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Sven_Mueller
F5 Employee
F5 Employee

Dear Reader,

In this article, I would like to, in collaboration with my colleague Mohamed Shaath, show you how to use DDoS reporting and visibility dashboards that we have created based on an ELK (Elastic Search Logstash and Kibana) stack.

The goal is to give you templates based on Open-Source software to address typical questions DDoS operators have and need to answer when an incident happens.

Another component we added is the visualization of incoming packets, dropped packets, detection, and mitigation thresholds per attack vector. The idea here is to give you insights into auto-calculated thresholds compared to incoming rates. It will also give you the possibility to see anomalies in traffic behavior. Hopefully, the visualization will also help you with fine-tuning the DoS vector configuration (a typical example of this is the floor value of a vector).

This article will give you an introduction to some of the graphs we provide together with the templates. Feel free to arrange or modify them in the way you need when you use the solution. We are also very happy to get your feedback, so we can optimize the dashboards and graphs in a way that is most useful for DDoS operators.

 

Fundamental understanding of log events

All DDoS configuration relay basically on two thresholds, regardless of the chosen threshold (manual, fully automatic, multiplier, …): Detection and Mitigation

Figure 1: Detection and Mitigation rate

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“Detection” means, inform the DDoS operator that the incoming rate is above the configured (or auto-calculated rate based on the history) rate. Do not block traffic, just send out specific log information. The “detection” value is usually set or calculated to a rate that is just within the expected “normal” rate. That also means, everything above that value is not “normal” and therefore suspicious, but not necessarily an attack. But the DDoS operator should be aware of that event. Exactly this is happening when a packet rate crosses the detection rate: BIG-IP will send out log messages to the log server (when configured).

Within the ELK solution we are introducing, we use the “Splunk” logging format, which sends the information in key/value format. That makes the understanding of the fields much easier.

Here is an example of a log message, which is sent out when the packet rate has crossed the detection threshold.

Jun 17 23:08:46 172.30.107.11 action="Allow",hostname="lon-i5800-1.pme.itc.f5net.com",bigip_mgmt_ip="172.30.107.11",context_name="/Common/www_10_103_2_80_80",date_time="Jun 17 2021 22:58:12",dest_ip="10.103.2.80",dest_port="80",device_product="DDoS Hybrid Defender",device_vendor="F5",device_version="15.1.2.1.0.317.10",dos_attack_event="Attack Sampled",dos_attack_id="550542726",dos_attack_name="TCP Push Flood",dos_packets_dropped="0",dos_packets_received="117",errdefs_msgno="23003138",errdefs_msg_name="Network DoS Event",flow_id="0000000000000000",severity="4",dos_mode="Enforced",dos_src="Volumetric, Per-SrcIP, VS-specific attack, metric:PPS",partition_name="Common",route_domain="0",source_ip="10.103.6.10",source_port="39219",vlan="/Common/vlan3006_client"

Explanation of the message content:

Action = “Allow” indicates that BIG-IP is not dropping packets (from the DoS point of view), it’s just giving the operator the information that within the last second the protected context (here: /Common/www_10_103_80_80) has received 117 (dos_packets_received) push packets (dos_attack_name) from source IP 10.103.6.10 (source_ip) within the last second.

Btw., because this is a “Volumetric, Per-SrcIP, VS-specific attack” (dos_src) log message, it also tells you that the source IP has been identified as a bad actor (Also see my article: Increasing accuracy using Bad Actor and Attacked Destination). Therefore, this event was triggered by the Bad Actor configuration of the TCP Push flood vector.


Mitigation threshold

Once the incoming packet rate has crossed the mitigation threshold of a DoS vector or an attack signature, then BIG-IP starts to drop (rate-limit) traffic above that value. This is when we declare being under an DDoS attack because the protected context (server, service, network, BIG-IP, etc.) will be negatively affected by this high number of packets per second. Now the BIG-IP DoS device (AFM/DHD) needs to lower the number of packets hitting the affected context and that’s why it starts to drop packets on the identified vector. Again, this mitigation threshold can be set manually or auto-calculated based on history or a multiplication of the detection threshold. (Explanation of the F5 DDoS threshold modes)

Here is an example of a drop log message:

Jun 17 23:05:03 172.30.107.11 action="Drop",hostname="lon-i5800-1.pme.itc.f5net.com",bigip_mgmt_ip="172.30.107.11",context_name="Device",date_time="Jun 17 2021 22:54:29",dest_ip="10.103.2.80",dest_port="0",device_product="DDoS Hybrid Defender",device_vendor="F5",device_version="15.1.2.1.0.317.10",dos_attack_event="Attack Sampled",dos_attack_id="3221546531",dos_attack_name="Bad TCP flags (all cleared)",dos_packets_dropped="152224",dos_packets_received="152224",errdefs_msgno="23003138",errdefs_msg_name="Network DoS Event",flow_id="0000000000000000",severity="4",dos_mode="Enforced",dos_src="Volumetric, Aggregated across all SrcIP's, Device-Wide attack, metric:PPS",partition_name="Common",route_domain="0",source_ip="10.103.6.10",source_port="12826",vlan="/Common/vlan3006_client"

In this example, the message is an aggregation of all source IPs (dos_src="Volumetric, Aggregated across all SrcIP's, Device-Wide attack) of the dropped packets (dos_packets_dropped="152224") during the last second. Therefore, the source IP (source_ip="10.103.6.10”) is just a representer for all source IPs with dropped packets within the last second. This is because there was no “bad actor” identified. This is usually the case, when the bad actor functionality is not configured, or when every packet has a different source IP.


Structure of the dashboards

These two main logging events (allow and drop) are what we have adapted to the visualization of the DDoS dashboard.

The DDoS operator needs to know when there is an anomaly in the network and which vectors are triggered by the anomaly. The operator also needs to know what destinations are involved and which sources cause the anomaly.

But, it is also important to know when the network is under attack and again what mitigation has taken place on which destinations and sources. How many packets have been dropped etc.?

When you open the “DDoS Dashboard” and choose the “Overview Dashboard” you will notice that the dashboard is divided into two halves. On the left side, you get the information when a DDoS device has dropped packets and on the right side, you get the information about “suspicious” packets, which means when traffic was above a detection threshold without being dropped (action “Allow”).

Figure 2: Structure of the dashboard

0151T000003v0aCQAQ.png

Within this dashboard, you will also find graphs or tables which do not split the dashboard into two sides. Here you find combined information from both events/areas (mitigation and suspicious).


Explanation of some dashboards

In the menu section Home/Analytics/Dashboard you will find all dashboards we created.

Figure 3: Dashboard menu

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Let’s briefly explain what the main Dashboards are for.

 

Figure 4: Dashboard overview

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DDoS_Dashboard is the board where you can see all events during a chosen timeframe, which you can select in the upper right corner within that dashboard.

 

Figure 5: Period of time selection

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On the top of the page, you find the Dashboard Explorer. From here you can easily navigate between all the relevant dashboards without going through the Analytics section of the main menu.

 

Figure 6: Dashboard Explorer

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DDOS STATS Dashboard: shows details of the rates and thresholds (packet rate, detection, and mitigation threshold, drop rate) for all vectors including bad actor and attacked destination thresholds. Here you need to select the relevant vector, and context to see the details.

DDOS Network Vectors: show details of the incoming rate and drop rate per network vector on a one-pager.

DDOS DNS Vectors: show details of the incoming rate and drop rate per DNS vector on a one-pager.

DDOS Bad Header Vectors: show details of the incoming rate and drop rate per bad header vector on one page.

DDOS SIP vector: show details of the incoming rate and drop rate per SIP vector on a one pager.

Please note that all “stats” dashboards are based on the “dos_stats” table, which you need to you to your server. It is not done via the DoS logs. On the GitHub page, you will find instructions on how to do it.

Next, you see the Stats Control Panel

Figure 7: Stats Control Panel

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By default, it will show the events (drop/allow) for all vectors in all contexts (VS/PO, Device) on all DoS devices. But by using the drop-down menu you can filter on specific data. All filters you set can also easily be saved and used again. Kibana gives a lot of flexibility.

Next, you get to the Top Attacks Timeline, which shows you the top 10 attack vectors, which have dropped packets.

Figure 8: Attack Timeline

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When you mouseover then you get the number of dropped packets for that vector.

To the right of this graph, you see the Attack Event Details.

Figure 9: Attack Event Details

0151T000003v0YSQAY.png

This simply shows you how many logs you have received per log event. Remember every mechanism (for example per source event, per destination, aggregated, …) has its own logs.

The next row shows on the left side how many packets had been dropped during the chosen time frame.

Figure 10: Dropped vs. suspicious packets

0151T000003v0aWQAQ.png

On the right side you see how many packets had been identified as suspicious because the rate was above the detection threshold, but not above the mitigation threshold. This event message has the action “Allow”.

In the middle graph, you see the relation of suspicious packets vs. dropped packets vs. incoming packets (incoming packets is the summarization of dropped and suspicious packets).

The next graph gives you also an overview of received packets vs. dropped packets.

Figure 11: Incoming vs. dropped packets

0151T000003v0abQAA.png

But here the data comes from the dos_stats table, so again it is only visible when you send the information. Keep in mind this is not done via the log messages. This is the part where you send the output of the “tmctl -c dos_stat” command to your log device. If you are not doing it, then you can remove this graph from the dashboard.

The main difference to the graph in the middle above is, that you will see data also when there is no event (allow/drop) because depending on the configured frequency you send the “dos_stat” table, you get the data (snapshot). Graphs based on log events of course can only appear when there is an event and logs are sent.

This graph shows all incoming packets counted by all enabled vectors, regardless of they are counted on bad actors, attacked destinations, or the global stats per vector. Same for the dropped packets. It gives an overall overview of incoming packets vs. dropped packets. To get more details on which vector or mechanism (BA, AD) did the mitigation, you need to go to the DDOS STATS Dashboard.

A piece of important information for a DDoS Operator is to know which services (IPs) are under attack and which contexts or protected objects have been involved.

Figure 12: Target information

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Of course, also which vectors are used by the attacker.

This is what is shown in the next row. On the left two graphs you get this information for dropped packets. On the right two graphs you see it for packets above the detection threshold but below the mitigation.

Attacked IP and Destination Port, shows you the attacked IPs including the destination ports.

Attacked Protected Objects, shows you the Context (VS/PO, Device, Global) in relation to the attack vectors. Context “Global” is used for IPI (IP-Intelligence). In this example packets got dropped because source IPs were configured within the IPI policy “my_IPI” and the category “denial of service”. The mitigation was executed on the global level. IPI activities are shown as attack vectors.

Figure 13: IP-Intelligence information

0151T000003v0ahQAA.png

When you mouseover you can get the full line. More details on the attack vectors and IPI activity you will see lower on the page.

Attacked destination details

In the next row, you find a table with information on IP addresses that have been identified as being attacked by “Attacked Destination Detection” configured on a vector.

Figure 14: Attacked Destination Details

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Figure 15: Vector configuration

0151T000003v0alQAA.png

What are the sources of an attack?

The next graph gives you the information of the identified attackers.

“Top AttackerIPs” shows you the top 10 attacks based on aggregated logs. When you have configured “Bad Actor Detection” then you will also get the information for the top 10 “bad actors” IPs. Identified “bad actor” IPs are certainly important information you want to keep an eye on.

Figure 16: Source address information

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Bad Actor Details

To get more information on “bad actors”, you can use the “Bad Actor Details” table, which will show you relevant information.

Here is an example:

Figure 17: Bad Actor details

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You can see that the UDF flood vector identified a flood for the bad actor IP “4.4.4.4” at 11:02 on the Device level. Most of the packets had been dropped (PPS vs. Dropped Packets). Within the next multiple 30 second intervals, you get again details for that bad actor IP.

But at 11:06 you can see that the IP address got programmed into the “denial of service” category and after that, all traffic coming from that IP got dropped via the IP-Intelligence policy “my_IPI” on the “Global” level/context.


BDoS Details

The Dashboard will also give you information about BDoS signatures and their events.

Figure 18: BDoS details

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In this example, you can see that the system generated (Signature Add) a BDoS signature at 11:23:30. Then this signature was used (Re-USED) for mitigation (Drop). Keep in mind you will only see the details of a signature when it gets created. If a signature is re-used and you want to see the details of the signatures which may have gotten created days or weeks before, then you need to filter for that signature within the timeframe it got created.


Another view on attacked IPs

The dashboards give you also another, comprehensive view on attacked and targeted (action allow) IP addresses.

Here you probably best start to mouseover from the inner circle going outside and you will get information per attacked context.

Figure 19: Combined view on sources, destination and vectors

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Details about DNS attacks

Within the DNS section, you get details about DNS-related attacks.

Figure 20: DNS attack overview per vector

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Figure 21: Detailed DNS attack overview

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Also, a different view on Bad Actor activities

Figure 22: Bad Actor / attack vector / destination overview

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Since we hope the graphs are mostly self-explaining we don´t want to go through all of them. We also plan to add more or modify them based on your feedback.

Now it’s time to talk about another component, which we already touched on multiple times within this article.


Attack vector visualization

A second component we have created is the visualization of the stats (incoming, detection, mitigation, etc.) per attack vector. This is an optional part and is not related to the DoS logging. It is based on the “dos_stat” table and gives a snapshot of the statistics based on the interval you have configured to send the data from BIG-IP into your ELK stack.

 In my article “Demonstration of Device DoS and Per-Service DoS protection,” I already introduced you to the “dos_stat” table, when I used it within my “show_DoS_stats_script”.

Figure 23: DDoS stat table

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This script shows you the stats for all vectors and their threshold etc.

By sending this data frequently into your ELK stack, you can visualize the data and get graphs for them. You then can easily see trends or anomalies within a defined time frame. You can also easily see what thresholds (detection/mitigation) the system has calculated.

Figure 24: Activity (detection/mitigation)graph per vector

0151T000003v0auQAA.png

In this example you can see, what the system has done during an attack. The green line shows the incoming packet rate for that vector. The yellow line shows the expected auto-calculated rate (detection rate). The blue line is the auto-calculated mitigation rate, which is at the beginning of this graph very high because the protected context has no stress.

Then we can see that the packet rate increases massively and crossed the detection rate. This is when the DDoS operator needs to be informed because this rate is not “normal” (based on history) and therefore suspicious. This high packet rate has an impact on the stress of the protected context and the mitigation rate got adjusted below the incoming rate. At that point, the system started to defend and mitigate. But the incoming packet rate went down again for a short time. Here the mitigation stopped because the rate was below the mitigation threshold, which also got increased again because of no stress on the protected context anymore.

Then the flood happened again. The mitigation threshold got adjusted, mitigation started. Later we can see the incoming rate sometimes climbed above the detection threshold but was not strong enough to affect the health of the protected context. Therefore, no mitigation took place.

At around 11:53 we can see the flood increased again and enabled the mitigation.

Please keep in mind that the granularity of this graph depends of course on the frequency you send the data into the ELK stack and the data is always a snapshot of the current stats.


How to configure logging on BIG-IP

tmsh create ltm pool pool_log_server members add { 1.1.1.1:5558 }

tmsh create sys log-config destination remote-high-speed-log HSL_LOG_DEST { pool-name pool_log_server protocol udp }

tmsh create sys log-config destination splunk SPLUNK_LOG_DEST forward-to HSL_LOG_DEST

tmsh create sys log-config publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER destinations add { SPLUNK_LOG_DEST }

tmsh create security log profile LOG_PROFILE dos-network-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER protocol-dns-dos-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER protocol-sip-dos-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER ip-intelligence { log-translation-fields enabled log-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER } traffic-statistics { syncookies enabled log-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER }

tmsh modify security log profile global-network dos-network-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER ip-intelligence { log-geo enabled log-rtbh enabled log-scrubber enabled log-shun enabled log-translation-fields enabled log-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER } protocol-dns-dos-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER protocol-sip-dos-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER traffic-statistics { log-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER syncookies enabled }

tmsh modify security dos device-config dos-device-config log-publisher KIBANA_LOG_PUBLISHER

Figure 25: Overview of logging configuration

0151T000003v0aGQAQ.png

How to send the dos_stats table data

modify (crontab -e) the crontab on BIG-IP and add:

* * * * * nb_of_tmms=$(tmsh show sys tmm-info | grep Sys::TMM | wc -l);tmctl -c dos_stat -s context_name,vector_name,attack_detected,stats_rate,drops_rate,int_drops_rate,ba_stats_rate,ba_drops_rate,bd_stats_rate,bd_drops_rate,detection,mitigation_low,mitigation_high,detection_ba,mitigation_ba_low,mitigation_ba_high,detection_bd,mitigation_bd_low,mitigation_bd_high | grep -v "context_name" | sed '/^$/d' | sed "s/$/,$nb_of_tmms/g" | logger -n 1.1.1.1 --udp --port 5558

 

Modify IP and port appropriate.

Better approach then using the crontab is to use an external monitor:

https://support.f5.com/csp/article/K71282813

Anyhow, keep in mind more frequently logging generates more data on you logging device!


Conclusion

The DDoS dashboards based on an ELK stack give the DDoS operators visibility into their DDoS events.

The dashboard consumes logs sent by BIG-IP based on L3/4/DNS DDoS events and visualizes them in graphs. These graphs provide relevant information on what kinds of attacks from which sources are going to which destinations. Based on your BIG-IP DoS config you get “bad actor” details or “attacked destinations” details listed. You will also see if IPs that have been blocked by certain IPI categories and more. In addition to other information shown, the ELK stack is also able to consume data from the dos_stats table, which gives you details about your network behaviors on a vector level. Further, you can see how “auto thresholds” calculate detection and mitigation thresholds.

We hope that this article gives you an introduction to the DDoS ELK Dashboards. We also plan to publish another article on the explanation of the underlying architecture.

 

Sven Mueller & Mohamed Shaat

 

Version history
Last update:
‎03-Nov-2021 08:36
Updated by:
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