RPKI is a security framework by which network owners can validate and secure the critical route updates or Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) announcements between public Internet networks. BGP is essentially the central nervous system of the Internet and one of its fundamental building blocks. The main function of BGP is to facilitate efficient routing between Autonomous Systems (AS), by building and maintaining the Internet routing table. The Internet routing table is effectively the navigation system of the Internet and without it, traffic would be unable to flow between its constituent networks. Unfortunately, routing equipment alone cannot distinguish between legitimate and malicious routing announcements, but network operators who implement RPKI validation and filtering can choose to reject announcements from networks not authorised to advertise those resources. In other words, RPKI is essentially a secure identification system for the BGP route information between autonomous systems.

How does RPKI work?

RPKI proves the association between specific IP address blocks or ASNs and the holders of those Internet number resources. In practical terms, validators are used within in an AS to ensure the validity of BGP route updates. RPKI uses a certificate structure that verifies a resource holder's right of use of their resources and can be validated cryptographically. These certificates are known as Route Origin Authorization (ROA). ROAs contain a number of critical routing parameters, including Origin ASN, Prefix and Max Length.

With RPKI, the certificate structure mirrors the way in which Internet number resources are distributed. That is, resources are initially distributed by IANA to the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), who in turn distribute them to the Local Internet Registries (LIRs), and ultimately, to their customers – the autonomous system owners.

What is RPKI infographic

Why is RPKI important?

RPKI reduces the risk of accidental route leaks and helps mitigate the blast radius of any incidents caused either by human error or BGP optimization software. It also helps prevent malicious IP resource hijacks, which can result in critical outages or fraudulent traffic manipulation.

  • For content providers and resource owners, the registration of ROAs will help protect web assets from being deliberately hijacked and re-directed to other destinations (malicious site spoofing)
  • For service providers or Tier 1 networks with a duty to ensure the security of the Internet routing table, RPKI is a key component of MANRS compliance 
  • For the Internet user, choosing an ISP who has RPKI validation reduces the risk of personal data breaches and redirection to malicious sites

BGP and Routing

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing is the central nervous system of the Internet. Stable and efficient IP routing between different Autonomous Systems (AS) is essential for the security of the entire Internet ecosystem. Our BGP communities and the added security of RPKI enable manageable and reliable traffic flows.

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