HEAP: Reliable Assessment of BGP Hijacking Attacks

Johann Schlamp, Ralph Holz, Quentin Jacquemart, Georg Carle, Ernst W. Biersack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The detection of BGP prefix hijacking attacks has been the focus of research for more than a decade. However, the state-of-the-art techniques fall short of detecting more elaborate types of attack. To study such attacks, we devise a novel formalization of Internet routing, and apply this model to routing anomalies in order to establish a comprehensive attacker model. We use this model to precisely classify attacks and to evaluate their impact and detectability. We analyze the eligibility of attack tactics that suit an attacker's goals and demonstrate that related work mostly focuses on less impactful kinds of attacks. We further propose, implement, and test the Hijacking Event Analysis Program (HEAP), a new approach to investigate hijacking alarms. Our approach is designed to seamlessly integrate with the previous work in order to reduce the high rates of false alarms inherent to these techniques. We leverage several unique data sources that can reliably disprove malicious intent. First, we make use of an Internet routing registry to derive business or organizational relationships between the parties involved in an event. Second, we use a topology-based reasoning algorithm to rule out events caused by legitimate operational practice. Finally, we use Internet-wide network scans to identify SSL/TLS-enabled hosts, which helps to identify non-malicious events by comparing public keys prior to and during an event. In our evaluation, we prove the effectiveness of our approach, and show that day-to-day routing anomalies are harmless for the most part. More importantly, we use HEAP to assess the validity of publicly reported alarms. We invite researchers to interface with HEAP in order to crosscheck and narrow down their hijacking alerts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7460217
Pages (from-to)1849-1861
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016


  • BGP hijacking
  • IRR analysis
  • Routing model
  • SSL/TLS measurements


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