The DDOS problem & security BOF: Am i mistaken?

Scott Doty scott at
Tue Oct 14 16:08:48 UTC 2008

First, the good news:  so far, the NANOG conference has been very 
valuable and
content-rich, covering a lot of issues that need to be discussed.  For 
that, I am grateful.

But now, the bad news(?):  Maybe it's just me & my paranoia, but do I detect
an inkling of "murk spam" going on with some presentations?

Because there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding, either on my part,
or the part of certain vendors: I'm hear to discuss ideas & freely share
them, and they are here to discuss (it would seem) their products. Sometimes
both goals coincide, and that is fine...but...

When a vendor at the security BOF starts showing documents that are "company
confidential", and trying to whip up a climate of fear, that we should all
deploy their product in front of our recursive name servers, i get this
funny feeling that I am being "murk spammed".

Perhaps that is my own perspective (& paranoia?), but I found the CERT
gentleman's call to monitor icmp backscatter on our authoritative
nameservers far more informative -- and open.

But I was disappointed with two vendors and their presentations: the first
had the tactic of saying "DNSSEC is the actual solution" when asked about
why their product would be necessary...completely ignoring the fact that
their proprietary "interim solution" was by no means the only way to prevent
cache poisoning attacks.  Indeed, I would daresay it isn't the best, either
by a BCP perspective, or a cost analysis perspective.

To put a finer point on this, i should say that i found myself discomforted
by a presentation suggesting that I should put their proprietary appliances
between my recursive name servers & the Net, and I am grateful that Mr.
Vixie stood up and said that there are other ways of dealing with the

Then there was the gentleman with the DDOS detection/mitigation appliance,
who flipped through several graphs, which were intended to show the number
of each type of attack.  It's unfortunate that there wasn't more time for
questions, because I really wanted to ask why "http GET" and "spidering"
attacks weren't listen on their graphs...more on that in a second.

Fortunately, said vendor had a table at "beer and gear", so I was able to
talk with one of their representatives -- and learned that they have just as
much trouble with automatic detection of attacks designed to look like a
"slashdotting"...which cleared up the mystery as to why it wasn't on the

Because this is a real problem:  anybody, with sufficient knowledge &
preparation can vandalize _anybody's_ network.  Showing me a graph that ping
floods happen all the time doesn't impress me -- what would impress me is
going over the actual methods, algorithms (and heuristics?) used in these
attack mitigation appliances.

Because, the "best" attack mitigation appliance vendor would seem to have
100% of their market, and thus, charge exhorbant prices for their
product(s).  When I brought this up with Mr. Vendor, his first reaction was
to point out that the cost was less than a home-grown solution.  When I
raised the question of open source software to do the same thing, his
reaction was to ask:  "oh? who's going to write it?"

And that right there would seem to be a bit of bravado, perhaps fueled by a
misunderstanding of the role that FOSS has played on the Net.

Fortunately -- and again, I am grateful for this -- the ISC was represented
in the security BOF, presenting the SIE well as what
applications _already exist_ to detect and mitigate various attacks.  One
demonstration that blew me away:  detecting a botnet being set up for a
phishing attack...and preventing the attack before it even started.

So in conclusion, I'll say this:  the last NANOG I attended was NANOG 9 --
and i remember that being a more challenging environment for vendors.
Probably the biggest problem discussed back then was head-of-line blocking
on a vendor's switches.  _That_ is the kind of content that i have found
valuable, both on this list, and at a conference.

And so:  If I weren't so knock-kneed in public venues,
I would probably be doing what i would like to call on conference
participants to do:  if someone gives a presentation that includes their own
proprietary black-box "solution", I think the best benefit for NANOG would
be to point out alternatives.

p.s. sorry for the long post.

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