Protecting Internet Traffic – Challenges and Issues

By Nagender Aneja, Institute of Applied Data Analytics, Universiti Brunei Darussalam,
Mohamad Iskandar Petra, Faculty of Integrated Technologies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam,
Ali Kashif Bashir, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of the Faroe Islands, Faroe Islands

IEEE Internet Initiative eNewsletter, November 2017

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Our devices regularly connect multiple networks to provide a variety of services. However, this ubiquitous connectivity raises significant concerns since the networks that devices use to communicate are not always under user control, and it may lead to security vulnerability. Internet traffic engineering evolved to deal with challenges and issues in the protection of internet traffic. The challenges in measurement, characterization, modeling of internet traffic and application of security algorithms for protection of the internet traffic are major concerns of researchers. The most important function of the internet is routing traffic from source node to destination node, therefore, protecting, controlling, and optimizing the routing function is crucial for the internet. While protecting the internet traffic includes guarding against unauthorized access, it also includes protecting against the issues like congestion that can lower the performance of critical applications.

Network congestion and cyberattacks are the two most significant challenges for traffic in network-based protocols. Servers can monitor congestion to limit access to resources and dynamically regulate the demand to alleviate the overload. Network capacity can also be expended to accommodate traffic and re-allocate network resources by redistributing load over the infrastructure. Traffic redistribution and resource re-allocation can address the challenges of congestion in the internet traffic[1]. However, in some cases attackers use innocent users’ machines to launch large scale cyberattacks that intentionally create congestion at the server or to steal users’ data. A cyberattack is a type of deliberate offensive exploitation that targets computer information systems, computer networks, and personal computing devices. Without security measures and controls in place, the network data might be subjected to an attack. Some attacks are passive (information is being monitored); whereas, others are active (information is altered with intent to corrupt or destroy the data or the network itself). The number of attacks is further growing with the increase in the number of things with limited or no security that are connected to the internet. Governments could also play a more significant role in regulating the industry and enforcing minimum security standards.

Different Attacks on Internet Traffic

Both the network and data are vulnerable to any of the following types of attacks if there is a lack of security plan in place. Security planning involves developing security policies and implementing controls to prevent risks from becoming a reality. However, it requires a full risk evaluation and the following types of different attacks can be considered as significant risks to the internet traffic.

Cyberattacks: The computer networks are susceptive to cyberattacks such as traffic analysis, which includes packet counting or traffic timing correlation. In traffic analysis attacks, the attackers use the timing information of packets to identify a particular flow of packets. The challenge in defending against traffic analysis attacks is to dynamically manipulate the sending time of outgoing packets, which is a hard and cumbersome task. Another challenge to defend against the traffic analysis attacks is to implement the techniques that exchange the constant number of same-sized packets per unit time among the network nodes to hide traffic information such as traffic pattern and start and ending time of flow. Additionally, packet timing information has been used to attack encrypted web traffic[2].

Denial of Service: Denial of service (DoS) is an attack in which internet traffic is jammed by a malicious attacker by sending the bulk of useless packets to the network. The challenge in defending against this attack is to encrypt and mix internet traffic from different sources efficiently and accurately using public keys of routers. Furthermore, techniques used to defend against DoS attacks increase waiting times and have performance issues.

Latency Attack: Latency attack is probably the trickiest to protect. It is based on the fact that the latency on different routes will differ, and the attacker can compute these latencies. In another simpler timing attack, an attacker observes the communication among particular nodes and then creates a route through a chosen set of nodes and clogs the path with malicious requests. A variant of the clogging attack is to exploit some IP protocol or implementation flaw to temporarily delay packet delivery at an intermediate router (not necessarily a node) on a targeted route. In redirection attack, the attacker first controls the communication packets then changes the data or injects false data to devastate both receiver and sender.

There has been a tremendous increase in internet traffic due to the connection of billions of different Internet of Things (IoT) devices that has further made the internet traffic vulnerable to high-security risk. Due to attacks in web traffic, heterogeneous devices like sensors, actuators, RFID tags, smart-phones, etc., are also vulnerable to attacks. The security issues like confidentiality, authentication, and integrity for these devices are created due to attacks in the internet traffic.

The communication protocols used for internet-connected devices also have similar threats, but the impact of risks may be powerful. The internet routing protocols are prone to attacks like impersonation, spoofing, selective forwarding, or falsification of routing information, etc. Firewall and intrusion detection system can be used in internet traffic, but it is a significant challenge to implement in smart devices due to their small size and low resources.

The internet traffic used by smart meters and smart appliances has other security issues like privacy when many government and private agencies want to track devices. For example, the data could harm the privacy of a user by revealing information about habits like wake up, sleeping, and dinner times, or if someone is in or away from the house, on vacation, etc.

There are some standards for securing the information transferred over the internet in the market; however, there are many challenges for adoption of standards because the standards have to handle unstructured data. The lack of specific implementation of standard communication protocols for different types of devices by various vendors is also challenging. There are no sufficient laws that handle internet security issues, and the question is whether liability laws can be extended to devices which are connected to the internet.

The Internet Society[5] proposed that governments should enable users to accept their technical measures to safeguard internet communications and data. Online service providers should be encouraged to offer their solutions for end-to-end encryption for their consumers. The end-to-end encryption ensures that only communicating users can read the message and thus preventing intermediate parties to access keys to decrypt the message. The most significant step now is to ensure that new IoT products are secured before they enter the market since these products will continue to operate for a long time without replacement. The European Union is also considering regulations to enforce compliance with security standards.


The security architecture that can provide one hundred percent protection may not be possible. Security aims to increase the cost of attacks to deter hackers to receive any monetary gain from attacks. Machine learning and behavioral analytics are assumed to detect anything these days, but there is a need for innovation to develop, implement, and test the protocols in a real-time environment[3]. An architecture that provides the deepest prevention and can adapt quickly and defend itself against attacks is the need of the hour. Ding et al.[4] surveyed future internet architectures and presented open issues in the area of scalability, mobility, availability, and security and called for a clean slate design of new internet architecture, which embeds security as an intrinsic feature.


[1] Awduche, Daniel, Angela Chiu, Anwar Elwalid, Indra Widjaja, and XiPeng Xiao. Overview and principles of Internet traffic engineering. No. RFC 3272. 2002.

[2] Feghhi, Saman, and Douglas J. Leith. "A Web Traffic Analysis Attack Using Only Timing Information." IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security 11, no. 8 (2016): 1747-1759.

[3] Stevanovic, Matija, and Jens Myrup Pedersen. "Machine learning for identifying botnet network traffic." (2013).

[4] Ding, Wenxiu, Zheng Yan, and Robert H. Deng. "A survey on future Internet security architectures." IEEE Access 4 (2016): 4374-4393.

[5] Internet Society, A policy framework for an open and trusted Internet An approach for reinforcing trust in an open environment, (2016),

Nagender Aneja Nagender Aneja

Nagender Aneja is working as Researcher at Institute of Applied Data Analytics and Senior Patent Manager at Universiti Brunei Darussalam. He is pursuing Ph.D. in Computer Engineering in the area of Ad-hoc Social Network and has published 22 technical papers in the field of Ad-hoc Social Network, Ad-hoc Network, Internet of Things, Security, Universal Access. Before that, Nagender has done M.Engg. in Computer Technology and Applications from Delhi College of Engineering, India. He has interest in Perl, Python, Android, Java, and C. He also completed "Android Basics Nanodegree by Google" from Udacity. His research interests include Data Analytics, Image Processing, Deep Learning, Social Networking, and Security in Computer Networks. He has the passion for automation to extract data from web pages for analytics and natural language processing.

Dr Mohamad Iskandar Petra Dr Mohamad Iskandar Petra

Dr Mohamad Iskandar Petra, obtained his BEng Honours degree and Master in Control Engineering from the University of Glasgow. In 2000 he joined Universiti Brunei Darussalam as academic staff. He then pursued his study and obtained his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Aston University, Birmingham. Since then he has actively doing research on novel sensing system. The main application would be for medical devices. On this work he received best paper award from an IEEE conference in Biomedical engineering. In 2010 he was appointed Program leader for Applied Physics, and in 2011 until May 2012 he had been appointed as Deputy Dean of Faculty of Science (academics). From June 2012 to January 2013 he is the Deputy Dean of Faculty of Integrated Technologies, an engineering faculty. He was appointed as a full Deanship for the faculty from 2013 to 2016 and Director for UBDIBM. At present he is the Director for Innovation of UBD.

As an academic staff he is actively support administration of the university and leading many research areas in the university. He was one of the person responsible in revamping and designing the engineering curriculum at Universiti Brunei Darussalam. The curriculum is innovative and unique. He was the leading person for faculty’s International Discovery year. He led a group of Incubation students in the building of solar car and Hydrogen fuel cell car that competed in Shell Eco Marathon Asia. He is an enthusiast and optimistic teacher. He designed and introduces an engineering module for non-science and non-engineering students. The modules received very good feedback from students.

Iskandar is a solid engineering researcher. He is an active research member of Mechatronics and Sensors research cluster, Energy and UBD/IBM research group.

Area of expertise are embedded systems, hardwired artificial neural network, smart sensing using Distributive and array methods, Smart sensor technologies for energy efficiency, Human tracking for movement recording and teaching, monitoring and control for eldercare and security and smart home.

To date he has published over 40 technical papers most are Scopus indexed. He has five patents granted and two are filed.

Iskandar is a father to his three children. During his free time he enjoys hangout with the family.

Dr. Ali Kashif Bashir Dr. Ali Kashif Bashir

Dr. Ali Kashif Bashir is an Associate Professor of Faculty of Science and Technology, University of the Faroe Islands, Faroe Islands, Denmark. In the past, he has held positions at Osaka University, Japan, Nara National College of Technology, Japan, National Fusion Research Institute, Korea, and Korea Electric Power Co. Ltd. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Korea University. He also is a research consultant on some international projects, a mentor for few bodies, an Editor of Journal of Computer Networks, IEEE Access, Science and Education Publishing. He has given many invited talks across the globe and has chaired conference sessions. He is a senior member of IEEE. He is serving as editor in chief of IEEE Internet Policy and IEEE Future Directions on Ethics and Policy in Technology Newsletters. His research interests include: cloud computing (NFV/SDN), network virtualization, IoT, network security, wireless networks, etc.


Dr. Rasheed Hussain Dr. Rasheed Hussain

Dr. Rasheed Hussain received his B.S. in Computer Software Engineering from N-W.F.P University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar, Pakistan in 2007, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Engineering from Hanyang University, South Korea, in 2010 and February 2015, respectively. He also worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Hanyang University South Korea from March 2015 till August 2015. Furthermore, he worked as a Guest researcher in University of Amsterdam (UvA), Netherlands and consultant for Innopolis University, Russia from September 2015 till June 2016. Hussain is currently working as Assistant Professor at Innopolis University, Russia and establishing a new Masters program (Secure System and Network Engineering). He has authored and co-authored more than 45 papers in renowned national and international journals and conferences. He serves as reviewer for many journals from IEEE, Springer, Elsevier, and IET that include IEEE Sensors Journal, IEEE TVT, IEEE T-ITS, IEEE TIE, IEEE Comm. Magazine, Elsevier ADHOC, Elsevier JPDC, Elsevier VehCom, Springer WIRE, Springer JNSM, and many more. He also served as reviewer and/or TPC for renowned international conferences of repute including IEEE INFOCOM, IEEE GLOBECOM, IEEE VTC, IEEE VNC, IEEE ICC, IEEE PCCC, IEEE NoF, and many more.

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IEEE Internet Policy Newsletter Editorial Board

Dr. Ali Kashif Bashir, Interim Editor-in- Chief
Dr. Syed Hassan Ahmed
Dr. Mudassar Ahmad
Dr. Onur Alparslan
Dr. Muhammad Bilal
Dr. Syed Ahmad Chan Bukhari
Dr. Ankur Chattopadhyay
Dr. Junaid Chaudhry
Dr. Waleed Ejaz
Dr. Yasir Faheem
Dr. Prasun Ghosal
Dr. Tahir Hameed
Dr. Y. Sinan Hanay
Dr. Shagufta Henna
Dr. Fatima Hussain
Dr. Rasheed Hussain
Dr. Saman Iftikhar
Dr. Stephan Jones
Dr. Mohammad Saud Khan
Olga Kiconco
Dr. Jay Ramesh Merja
Dr. Mubashir Husain Rehmani
Dr. Hafiz Maher Ali Zeeshan

About: This newsletter features technical, policy, social, governmental, but not political commentary related to the internet. Its contents reflect the viewpoints of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions and views of IEEE. It is published by the IEEE Internet Initiative to enhance knowledge and promote discussion of the issues addressed.