Detecting Asymmetric Application-layer Denial-of-Service Attacks In-Flight with FineLame


Henri Maxime Demoulin, Isaac Pedisich, Nikos Vasilakis, Vincent Liu, Boon Thau Loo, and Linh Thi Xuan Phan, University of Pennsylvania


Denial of service (DoS) attacks increasingly exploit algorithmic, semantic, or implementation characteristics dormant in victim applications, often with minimal attacker resources. Practical and efficient detection of these asymmetric DoS attacks requires us to (i) catch offending requests in-flight, before they consume a critical amount of resources, (ii) remain agnostic to the application internals, such as the programming language or runtime system, and (iii) introduce low overhead in terms of both performance and programmer effort.

This paper introduces Finelame, a language-independent framework for detecting asymmetric DoS attacks. Finelame leverages operating system visibility across the entire software stack to instrument key resource allocation and negotiation points. It leverages recent advances in the Linux extended Berkeley Packet Filter virtual machine to attach application-level interposition probes to key request processing functions, and lightweight resource monitors---user/kernel-level probes---to key resource allocation functions. The data collected is used to train a model of resource utilization that occurs throughout the lifetime of individual requests. The model parameters are then shared with the resource monitors, which use them to catch offending requests in-flight, inline with resource allocation. We demonstrate that Finelame can be integrated with legacy applications with minimal effort, and that it is able to detect resource abuse attacks much earlier than their intended completion time while posing low performance overheads.

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@inproceedings {234876,
author = {Henri Maxime Demoulin and Isaac Pedisich and Nikos Vasilakis and Vincent Liu and Boon Thau Loo and Linh Thi Xuan Phan},
title = {Detecting Asymmetric Application-layer {Denial-of-Service} Attacks {In-Flight} with {FineLame}},
booktitle = {2019 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX ATC 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-939133-03-8},
address = {Renton, WA},
pages = {693--708},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = jul

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