The CrossPath Attack: Disrupting the SDN Control Channel via Shared Links


Jiahao Cao, Qi Li, and Renjie Xie, Tsinghua University; Kun Sun, George Mason University; Guofei Gu, Texas A&M University; Mingwei Xu and Yuan Yang, Tsinghua University


Software-Defined Networking (SDN) enables network innovations with a centralized controller controlling the whole network through the control channel. Because the control channel delivers all network control traffic, its security and reliability are of great importance. For the first time in the literature, we propose the CrossPath attack that disrupts the SDN control channel by exploiting the shared links in paths of control traffic and data traffic. In this attack, crafted data traffic can implicitly disrupt the forwarding of control traffic in the shared links. As the data traffic does not enter the control channel, the attack is stealthy and cannot be easily perceived by the controller. In order to identify the target paths containing the shared links to attack, we develop a novel technique called adversarial path reconnaissance. Both theoretic analysis and experimental results demonstrate its feasibility and efficiency of identifying the target paths. We systematically study the impacts of the attack on various network applications in a real SDN testbed. Experiments show the attack significantly degrades the performance of existing network applications and causes serious network anomalies, e.g., routing blackhole, flow table resetting and even network-wide DoS.

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@inproceedings {235465,
author = {Jiahao Cao and Qi Li and Renjie Xie and Kun Sun and Guofei Gu and Mingwei Xu and Yuan Yang},
title = {The {CrossPath} Attack: Disrupting the {SDN} Control Channel via Shared Links},
booktitle = {28th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-939133-06-9},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
pages = {19--36},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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