Check out the new USENIX Web site.
USENIX, The Advanced Computing Systems Association

NSDI '08 – Abstract

Pp. 45–58 of the Proceedings

Phalanx: Withstanding Multimillion-Node Botnets

Colin Dixon, Thomas Anderson, and Arvind Krishnamurthy, University of Washington


Large-scale distributed denial of service (DoS) attacks are an unfortunate everyday reality on the Internet. They are simple to execute and with the growing prevalence and size of botnets more effective than ever. Although much progress has been made in developing techniques to address DoS attacks, no existing solution is unilaterally deployable, works with the Internet model of open access and dynamic routes, and copes with the large numbers of attackers typical of today's botnets.

In this paper, we present a novel DoS prevention scheme to address these issues. Our goal is to define a system that could be deployed in the next few years to address the danger from present-day massive botnets. The system, called Phalanx, leverages the power of swarms to combat DoS. Phalanx makes only the modest assumption that the aggregate capacity of the swarm exceeds that of the botnet. A client communicating with a destination bounces its packets through a random sequence of end-host mailboxes; because an attacker doesn't know the sequence, they can disrupt at most only a fraction of the traffic, even for end-hosts with low bandwidth access links. We use PlanetLab to show that this approach can be both efficient and capable of withstanding attack. We further explore scalability with a simulator running experiments on top of measured Internet topologies.

  • View the full text of this paper in HTML and PDF. Listen to the presentation in MP3 format.

    The Proceedings are published as a collective work, © 2008 by the USENIX Association. All Rights Reserved. Rights to individual papers remain with the author or the author's employer. Permission is granted for the noncommercial reproduction of the complete work for educational or research purposes. USENIX acknowledges all trademarks within this paper.
To become a USENIX member, please see our Membership Information.

Last changed: 11 Aug 2008 mn