Towards data-driven Internet infrastructure security

Mar. 16, 2021 | 1 pm EDT | LINK |

Cecilia Testart,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

SCP Seminal Talk
Presented by the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy and the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Title: Towards data-driven Internet infrastructure security

Abstract: The Internet infrastructure is critical for online daily life. However, key Internet protocols were not designed to cope with untrustworthy parties, making them vulnerable to misconfigurations and attacks from anywhere in the network. Despite the many proposals by the research community and standardization organizations (IETF) to increase security, little has changed in operational environments. We lack sufficient empirical evidence and the problem space is complex: it involves multiple stakeholders, with different interests and resources, as well as geopolitical challenges. In this talk, I will focus on the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), the Internet global routing protocol. I will present an evidence-based, data-driven approach that advances our understanding of harms linked to BGP design flaws and of the effectiveness of routing security practices. Performing longitudinal analysis of network-level and Internet-wide routing behavior over time, I characterized the routing behavior of serial hijackers, networks that persistently hijack IP address blocks in BGP. Then, using machine learning, I identified over 800 networks in the Internet with similar suspicious behavior. Using a similar approach, I tracked and quantified the impact of operational security practices in BGP, finding that, even if only partially deployed, these practices are able to bring benefits. These studies have revealed malicious behavior occurring in BGP and identified barriers to adoption of security measures. Such insights are crucial for designing effective security protocols and policies that encourage their deployment. The results of this research have been used by industry and researchers for evaluating networks’ reputations and routing practices.

Bio: Cecilia Testart is a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. She is part of the Advanced Network Architecture group and the Internet Policy Research Initiative, working with David D. Clark. Her doctoral research focuses on securing the Internet’s core protocols, leveraging empirical data-driven approaches to understand the impact of protocol design in security and taking a comprehensive perspective, considering both technical and policy challenges, to improve the current state of the art. Cecilia holds engineering degrees from Universidad de Chile and Ecole Centrale Paris. She also holds a dual-master’s degree in Technology and Policy and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT. Prior to joining MIT, she helped set up the Chilean office of INRIA (the French National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology) and worked for the research lab of the .CL, the Chilean top-level domain. She has interned at Akamai, Microsoft Research, and the OECD. Cecilia’s work on persistent misbehavior in Internet routing received a Distinguished Paper award at the ACM Internet Measurement Conference in 2019, and she was recently selected as a Rising Star in EECS (2020) and a Rising Star in Data Science (2021).