New talk “Enumerating Privacy Leaks in DNS Data Collected above the Recursive” at NDSS DNS Privacy Workshop 2018

Basileal Imana gave the talk “Enumerating Privacy Leaks in DNS Data Collected  above the Recursive” at NDSS DNS Privacy Workshop in San Diego, California, USA on February 18, 2018. Slides are available at and paper is available at, or can be found at the DNS privacy workshop page.

From the abstract:

Threat model for enumerating leaks above the recursive (left). Percentage of four categories of queries containing IPv4 addresses in their QNAMEs. (right)

As with any information system consisting of data derived from people’s actions, DNS data is vulnerable to privacy risks. In DNS, users make queries through recursive resolvers to authoritative servers. Data collected below (or in) the recursive resolver directly exposes users, so most prior DNS data sharing focuses on queries above the recursive resolver. Data collected above a recursive resolver has largely been seen as posing a minimal privacy risk since recursive resolvers typically aggregate traffic for many users, thereby hiding their identity and mixing their traffic. Although this assumption is widely made, to our knowledge it has not been verified. In this paper we re-examine this assumption for DNS traffic above the recursive resolver. First, we show that two kinds of information appear in query names above the recursive resolver: IP addresses and sensitive domain names, such as those pertaining to health, politics, or personal or lifestyle information. Second, we examine how often these classes of potentially sensitive names appear in Root DNS traffic, using 48 hours of B-Root data from April 2017.

This is a joint work by Basileal Imana (USC), Aleksandra Korolova (USC) and John Heidemann (USC/ISI).

The DITL dataset (ITL_B_Root-20170411) used in this work is available from DHS IMPACT, the ANT project, and through DNS-OARC.

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new technical report “Back Out: End-to-end Inference of Common Points-of-Failure in the Internet (extended)”

We released a new technical report “Back Out: End-to-end Inference of Common Points-of-Failure in the Internet (extended)”, ISI-TR-724, available at

From the abstract:

Clustering (from our event clustering algorithm) of 2014q3 outages from 172/8, showing 7 weeks including the 2014-08-27 Time Warner outage.

Internet reliability has many potential weaknesses: fiber rights-of-way at the physical layer, exchange-point congestion from DDOS at the network layer, settlement disputes between organizations at the financial layer, and government intervention the political layer. This paper shows that we can discover common points-of-failure at any of these layers by observing correlated failures. We use end-to-end observations from data-plane-level connectivity of edge hosts in the Internet. We identify correlations in connectivity: networks that usually fail and recover at the same time suggest common point-of-failure. We define two new algorithms to meet these goals. First, we define a computationally-efficient algorithm to create a linear ordering of blocks to make correlated failures apparent to a human analyst. Second, we develop an event-based clustering algorithm that directly networks with correlated failures, suggesting common points-of-failure. Our algorithms scale to real-world datasets of millions of networks and observations: linear ordering is O(n log n) time and event-based clustering parallelizes with Map/Reduce. We demonstrate them on three months of outages for 4 million /24 network prefixes, showing high recall (0.83 to 0.98) and precision (0.72 to 1.0) for blocks that respond. We also show that our algorithms generalize to identify correlations in anycast catchments and routing.

Datasets from this paper are available at no cost and are listed at, and we expect to release the software for this paper in the coming months (contact us if you are interested).

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news story about measuring Internet outages

PCMag released a news story on January 3, 2018 about our measuring Internet outages, including discussion about the 2017 hurricanes like Irma, and our new worldwide outage browser.

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new website for browsing Internet outages

We are happy to announce a new website at that supports our Internet outage data collected from Trinocular.

The ANT Outage world browser, showing Hurricane Irma just after landfall in Florida in Sept. 2017.

Our website supports browsing more than two years of outage data, organized by geography and time.  The map is a google-maps-style world map, with circle on it at even intervals (every 0.5 to 2 degrees of latitude and longitude, depending on the zoom level).  Circle sizes show how many /24 network blocks are out in that location, while circle colors show the percentage of outages, from blue (only a few percent) to red (approaching 100%).

We hope that this website makes our outage data more accessible to researchers and the public.

The raw data underlying this website is available on request, see our outage dataset webpage.

The research is funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cyber Security Division (through the LACREND and Retro-Future Bridge and Outages projects) and Michael Keston, a real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist (through the Michael Keston Endowment).  Michael Keston helped support this the initial version of this website, and DHS has supported our outage data collection and algorithm development.

The website was developed by Dominik Staros, ISI web developer and owner of Imagine Web Consulting, based on data collected by ISI researcher Yuri Pradkin. It builds on prior work by Pradkin, Heidemann and USC’s Lin Quan in ISI’s Analysis of Network Traffic Lab.

ISI has featured our new website on the ISI news page.


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new project LACANIC

We are happy to announce a new project, LACANIC, the Los Angeles/Colorado Application and Network Information Community.

The LACANIC project’s goal is to develop datasets to improve Internet security and readability. We distribute these datasets through the DHS IMPACT program.

As part of this work we:

  • provide regular data collection to collect long-term, longitudinal data
  • curate datasets for special events
  • build websites and portals to help make data accessible to casual users
  • develop new measurement approaches

We provide several types of datasets:

  • anonymized packet headers and network flow data, often to document events like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and regular traffic
  • Internet censuses and surveys for IPv4 to document address usage
  • Internet hitlists and histories, derived from IPv4 censuses, to support other topology studies
  • application data, like DNS and Internet-of-Things mapping, to document regular traffic and DDoS events
  • and we are developing other datasets

LACANIC allows us to continue some of the data collection we were doing as part of the LACREND project, as well as develop new methods and ways of sharing the data.

LACANIC is a joint effort of the ANT Lab involving USC/ISI (PI: John Heidemann) and Colorado State University (PI: Christos Papadopoulos).

We thank DHS’s Cyber Security Division for their continued support!


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new technical report “LDplayer: DNS Experimentation at Scale”

We released a new technical report “LDplayer: DNS Experimentation at Scale”, ISI-TR-722, available at

ldplayer_overviewFrom the abstract:

DNS has evolved over the last 20 years, improving in security and privacy and broadening the kinds of applications it supports. However, this evolution has been slowed by the large installed base with a wide range of implementations that are slow to change. Changes need to be carefully planned, and their impact is difficult to model due to DNS optimizations, caching, and distributed operation. We suggest that experimentation at scale is needed to evaluate changes and speed DNS evolution. This paper presents LDplayer, a configurable, general-purpose DNS testbed that enables DNS experiments to scale in several dimensions: many zones, multiple levels of DNS hierarchy, high query rates, and diverse query sources. LDplayer provides high fidelity experiments while meeting these requirements through its distributed DNS query replay system, methods to rebuild the relevant DNS hierarchy from traces, and efficient emulation of this hierarchy of limited hardware. We show that a single DNS server can correctly emulate multiple independent levels of the DNS hierarchy while providing correct responses as if they were independent. We validate that our system can replay a DNS root traffic with tiny error (+/- 8ms quartiles in query timing and +/- 0.1% difference in query rate). We show that our system can replay queries at 87k queries/s, more than twice of a normal DNS Root traffic rate, maxing out one CPU core used by our customized DNS traffic generator. LDplayer’s trace replay has the unique ability to evaluate important design questions with confidence that we capture the interplay of caching, timeouts, and resource constraints. As an example, we can demonstrate the memory requirements of a DNS root server with all traffic running over TCP, and we identified performance discontinuities in latency as a function of client RTT.

Software developed in this paper is available at



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new conference paper “A Look at Router Geolocation in Public and Commercial Databases” in IMC 2017

The paper “A Look at Router Geolocation in Public and Commercial Databases” has appeared in the 2017 Internet Measurement Conference (IMC) on November 1-3, 2017 in London, United Kingdom.

From the abstract:

Regional breakdown of the geolocation error for the geolocation databases vs. ground truth data.

Internet measurement research frequently needs to map infrastructure components, such as routers, to their physical locations. Although public and commercial geolocation services are often used for this purpose, their accuracy when applied to network infrastructure has not been sufficiently assessed. Prior work focused on evaluating the overall accuracy of geolocation databases, which is dominated by their performance on end-user IP addresses. In this work, we evaluate the reliability of router geolocation in databases. We use a dataset of about 1.64M router interface IP addresses extracted from the CAIDA Ark dataset to examine the country- and city-level coverage and consistency of popular public and commercial geolocation databases. We also create and provide a ground-truth dataset of 16,586 router interface IP addresses and their city-level locations, and use it to evaluate the databases’ accuracy with a regional breakdown analysis. Our results show that the databases are not reliable for geolocating routers and that there is room to improve their country- and city-level accuracy. Based on our results, we present a set of recommendations to researchers concerning the use of geolocation databases to geolocate routers.

The work in this paper was joint work by Manaf Gharaibeh, Anant Shah, Han Zhang, Christos Papadopoulos (Colorado State University), Brad Huffaker (CAIDA / UC San Diego), and Roya Ensafi (University of Michigan). The findings of this work are highlighted in an APNIC blog post “Should we trust the geolocation databases to geolocate routers?”. The ground truth datasets used in the paper are available via IMPACT.

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new talk “LocalRoot: Serve Yourself”

Wes Hardaker gave a talk on his LocalRoot project, allowing recursive resolver operators to keep an up to date cached copy of the root zone data available at all times. The talk was held in Abu Dhabi on November 1, 2017 at the ICANN annual general meeting during the DNSSEC Workshop. Slides and recorded video are available at on the ICANN event page.

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new talk “Verfploeter: Broad and Load-Aware Anycast Mapping”

Wes Hardaker gave the talk “Verfploeter: Broad and Load-Aware Anycast Mapping” at DNS-OARC in San Jose, California, USA on September 29, 2017.  Slides are available at on the event page.

From the abstract:

IP anycast provides DNS operators and CDNs with automatic fail-over and reduced latency by breaking the Internet into catchments,each served by a different anycast site. Unfortunately, understanding and predicting changes to catchments as sites are added or removed has been challenging. Current tools such as RIPE Atlas or commercial equivalents map from thousands of vantage points (VPs),but their coverage can be inconsistent around the globe. This paper proposes Verfploeter, a new method that maps anycast catchments using active probing. Verfploeter provides around 3.8M virtual VPs, 430 times the 9k physical VPs in RIPE Atlas,providing coverage of the vast majority of networks around the globe. We then add load information from prior service logs to provide calibrated predictions of anycast changes. Verfploeter has been used to evaluate the new anycast for B-Root, and we also report its use of a nine-site anycast testbed. We show that the greater coverage made possible by Verfploeter’s active probing is necessary to see routing differences in regions that have sparse coverage from RIPE Atlas, like South America and China.


A video of the talk is available On YouTube.

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new journal paper “Detecting Malicious Activity With DNS Backscatter Over Time” in IEEE/ACM ToN Oct, 2017

The paper “Detecting Malicious Activity With DNS Backscatter Over Time ” appears in EEE/ACM  Transactions on Networking ( Volume: 25, Issue: 5, Oct. 2017 ).

From the abstract:

Network-wide activity is when one computer (the originator) touches many others (the targets). Motives for activity may be benign (mailing lists, CDNs, and research scanning), malicious (spammers and scanners for security vulnerabilities), or perhaps indeterminate (ad trackers). Knowledge of malicious activity may help anticipate attacks, and understanding benign activity may set a baseline or characterize growth. This paper identifies DNS backscatter as a new source of information about network-wide activity. Backscatter is the reverse DNS queries caused when targets or middleboxes automatically look up the domain name of the originator. Queries are visible to the authoritative DNS servers that handle reverse DNS. While the fraction of backscatter they see depends on the server’s location in the DNS hierarchy, we show that activity that touches many targets appear even in sampled observations. We use information about the queriers to classify originator activity using machine learning. Our algorithm has reasonable accuracy and precision (70–80%) as shown by data from three different organizations operating DNS servers at the root or country-level. Using this technique we examine nine months of activity from one authority to identify trends in scanning, identifying bursts corresponding to Heartbleed and broad and continuous scanning of ssh.

This paper furthers our understanding of evolution of malicious network activities from an earlier work that:
(1) Why our machine-learning based classifier (that relies on manually collected labeled data) does not port across physical sites and over time.
(2) Secondly paper recommends how to sustain good learning score over time and provides expected life-time of labeled data.

An excerpt from section III-E (Training Over Time):

Classification (§ III-D) is based on training, yet training accuracy is affected by the evolution of activity—specific examples come and go, and the behavior in each class evolves. Change happens for all classes, but the problem is particularly acute for malicious classes (such as spam) where the adversarial nature of the action forces rapid evolution (see § V).


Some datasets used in this paper can be found here:

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