Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI)

Resource Public Key Infrastructure (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.

RPKI validation process and ROA

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 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).ROA validation is an important process within the Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI), since the certificates contain a number of critical routing parameters, including Origin ASN, Prefix and Max Length.

How does RPKI work?

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


RPKI by Arelion

Arelion was the first Tier-1 transit network in the world that launched the RPKI, successfully filtering invalid announcements from all external BGP sessions.

Our approach is that the industry would benefit from every single entity operating in the default-free zone deploying RPKI, so here are a couple of things to take into consideration:

  • It is of the greatest importance to ensure that RPKI is deployed where the impact is the highest, starting with Tier-1 transit providers such as us, taking our responsibility and not waiting for customers to apply enough commercial pressure to force a rushed deployment 
  • In the spirit of this being a collaborative initiative, it is incumbent on us that have deployed RPKI to dare to share the experiences, mistakes, lessons and pitfalls in order to make the journey shorter and less painful for others
  • In large-scale networks, although it having taken years of efforts in applying pressure on vendors, it is sometimes taken for granted that origin validation capabilities are available everywhere. This is certainly not the case, and sometimes only stable in very recent software releases
  • For all intents and purposes, RPKI is an opt-in solution

RPKI is included in all Arelion’s IP Transit offers. 

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