Search Security

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Introduction

In an environment where a single query injection may result in a number of responses, acting as a virtual "traffic amplifier", it is desirable to verify that the return address is indeed that of the original sender. This prevents the network from being used as a method of generating a large-scale traffic generator.

The Gnutella2 network uses a system of "query keys" to solve this problem.

Before a search client can transmit a query to a particular hub, it must obtain a "query key" for that hub and include it in the transmission. Query keys are unique to the hub generating them and the return address with which they are associated and generally expire after a relatively long period of time.

Search clients request a query key by sending a query key request to a hub, which includes the intended return address for the key. The hub generates a key unique to that return address and dispatches it there. This makes it impossible to get a query key for an IP which is not controlled, and prevents keys from being shared between two nodes (key stealing).

When receiving a query from a foreign node, Gntuella2 hubs check the query key against the one they have issued for the query's requested return address and proceed only if there is a match. If and only if the query key matches will the query acknowledgement be sent, or the search processed locally and forwarded to local leaves and neighbouring hubs.

This has several positive effects. If a query does not have a valid key for the receiving hub, it will not be processed and will thus not generate a traffic amplification effect which may be used in a denial of service attack on a third party host. Secondly, the query key mechanism ensures that queries are only processed if they were transmitted from a host which has control over the host in the return address (in the normal case, this is the same host). This means that flood control mechanisms can remain just as effective as in the TCP case. Similarly, host blocking is possible as the original query source can be verified.