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Service provider story about tracking down TCP RSTs
- Subject: Service provider story about tracking down TCP RSTs
- From: frnkblk at iname.com (frnkblk at iname.com)
- Date: Sat, 1 Sep 2018 13:51:31 -0500
I want to share a little bit of our journey in tracking down the TCP RSTs
that impacted some of our customers for almost ten weeks.
Almost immediately after we turned up two new Arista border routers in late
July we started receiving a trickle of complaints from customers regarding
their inability to access certain websites (mostly B2B). All the packet
captures showed the standard TCP SYN/SYN-ACK pair, then a TCP RST from the
website after the client sent a TLS/SSL Client Hello. As the reports
continued to come in, we built a Google Doc to keep track and it became
clear that most of the sites were hosted by Incapsula/Imperva, but there
were also a few by Sucuri and Fastly. Knowing that Incapsula provides DoS
protection, we attempted to work with them (providing websites,
source/destination IPs, traceroutes, and packet captures) to find out why
their hosts were issuing our customers a TCP RST, but we made little
progress. We moved some of the affected customers to different IP addresses
but that didn't resolve the issue. We also asked our customer to work with
the website to see if they would be willing to open a ticket with Incapsula.
In the meantime, customers were getting frustrated! They couldn't visit
Incapsula-hosted healthcare websites, financial firms, product dealers, etc.
Over the weeks, a few of those customers purchased/borrowed different
routers and some of those didn't have website issues anymore. And more than
a few of them discovered that the websites worked fine from home or their
mobile phone/hotspot, but not from their Internet connection with us. You
can guess where they were applying pressure! That said, we didn't know why a
small handful of companies, known for DoS protection, were issuing TCP RSTs
to just some of our customers.
Earlier this week we received four or five more websites from yet another
affected customer, but most of those were with Fastly. By this time, we had
been able to replicate the issue in our lab. Feeling desperate to make some
tangible progress on this issue, I reached out to the Fastly NOC. In less
than 12 hours they provided some helpful feedback, pointing out that a
single traceroute to a Fastly site was hitting two of their POPs (they use
anycast) and because they don't sync state between POPs the second POP would
naturally issue a TCP RST (sidebar: fascinating blog article on Fastly's
cing-requests). In subsequent email exchanges, the Fastly NOC suggested that
it appeared that we were "spraying flows" (that is, packets related to
single client session were egressing our network via different paths).
Because Fastly is also present with us at an IX (though they weren't
advertising their anycast IPs at the time), they suggested that we look at
how our traffic egresses our network (IX versus transit) and our routers'
outbound load-balancing/hashing schemes.
The IX turned up to be a red herring, so I turned my attention to our
transit. Each of our border routers has two BGP sessions over two circuits
to transit provider POP A and two BGP sessions over two circuits to transit
provider POP B, for a total of four BGP sessions per border router, a total
of eight BGP sessions altogether. Starting with our core router, I confirmed
that its ECMP hashing was consistent such that Fastly-bound traffic always
went to border router 1 or border router 2. Then I looked at the ECMP
hashing scheme on our border routers and noticed something unique - by
default Arista also uses TTL:
IPv4 hash fields:
Source IPv4 Address is ON
Protocol is ON
Time-To-Live is ON
Destination IPv4 Address is ON
Since the source and destination IPs and protocol weren't changing, perhaps
the TTL was not consistent? I opened the first packet trace in Wireshark and
jackpot - the TTL value was 128 on the SYN but 127 on the TLS/SSL Client
Hello. I adjusted the Arista's load-balancing profile not to use TTL and
immediately my MTR in the background changed and all the sites on the lab
machine that couldn't load before . were now loading.
Fastly also pointed me to another article written by Joel Jaeggli
discusses IPv6 flow labels - we removed that from the border routers' IPv6
hash fields, too.
I reviewed the packet traces today and noticed that TTL values remained
consistent at 128 *behind* the router CPE. In packet captures on the WAN
interface of the router CPE I see that the SYN remains at 128, but the
TLS/Client Hello is properly decremented to 127. So, it appears that some
router CPE (and there were a variety of makes and models) are doing
something special to certain packets and not decrementing the TTL.
This explains why:
* our customers had issues with all their devices behind their router
* the issue remained regardless of what public IP address their router
CPE obtained via DHCP or was assigned
* some customers who changed their router CPE didn't have the issue
anymore - they got lucky with a router that doesn't adjust/reset the TTL
* why customers who used our managed Wi-Fi router did not see the
issue, because that model doesn't apparently manipulate the TTL, at least
not in an inconsistent way.
Lesson learned: review a device's hashing mechanism before going into
For those interested, I have links to the packet traces below my signature,
showing the inconsistent TTL values.
Thanks again to the fantastic group of folk at the Fastly NOC who so ably
pointed us in the right direction!
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