate
   limit or drop traffic classified as attack traffic.  This process
   would be completed on the interface of the sinkhole device.  Another
   useful application for a sinkhole router is to pull in traffic via
   tunnels to an inbound interface and have a default route statement
   forwarding the traffic out to an Ethernet interface.  The Ethernet
   interface is connected to the iBGP network and guarantees proper
   delivery of traffic however, it still allows the use of a packet
   sniffer to further analyze the attack traffic.

Turk                         Informational                      [Page 6]
RFC 3882          Configuring BGP to Block DoS Attacks    September 2004

   This becomes very useful when it is not feasible to apply an Access
   list or a rate limiting statement on the BGP border router or last
   hop router before the attacked host or network because of hardware or
   software limitations.  Hence, instead of upgrading interfaces at the
   point of entry of attack traffic, the latter could be pulled into the
   sinkhole and treated on that device.  Operational costs can be
   rendered minimal if the sinkhole router is a powerful device.

4.  Security Considerations

   It is very important to practice tight control over eBGP peering
   points before implementing the techniques described in this paper.
   eBGP customers might be able to blackhole a particular subnet using
   the Blackhole communities.  To eliminate the risk, the match for
   locally generated BGP advertisements in the special route policy
   should not be neglected.

5.  Acknowledgments

   The author of this document would like to acknowledge the developers
   of the remotely triggered black-holing technique and the developers
   of the backscatter technique for collecting backscatter traffic.  The
   author would also like to thank all members of the IP Engineering
   department for their help in verifying the functionality of this

6.  Informative References

   [RFC1918] Rekhter, Y., Moskowitz, B., Karrenberg, D., de Groot, G.,
             and E. Lear, "Address Allocation for Private Internets",
             BCP 5, RFC 1918, February 1996.

7.  Author's Addresses

   Doughan Turk
   Bell Canada
   100 Wynford Drive


Turk                         Informational                      [Page 7]
RFC 3882          Configuring BGP to Block DoS Attacks    September 2004

8.  Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).

   This document is subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions
   contained in BCP 78 and at, and except as set
   forth therein, the authors retain all their rights.

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

Intellectual Property

   The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any
   Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to
   pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in
   this document or the extent to which any license under such rights
   might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has
   made any independent effort to identify any such rights.  Information
   on the ISOC's procedures with respect to rights in ISOC Documents can
   be found in BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any
   assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an
   attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use of
   such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this
   specification can be obtained from the IETF on-line IPR repository at

   The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any
   copyrights, patents or patent applications, or other proprietary
   rights that may cover technology that may be required to implement
   this standard.  Please address the information to the IETF at ietf-


   Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the
   Internet Society.

Turk                         Informational                      [Page 8]