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Keep your Communities Clean: Exploring the Routing Message Impact of BGP Communities

Krenc, Thomas; Beverly, Robert; Smaragdakis, Georgios

BGP communities are widely used to tag prefix aggregates for policy, traffic engineering, and inter-AS signaling. Because individual ASes de ne their own community semantics, many ASes blindly propagate communities they do not recognize. Prior research has shown the potential security vulnerabilities when communities are not filtered. This work sheds light on a second unintended side-effect of communities and permissive propagation: an increase in unnecessary BGP routing messages. Due to its transitive property, a change in the community attribute induces update messages throughout established routes, just updating communities. We ground our work by characterizing the handling of updates with communities, including when filtered, on multiple real-world BGP implementations in controlled laboratory experiments. We then examine 10 years of BGP messages observed in the wild at two route collector systems. In 2020, approximately 25% of all updates modify the community attribute, but retain the AS path of the most recent announcement; an additional 25% update neither community nor AS path. Using predictable beacon prefixes, we demonstrate that communities lead to an increase in update messages both at the tagging AS and at neighboring ASes that neither add nor filter communities. This effect is prominent for geolocation communities during path exploration: on a single day, 63% of all unique community attributes are revealed exclusively due to global withdrawals.
Published in: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Emerging Networking EXperiments and Technologies (CoNEXT ’20), 10.1145/3386367.3432731, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)