Analysis of In-order Packet Delivery Network Policy Enforcement Function

Baxley, S., Bastin, N., and Gurkan, D.


2018 IEEE Conference on Computer Communications Workshops (INFOCOM WKSHPS), Honolulu, HI, April 15-19, 2018.


Industrial Control System (ICS) networks face novel challenges in risk management, feature agility, and deployment flexibility. Essential hardware control systems may have a lifetime of decades while the need for business features and the network security landscape evolve on a daily basis. Even the mix of common protocols for network connectivity is likely to undergo significant market disruption over the 50+ year lifetime of a large industrial complex. Given this reality, the University of Houston Networking Lab [4] has embarked upon an effort, facilitated by the Department of Energy CREDC[2] program, to decouple the long development cycles of hardened industrial equipment from the ever-changing realities of both the local and wide-area networks they must use to transport
essential sensor data and control messages. We are developing a specification for a Network Function (NF) with the express purpose of defining a standard behavior for per-flow policy enforcement, allowing operators to specify varying policies (or combinations of policies) for packet flows being transmitted between two trusted and/or reliable enclaves via an untrusted or unreliable segment. These policies allow features – like packet signatures, sequence numbers, local timestamping, etc – to be added without hardware downtime or vendor firmware availability. For example, devices incapable of running complex network state machines for protocols such as TCP can nonetheless be relied on to provide reliable data delivery given the application of appropriate policy. Similarly sensors and control mechanisms designed decades ago can benefit from modern HMAC [3] signatures to guarantee data integrity, without ever having to be upgraded or replaced. While our objective is a specification that will be handed over to existing ICS vendors – and not a performant NF implementation – we need to be able to quantify both the utility of given policies and also their resource requirements such that vendors can make reasonable business decisions about which policies to support and what hardware will be required to do so. The experiment outlined in this paper is one example of how we are breaking up the specification evaluation into discrete pieces (as partially exposed in Figure 1) and using the flexibility and efficiency of GENI [7] to provide reproducible methods, data and analytics for each draft policy in a wide variety of configurable network conditions.

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