Anchor: Logically centralized security for software-defined networks

Diego Kreutz, Jiangshan Yu, Fernando M.V. Ramos, Paulo Esteves-Verissimo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Software-defined networking (SDN) decouples the control and data planes of traditional networks, logically centralizing the functional properties of the network in the SDN controller. While this centralization brought advantages such as a faster pace of innovation, it also disrupted some of the natural defenses of traditional architectures against different threats. The literature on SDN has mostly been concerned with the functional side, despite some specific works concerning non-functional properties such as security or dependability. Though addressing the latter in an ad-hoc, piecemeal way may work, it will most likely lead to efficiency and effectiveness problems. We claim that the enforcement of non-functional properties as a pillar of SDN robustness calls for a systemic approach. We further advocate, for its materialization, the reiteration of the successful formula behind SDN: 'logical centralization'. As a general concept, we propose anchor, a subsystem architecture that promotes the logical centralization of non-functional properties. To show the effectiveness of the concept, we focus on security in this article: we identify the current security gaps in SDNs and we populate the architecture middleware with the appropriate security mechanisms in a global and consistent manner. Essential security mechanisms provided by anchor include reliable entropy and resilient pseudo-random generators, and protocols for secure registration and association of SDN devices. We claim and justify in the article that centralizing such mechanisms is key for their effectiveness by allowing us to define and enforce global policies for those properties; reduce the complexity of controllers and forwarding devices; ensure higher levels of robustness for critical services; foster interoperability of the nonfunctional property enforcement mechanisms; and promote the security and resilience of the architecture itself. We discuss design and implementation aspects, and we prove and evaluate our algorithms and mechanisms, including the formalisation of the main protocols and the verification of their core security properties using the Tamarin prover.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACM Transactions on Privacy and Security
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

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Generated from Scopus record by KAUST IRTS on 2021-03-16


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