Efficient Defence against Misbehaving TCP Receiver DoS Attacks

Aldar C-F. Chan
Arxiv ID: 0810.0328Last updated: 9/21/2021
The congestion control algorithm of TCP relies on correct feedback from the receiver to determine the rate at which packets should be sent into the network. Hence, correct receiver feedback (in the form of TCP acknowledgements) is essential to the goal of sharing the scarce bandwidth resources fairly and avoiding congestion collapse in the Internet. However, the assumption that a TCP receiver can always be trusted (to generate feedback correctly) no longer holds as there are plenty of incentives for a receiver to deviate from the protocol. In fact, it has been shown that a misbehaving receiver (whose aim is to bring about congestion collapse) can easily generate acknowledgements to conceal packet loss, so as to drive a number of honest, innocent senders arbitrarily fast to create a significant number of non-responsive packet flows, leading to denial of service to other Internet users. We give the first formal treatment to this problem. We also give an efficient, provably secure mechanism to force a receiver to generate feedback correctly; any incorrect acknowledgement will be detected at the sender and cheating TCP receivers would be identified. The idea is as follows: for each packet sent, the sender generates a tag using a secret key (known to himself only); the receiver could generate a proof using the packet and the tag alone, and send it to the sender; the sender can then verify the proof using the secret key; an incorrect proof would indicate a cheating receiver. The scheme is very efficient in the sense that the TCP sender does not need to store the packet or the tag, and the proofs for multiple packets can be aggregated at the receiver. The scheme is based on an aggregate authenticator. In addition, the proposed solution can be applied to network-layer rate-limiting architectures requiring correct feedback.

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