We document institutional privacy as a new risk posed by DNS data collected at authoritative servers, even after caching and aggregation by DNS recursives. We are the first to demonstrate this risk by looking at leaks of e-mail exchanges which show communications patterns, and leaks from accessing sensitive websites, both of which can harm an institution’s public image. We define a methodology to identify queries from institutions and identify leaks. We show the current practices of prefix-preserving anonymization of IP addresses and aggregation above the recursive are not sufficient to protect institutional privacy, suggesting the need for novel approaches.
The data from this paper is available upon request, please see our project page.
Large websites and distributed systems employ sophisticated analytics to evaluate successes to celebrate and problems to be addressed. As analytics grow, different teams often require different frameworks, with dozens of packages supporting with streaming and batch processing, SQL and no-SQL. Bringing multiple frameworks to bear on a large, changing dataset often create challenges where data transitions—these impedance mismatches can create brittle glue logic and performance problems that consume developer time. We propose Plumb, a meta-framework that can bridge three different abstractions to meet the needs of a large class of applications in a common workflow. Large-block streaming (Block-Streaming) is suitable for single-pass applications that care about the temporal and spatial locality. Windowed-Streaming allows applications to process a group of data and many reductions. Stateful-Streaming enables applications to keep a long-term state and always-on behavior. We show that it is possible to bridge abstractions, with a common, high-level workflow specification, while the system transitions data batch processing and block- and record-level streaming as required. The challenge in bridging abstractions is to minimize latency while allowing applications to select between sequential and parallel operation, while handling out-of-order data delivery, component failures, and providing clear semantics in the face of missing data. We demonstrate these abstractions evaluating a 10-stage workflow of DNS analytics that has been in production use with Plumb for 2 years, comparing to a brittle hand-built system that has run for more than 3 years.
This conference paper is joint work of Abdul Qadeer and John Heidemann from USC/ISI.
Ad platforms such as Facebook, Google and LinkedIn promise value for advertisers through their targeted advertising. However, multiple studies have shown that ad delivery on such platforms can be skewed by gender or race due to hidden algorithmic optimization by the platforms, even when not requested by the advertisers. Building on prior work measuring skew in ad delivery, we develop a new methodology for black-box auditing of algorithms for discrimination in the delivery of job advertisements. Our first contribution is to identify the distinction between skew in ad delivery due to protected categories such as gender or race, from skew due to differences in qualification among people in the targeted audience. This distinction is important in U.S. law, where ads may be targeted based on qualifications, but not on protected categories. Second, we develop an auditing methodology that distinguishes between skew explainable by differences in qualifications from other factors, such as the ad platform’s optimization for engagement or training its algorithms on biased data. Our method controls for job qualification by comparing ad delivery of two concurrent ads for similar jobs, but for a pair of companies with different de facto gender distributions of employees. We describe the careful statistical tests that establish evidence of non-qualification skew in the results. Third, we apply our proposed methodology to two prominent targeted advertising platforms for job ads: Facebook and LinkedIn. We confirm skew by gender in ad delivery on Facebook, and show that it cannot be justified by differences in qualifications. We fail to find skew in ad delivery on LinkedIn. Finally, we suggest improvements to ad platform practices that could make external auditing of their algorithms in the public interest more feasible and accurate.
This paper was awarded runner-up for best student paper at The Web Conference 2021.
The data from this paper is upon request, please see our dataset page.
Operational services run 24×7 and require analytics pipelines to evaluate performance. In mature services such as DNS, these pipelines often grow to many stages developed by multiple, loosely-coupled teams. Such pipelines pose two problems: first, computation and data storage may be duplicated across components developed by different groups, wasting resources. Second, processing can be skewed, with structural skew occurring when different pipeline stages need different amounts of resources, and computational skew occurring when a block of input data requires increased resources. Duplication and structural skew both decrease efficiency, increasing cost, latency, or both. Computational skew can cause pipeline failure or deadlock when resource consumption balloons; we have seen cases where pessimal traffic increases CPU requirements 6-fold. Detecting duplication is challenging when components from multiple teams evolve independently and require fault isolation. Skew management is hard due to dynamic workloads coupled with the conflicting goals of both minimizing latency and maximizing utilization. We propose Plumb, a framework to abstract stream processing as large-block streaming (LBS) for a multi-stage, multi-user workflow. Plumb users express analytics as a DAG of processing modules, allowing Plumb to integrate and optimize workflows from multiple users. Many real-world applications map to the LBS abstraction. Plumb detects and eliminates duplicate computation and storage, and it detects and addresses both structural and computational skew by tracking computation across the pipeline. We exercise Plumb using the analytics pipeline for B-Root DNS. We compare Plumb to a hand-tuned system, cutting latency to one-third the original, and requiring 39% fewer container hours, while supporting more flexible, multi-user analytics and providing greater robustness to DDoS-driven demands.
This journal paper is joint work of Abdul Qadeer and John Heidemann from USC/ISI.
Plumb is open source software and we will be interested in beta testers. Please contact us if you think it would be useful to manage your workflows over one or a cluster of computers.
Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks launched from compromised Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices have shown how vulnerable the Internet is to largescale DDoS attacks. To understand the risks of these attacks requires learning about these IoT devices: where are they? how many are there? how are they changing? This paper describes three new methods to find IoT devices on the Internet: server IP addresses in traffic, server names in DNS queries, and manufacturer information in TLS certificates. Our primary methods (IP addresses and DNS names) use knowledge of servers run by the manufacturers of these devices. Our third method uses TLS certificates obtained by active scanning. We have applied our algorithms to a number of observations. With our IP-based algorithm, we report detections from a university campus over 4 months and from traffic transiting an IXP over 10 days. We apply our DNS-based algorithm to traffic from 8 root DNS servers from 2013 to 2018 to study AS-level IoT deployment. We find substantial growth (about 3.5×) in AS penetration for 23 types of IoT devices and modest increase in device type density for ASes detected with these device types (at most 2 device types in 80% of these ASes in 2018). DNS also shows substantial growth in IoT deployment in residential households from 2013 to 2017. Our certificate-based algorithm finds 254k IP cameras and network video recorders from 199 countries around the world.
We make operational traffic we captured from 10 IoT devices we own public at https://ant.isi.edu/datasets/iot/. We also use operational traffic of 21 IoT devices shared by University of New South Wales at http://220.127.116.11/.
This journal paper is joint work of Hang Guo and John Heidemann from USC/ISI.
We published a new paper “Bidirectional Anycast/Unicast Probing (BAUP): Optimizing CDN Anycast” by Lan Wei (University of Southern California/ ISI), Marcel Flores (Verizon Digital Media Services), Harkeerat Bedi (Verizon Digital Media Services), John Heidemann (University of Southern California/ ISI) at Network Traffic Measurement and Analysis Conference 2020.
From the abstract:
IP anycast is widely used today in Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and for Domain Name System (DNS) to provide efficient service to clients from multiple physical points-of-presence (PoPs). Anycast depends on BGP routing to map users to PoPs, so anycast efficiency depends on both the CDN operator and the routing policies of other ISPs. Detecting and diagnosing inefficiency is challenging in this distributed environment. We propose Bidirectional Anycast/Unicast Probing (BAUP), a new approach that detects anycast routing problems by comparing anycast and unicast latencies. BAUP measures latency to help us identify problems experienced by clients, triggering traceroutes to localize the cause and suggest opportunities for improvement. Evaluating BAUP on a large, commercial CDN, we show that problems happens to 1.59% of observers, and we find multiple opportunities to improve service. Prompted by our work, the CDN changed peering policy and was able to significantly reduce latency, cutting median latency in half (40 ms to 16 ms) for regions with more than 100k users.
The data from this paper is publicly available from RIPE Atlas, please see paper reference for measurement IDs.
There is a growing interest in carefully observing the reliability of the Internet’s edge. Outage information can inform our understanding of Internet reliability and planning, and it can help guide operations. Active outage detection methods provide results for more than 3M blocks, and passive methods more than 2M, but both are challenged by sparse blocks where few addresses respond or send traffic. We propose a new Full Block Scanning (FBS) algorithm to improve coverage for active scanning by providing reliable results for sparse blocks by gathering more information before making a decision. FBS identifies sparse blocks and takes additional time before making decisions about their outages, thereby addressing previous concerns about false outages while preserving strict limits on probe rates. We show that FBS can improve coverage by correcting 1.2M blocks that would otherwise be too sparse to correctly report, and potentially adding 1.7M additional blocks. FBS can be applied retroactively to existing datasets to improve prior coverage and accuracy.
Today, outage detection systems can track outages across the whole IPv4 Internet—millions of networks. However, it becomes difficult to find meaningful, interesting events in this huge dataset, since three months of data can easily include 660M observations and thousands of outage events. We propose an outage reporting system that sifts through this data to find the most interesting events. We explore multiple metrics to evaluate interesting”, reflecting the size and severity of outages. We show that defining interest as the product of size by severity works well, avoiding degenerate cases like complete outages affecting a few people, and apparently large outages that affect only a small fraction of people in an area. We have integrated outage reporting into our existing public website (https://outage.ant.isi.edu) with the goal of making near-real-time outage information accessible to the general public. Such data can help answer questions like “what are the most significant outages today?”, did Florida have major problems in an ongoing hurricane?”, and “are there power outages in Venezuela?”.
DNS depends on extensive caching for good performance, and every DNS zone owner must set Time-to-Live (TTL) values to control their DNS caching. Today there is relatively little guidance backed by research about how to set TTLs, and operators must balance conflicting demands of caching against agility of configuration. Exactly how TTL value choices affect operational networks is quite challenging to understand due to interactions across the distributed DNS service, where resolvers receive TTLs in different ways (answers and hints), TTLs are specified in multiple places (zones and their parent’s glue), and while DNS resolution must be security-aware. This paper provides the first careful evaluation of how these multiple, interacting factors affect the effective cache lifetimes of DNS records, and provides recommendations for how to configure DNS TTLs based on our findings. We provide recommendations in TTL choice for different situations, and for where they must be configured. We show that longer TTLs have significant promise in reducing latency, reducing it from 183ms to 28.7ms for one country-code TLD.
We have also reported on this work at the RIPE and APNIC blogs.
With vast amount of content online, it is not surprising that unscrupulous entities “borrow” from the web to provide content for advertisements, link farms, and spam. Our insight is that cryptographic hashing and fingerprinting can efficiently identify content reuse for web-size corpora. We develop two related algorithms, one to automatically discover previously unknown duplicate content in the web, and the second to precisely detect copies of discovered or manually identified content. We show that bad neighborhoods, clusters of pages where copied content is frequent, help identify copying in the web. We verify our algorithm and its choices with controlled experiments over three web datasets: Common Crawl (2009/10), GeoCities (1990s–2000s), and a phishing corpus (2014). We show that our use of cryptographic hashing is much more precise than alternatives such as locality-sensitive hashing, avoiding the thousands of false-positives that would otherwise occur. We apply our approach in three systems: discovering and detecting duplicated content in the web, searching explicitly for copies of Wikipedia in the web, and detecting phishing sites in a web browser. We show that general copying in the web is often benign (for example, templates), but 6–11% are commercial or possibly commercial. Most copies of Wikipedia (86%) are commercialized (link farming or advertisements). For phishing, we focus on PayPal, detecting 59% of PayPal-phish even without taking on intentional cloaking.