NetHide: Secure and Practical Network Topology Obfuscation


Roland Meier and Petar Tsankov, ETH Zurich; Vincent Lenders, armasuisse; Laurent Vanbever and Martin Vechev, ETH Zurich


Simple path tracing tools such as traceroute allow malicious users to infer network topologies remotely and use that knowledge to craft advanced denial-of-service (DoS) attacks such as Link-Flooding Attacks (LFAs). Yet, despite the risk, most network operators still allow path tracing as it is an essential network debugging tool.

In this paper, we present NetHide, a network topology obfuscation framework that mitigates LFAs while preserving the practicality of path tracing tools. The key idea behind NetHide is to formulate network obfuscation as a multi-objective optimization problem that allows for a flexible tradeoff between security (encoded as hard constraints) and usability (encoded as soft constraints). While solving this problem exactly is hard, we show that NetHide can obfuscate topologies at scale by only considering a subset of the candidate solutions and without reducing obfuscation quality. In practice, NetHide obfuscates the topology by intercepting and modifying path tracing probes directly in the data plane. We show that this process can be done at line-rate, in a stateless fashion, by leveraging the latest generation of programmable network devices.

We fully implemented NetHide and evaluated it on realistic topologies. Our results show that NetHide is able to obfuscate large topologies (>150 nodes) while preserving near-perfect debugging capabilities. In particular, we show that operators can still precisely trace back >90 % of link failures despite obfuscation.

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@inproceedings {217513,
author = {Roland Meier and Petar Tsankov and Vincent Lenders and Laurent Vanbever and Martin Vechev},
title = {NetHide: Secure and Practical Network Topology Obfuscation},
booktitle = {27th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 18)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {978-1-931971-46-1},
address = {Baltimore, MD},
pages = {693--709},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},