Introducing the p0f BPF compiler

Datetime:2016-08-22 21:41:18          Topic: Compiler  DDOS           Share

Two years ago we blogged about our love of BPF (BSD packet filter) bytecode.

CC BY 2.0 image by jim simonson

Then we published a set of utilities we are using to generate the BPF rules for our production iptables:the bpftools.

Today we are very happy to open source another component of the bpftools: our p0f BPF compiler !

Meet the p0f

p0f is a tool written by superhuman Michal Zalewski . The main purpose of p0f is to passively analyze and categorize arbitrary network traffic. You can feed p0f any packet and in return it will derive knowledge about the operating system that sent the packet.

One of the features that caught our attention was the concise yet explanatory signature format used to describe TCP SYN packets.

The p0f SYN signature is a simple string consisting of colon separated values. This string cleanly describes a SYN packet in a human-readable way. The format is pretty smart, skipping the varying TCP fields and keeping focus only on the essence of the SYN packet, extracting the interesting bits from it.

We are using this on daily basis to categorize the packets that we, at CloudFlare, see when we are a target of a SYN flood. To defeat SYN attacks we want to discriminate the packets that are part of an attack from legitimate traffic. One of the ways we do this uses p0f.

We want to rate limit attack packets, and in effect prioritize processing of other , hopefully legitimate, ones. The p0f SYN signatures give us a language to describe and distinguish different types of SYN packets.

For example here is a typical p0f SYN signature of a Linux SYN packet:

4:64:0:*:mss*10,6:mss,sok,ts,nop,ws:df,id+:0

while this is a Windows 7 one:

4:128:0:*:8192,8:mss,nop,ws,nop,nop,sok:df,id+:0

Not getting into details yet, but you can clearly see that there are differences between these operating systems. Over time we noticed that the attack packets are often different. Here are two examples of attack SYN packets:

4:255:0:0:*,0::ack+,uptr+:0  
4:64:0:*:65535,*:mss,nop,ws,nop,nop,sok:df,id+:0

You can have a look at more signatures in p0f's README and signatures database .

It's not always possible to perfectly distinguish an attack from valid packets, but very often it is. This realization led us to develop an attack mitigation tool based on p0f SYN signatures. With this we can ask iptables to rate limit only the selected attack signatures.

But before we discuss the mitigations, let's explain the signature format.

CC BY-SA 3.0 image by Hyacinth at the English language Wikipedia

Signature

As mentioned, the p0f SYN signature is a colon-separated string with the following parts:

  • IP version : the first field carries the IP version. Allowed values are 4 and 6 .
  • Initial TTL : assuming that realistically a packet will not jump through more than 35 hops, we can specify an initial TTL ittl (usual values are 255 , 128 , 64 and 32 ) and check if the packet's TTL is in the range ( ittl , ittl - 35).
  • IP options length : length of IP options. Although it's not that common to see options in the IP header (and so 0 is the typical value you would see in a signature), the standard defines a variable length field before the IP payload where options can be specified. A * value is allowed too, which means "not specified".
  • MSS : maximum segment size specified in the TCP options. Can be a constant or * .
  • Window Size : window size specified in the TCP header. It can be a expressed as:
    • a constant c , like 8192
    • a multiple of the MSS, in the c*mss format
    • a multiple of a constant, in the %c format
    • any value, as *
  • Window Scale : window scale specified during the three way handshake. Can be a constant or * .
  • TCP options layout : list of TCP options in the order they are seen in a TCP packet.
  • Quirks : comma separated list of unusual (e.g. ACK number set in a non ACK packet) or incorrect (e.g. malformed TCP options) characteristics of a packet.
  • Payload class : TCP payload size. Can be 0 (no data), + (1 or more bytes of data) or * .

TCP Options format

The following common TCP options are recognised:

  • nop : no-operation
  • mss : maximum segment size
  • ws : window scaling
  • sok : selective ACK permitted
  • sack : selective ACK
  • ts : timestamp
  • eol+x : end of options followed by x bytes of padding

Quirks

p0f describes a number of quirks:

  • df : don't fragment bit is set in the IP header
  • id+ : df bit is set and IP identification field is non zero
  • id- : df bit is not set and IP identification is zero
  • ecn : explicit congestion flag is set
  • 0+ : reserved ("must be zero") field in IP header is not actually zero
  • flow : flow label in IPv6 header is non-zero
  • seq- : sequence number is zero
  • ack+ : ACK field is non-zero but ACK flag is not set
  • ack- : ACK field is zero but ACK flag is set
  • uptr+ : URG field is non-zero but URG flag not set
  • urgf+ : URG flag is set
  • pushf+ : PUSH flag is set
  • ts1- : timestamp 1 is zero
  • ts2+ : timestamp 2 is non-zero in a SYN packet
  • opt+ : non-zero data in options segment
  • exws : excessive window scaling factor (window scale greater than 14)
  • linux : match a packet sent from the Linux network stack ( IP.id field equal to TCP.ts1 xor TCP.seq_num ). Note that this quirk is not part of the original p0f signature format; we decided to add it since we found it useful.
  • bad : malformed TCP options

Mitigating attacks

Given a p0f SYN signature, we want to pass it to iptables for mitigation. It's not obvious how to do so, but fortunately we are experienced in BPF bytecode since we are already using it to block DNS DDoS attacks.

We decided to extend our BPF infrastructure to support p0f as well, by building a tool to compile a p0f SYN signature into a BPF bytecode blob, which got incorporated into the bpftools project.

This allows us to use a simple and human readable syntax for the mitigations - the p0f signature - and compile it to a very efficient BPF form that can be used by iptables.

With a p0f signature running as BPF in the iptables we're able to distinguish attack packets with a very high speed and react accordingly. We can either hard -j DROP them or do a rate limit if we wish.

How to compile p0f to BPF

First you need to clone the cloudflare/bpftools GitHub repository:

$ git clone https://github.com/cloudflare/bpftools.git

Then compile it:

$ cd bpftools
$ make

With this you can run bpfgen p0f to generate a BPF filter that matches a p0f signature.

Here's an example where we take the p0f signature of a Linux TCP SYN packet (the one we introduced before), and by using bpftools we generate the BPF bytecode that will match this category of packets:

$ ./bpfgen p0f -- 4:64:0:*:mss*10,6:mss,sok,ts,nop,ws:df,id+:0
56,0 0 0 0,48 0 0 8,37 52 0 64,37 0 51 29,48 0 0 0,  
84 0 0 15,21 0 48 5,48 0 0 9,21 0 46 6,40 0 0 6,  
69 44 0 8191,177 0 0 0,72 0 0 14,2 0 0 8,72 0 0 22,  
36 0 0 10,7 0 0 0,96 0 0 8,29 0 36 0,177 0 0 0,  
80 0 0 39,21 0 33 6,80 0 0 12,116 0 0 4,21 0 30 10,  
80 0 0 20,21 0 28 2,80 0 0 24,21 0 26 4,80 0 0 26,  
21 0 24 8,80 0 0 36,21 0 22 1,80 0 0 37,21 0 20 3,  
48 0 0 6,69 0 18 64,69 17 0 128,40 0 0 2,2 0 0 1,  
48 0 0 0,84 0 0 15,36 0 0 4,7 0 0 0,96 0 0 1,  
28 0 0 0,2 0 0 5,177 0 0 0,80 0 0 12,116 0 0 4,  
36 0 0 4,7 0 0 0,96 0 0 5,29 0 1 0,6 0 0 65536,  
6 0 0 0,

If this looks magical, use the -s flag to see the explanation on what's going on:

$ ./bpfgen -s p0f -- 4:64:0:*:mss*10,6:mss,sok,ts,nop,ws:df,id+:0
; ip: ip version
; (ip[8] <= 64): ttl <= 64
; (ip[8] > 29): ttl > 29
; ((ip[0] & 0xf) == 5): IP options len == 0
; (tcp[14:2] == (tcp[22:2] * 10)): win size == mss * 10
; (tcp[39:1] == 6): win scale == 6
; ((tcp[12] >> 4) == 10): TCP data offset
; (tcp[20] == 2): olayout mss
; (tcp[24] == 4): olayout sok
; (tcp[26] == 8): olayout ts
; (tcp[36] == 1): olayout nop
; (tcp[37] == 3): olayout ws
; ((ip[6] & 0x40) != 0): df set
; ((ip[6] & 0x80) == 0): mbz zero
; ((ip[2:2] - ((ip[0] & 0xf) * 4) - ((tcp[12] >> 4) * 4)) == 0): payload len == 0
;
; ipver=4
; ip and (ip[8] <= 64) and (ip[8] > 29) and ((ip[0] & 0xf) == 5) and (tcp[14:2] == (tcp[22:2] * 10)) and (tcp[39:1] == 6) and ((tcp[12] >> 4) == 10) and (tcp[20] == 2) and (tcp[24] == 4) and (tcp[26] == 8) and (tcp[36] == 1) and (tcp[37] == 3) and ((ip[6] & 0x40) != 0) and ((ip[6] & 0x80) == 0) and ((ip[2:2] - ((ip[0] & 0xf) * 4) - ((tcp[12] >> 4) * 4)) == 0)

l000:  
    ld       #0x0
l001:  
    ldb      [8]
l002:  
    jgt      #0x40, l055, l003
l003:  
    jgt      #0x1d, l004, l055
l004:  
    ldb      [0]
l005:  
    and      #0xf
l006:  
    jeq      #0x5, l007, l055
l007:  
    ldb      [9]
l008:  
    jeq      #0x6, l009, l055
l009:  
    ldh      [6]
l010:  
    jset     #0x1fff, l055, l011
l011:  
    ldxb     4*([0]&0xf)
l012:  
    ldh      [x + 14]
l013:  
    st       M[8]
l014:  
    ldh      [x + 22]
l015:  
    mul      #10
l016:  
    tax
l017:  
    ld       M[8]
l018:  
    jeq      x, l019, l055
l019:  
    ldxb     4*([0]&0xf)
l020:  
    ldb      [x + 39]
l021:  
    jeq      #0x6, l022, l055
l022:  
    ldb      [x + 12]
l023:  
    rsh      #4
l024:  
    jeq      #0xa, l025, l055
l025:  
    ldb      [x + 20]
l026:  
    jeq      #0x2, l027, l055
l027:  
    ldb      [x + 24]
l028:  
    jeq      #0x4, l029, l055
l029:  
    ldb      [x + 26]
l030:  
    jeq      #0x8, l031, l055
l031:  
    ldb      [x + 36]
l032:  
    jeq      #0x1, l033, l055
l033:  
    ldb      [x + 37]
l034:  
    jeq      #0x3, l035, l055
l035:  
    ldb      [6]
l036:  
    jset     #0x40, l037, l055
l037:  
    jset     #0x80, l055, l038
l038:  
    ldh      [2]
l039:  
    st       M[1]
l040:  
    ldb      [0]
l041:  
    and      #0xf
l042:  
    mul      #4
l043:  
    tax
l044:  
    ld       M[1]
l045:  
    sub      x
l046:  
    st       M[5]
l047:  
    ldxb     4*([0]&0xf)
l048:  
    ldb      [x + 12]
l049:  
    rsh      #4
l050:  
    mul      #4
l051:  
    tax
l052:  
    ld       M[5]
l053:  
    jeq      x, l054, l055
l054:  
    ret      #65536
l055:  
    ret      #0

Example run

For example, consider we want to block SYN packets generated by the hping3 tool.

First, we need to recognize the p0f SYN signature. Here it is, we know that one off the top of our heads:

4:64:0:0:*,0::ack+:0

(notice: unless you use the -L 0 option, hping3 will send SYN packets with the ACK number set, interesting, isn't it?)

Now, we can use the bpftools to get BPF bytecode that will match the naughty packets:

$ ./bpfgen p0f -- 4:64:0:0:*,0::ack+:0
39,0 0 0 0,48 0 0 8,37 35 0 64,37 0 34 29,48 0 0 0,  
84 0 0 15,21 0 31 5,48 0 0 9,21 0 29 6,40 0 0 6,  
69 27 0 8191,177 0 0 0,80 0 0 12,116 0 0 4,  
21 0 23 5,48 0 0 6,69 21 0 128,80 0 0 13,  
69 19 0 16,64 0 0 8,21 17 0 0,40 0 0 2,2 0 0 3,  
48 0 0 0,84 0 0 15,36 0 0 4,7 0 0 0,96 0 0 3,  
28 0 0 0,2 0 0 7,177 0 0 0,80 0 0 12,116 0 0 4,  
36 0 0 4,7 0 0 0,96 0 0 7,29 0 1 0,6 0 0 65536,  
6 0 0 0,

This bytecode can then be passed to iptables:

$ sudo iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 80 -m bpf --bytecode "39,0 0 0 0,48 0 0 8,37 35 0 64,37 0 34 29,48 0 0 0,84 0 0 15,21 0 31 5,48 0 0 9,21 0 29 6,40 0 0 6,69 27 0 8191,177 0 0 0,80 0 0 12,116 0 0 4,21 0 23 5,48 0 0 6,69 21 0 128,80 0 0 13,69 19 0 16,64 0 0 8,21 17 0 0,40 0 0 2,2 0 0 3,48 0 0 0,84 0 0 15,36 0 0 4,7 0 0 0,96 0 0 3,28 0 0 0,2 0 0 7,177 0 0 0,80 0 0 12,116 0 0 4,36 0 0 4,7 0 0 0,96 0 0 7,29 0 1 0,6 0 0 65536,6 0 0 0," -j DROP

And here's how it would look in iptables:

$ sudo iptables -L INPUT -v
Chain INPUT (policy DROP 0 packets, 0 bytes)  
 pkts bytes target     prot opt in     out     source               destination
    6   240            tcp  --  *      *       0.0.0.0/0            0.0.0.0/0            tcp dpt:80match bpf 0 0 0 0,48 0 0 8,37 35 0 64,37 0 34 29,48 0 0 0,84 0 0 15,21 0 31 5,48 0 0 9,21 0 29 6,40 0 0 6,69 27 0 8191,177 0 0 0,80 0 0 12,116 0 0 4,21 0 23 5,48 0 0 6,69 21 0 128,80 0 0 13,69 19 0 16,64 0 0 8,21 17 0 0,40 0 0 2,2 0 0 3,48 0 0 0,84 0 0 15,36 0 0 4,7 0 0 0,96 0 0 3,28 0 0 0,2 0 0 7,177 0 0 0,80 0 0 12,116 0 0 4,36 0 0 4,7 0 0 0,96 0 0 7,29 0 1 0,6 0 0 65536,6 0 0 0

Closing words

While defending from DDoS attacks is sometimes fun, most often it's a mundane repetitive job. We are constantly working on improving our automatic DDoS mitigation system, but we do not believe there is a strong reason to keep it all secret. We want to help others fighting attacks. Maybe if we all worked together one day we could solve the DDoS problem for all.

Releasing our code open source is an important part of CloudFlare. This blog post and the p0f BPF compiler are part of our effort to open source our DDoS mitigations. We hope others affected by SYN floods will find it useful.

Do you enjoy playing with low level networking bits? Are you interested in dealing with some of the largest DDoS attacks ever seen? If so you should definitely have a look at theopened positions in our London, San Francisco, Singapore, Champaign (IL) and Austin (TX) offices!





About List