October 9, 2009

Control Plane Policing, Hardware Rate Limiting, and Access-Control Lists

  • Protecting Cisco Catalyst 6500 Series Switches
  • Cisco Systems
It's been some time since administrators focused their security attention primarily on servers and hosts in the network. At that time administrators didn't use much more than a firewall and a few access lists to secure an entire network. Over the last several years, the infrastructure has also become a direct target, and on many occasions, an attack on the network is a byproduct of a worm or virus. Infected hosts generate substantial traffic either by scanning other hosts in the network, proliferating malware, and/or being the target of an attack or potentially being in the path of the attack. In order to protect the infrastructure, especially the core and distribution portions of the network, other mechanisms can be used to minimize the effects on these critical business-enabling components, namely, your Cisco® Catalyst® 6500 Series Switches.

This paper describes three methods that can be employed to help protect your infrastructure: control-plane policing (CoPP), hardware rate limiting (HWRL), and access-control lists (ACLs). The operation of each function and configuration examples of each of these methods will be explained in detail, so you will have an understanding of how to successfully implement these valuable features.

Through the use of a controlled test environment, several attack situations were created that placed the network infrastructure in jeopardy. The effects on the network were captured and, using the methods previously described, these attacks were mitigated and the condition of the network was captured. Configuration examples will be used to show how an unprotected infrastructure behaves. The appropriate configurations that mitigate the attack will then be shown.

Finally, a baseline recommendation will be provided as a starting point from which you can begin implementation of control plane protection in your network.

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