a web-scale exploration tool

Knowing the paths of the Internet allows operators and scientists to better understand how it works and solve various problems. With his associates, Kevin Vermeulenresearcher of the CNRS in the Laboratory of Analysis andarchitecture (Architecture can be defined as the art of constructing buildings.) system (LAAS-CNRS), has designed, implemented and evaluated the first open solution capable of exploring return paths to large scale (Grand ladders, also called aerial ladders or auto ladders, are a…). These results were presented at ACM SIGCOMM Online Measurement Conference (IMC) on October 25, 2022.


Internet path between a provider and a client with abnormally high latency. A problem can be detected if it appears on the outer path (red) thanks to a The track of the road (Traceroute is a useful program that traces the paths a packet takes…)but will not be detected if it occurs on the return path (purple).
Image credit: Kevin Vermeulen

You make one explorative (Scientific research primarily defines all actions taken in order to…) online by typing your question (The word request, a synonym of demand, is used in the following fields:) IN web browser (A web browser is software designed to view the World Wide Web. Technically, it’s…), sure that the answer will appear automatically in a few seconds. Bad luck: “unable to display page”. Where is the problem? Maybe between you computer (A computer is a machine equipped with a processing unit that allows it to…) and the service server used. Indeed, your request and its response go throughoperator (The word operator is used in domains:) as an operator through the web. Accurate knowledge of these routes makes it possible to limit access problems that can arise anywhere along the route path (The word “road” is derived from the Latin (via) rupta, literally “road…) between the client and the server.

So far, tools like Traceroute partially solve this problem. However, they only allow looking at forward paths, for example between a server and a client. “It is necessary to recognize the opposite paths, because the paths can be asymmetric. In other words, the round trip does not follow the same route.”explains Kevin Vermeulen. “It’s important to look at the return journey, and not just the outward journey, to find a problem between a service provider and its customer, because it can be anywhere between the two actors.”

The only study that addressed the representation of return trips was developed (In geometry, the evolution of a plane curve is the location of its centers of…) in 2010, but remains in stadium (A stadium (from Old Greek στ?διον stadion, from the verb…) of the prototype. This is where Kevin Vermeulen comes in. exacting (A researcher (fem. researcher) refers to a person whose job it is to do research…) at LAAS-CNRS specialized in building systems for measuring the Internet and its American collaborators. Together (In set theory, a set intuitively defines a collection…), they designed, implemented and evaluated the Reverse Traceroute 2.0 system. This increases debit (A flow makes it possible to measure the flow of a quantity with respect to a unit of time through…)accuracy and coverage of the initial solution thus allowing the first EXPLORING (Exploration is research with the goal of discovering something unknown.) opposite paths across the internet.

Previously, existing tools were only able to see 6% of return paths. With Reverse Traceroute 2.0, we can see 55% of it and have increased throughput by 43 timesdescribes the researcher. These new performances allow us to open up our Internet-scale operating system to external users.”. A dedicated page thus allowing interested parties to test back-paths on their own servers. “Our system has been used by one security company in particular to detect malicious suppliers who want to try to impersonate someone else in The network (A computer network is a group of devices connected together to share information…).”


The same route, but with a reverse Traceroute 2.0 system in place and allowing a clearer view of the return path to detect a problem.
Image credit: Kevin Vermeulen

The system was deployed on the M-Lab infrastructure – an international consortium of public and private players that aims to improve Internet performance. The result: the solution provides better localization of access problems. But it also paves the way for new research. Two use cases have already been tested. The first reinforces the interest of this system by demonstrating that only 53% of the paths in the degree of operators are symmetric. In other words, observing only external travel is not sufficient to address problems of access to online resources.

The second deals with the questions ofengineering (Engineering refers to all functions ranging from design and studies to …) of traffic. If an operator knows the route that separates it from one of its clients, it can route this route using the BGP protocol (Border Gate Protocol). “In this context, our system makes it possible to better identify defective, problematic or even malicious operators along a path and therefore optimize new paths by avoiding them. We offer a better one visibility (In meteorology, visibility is the distance at which it is possible to …) traffic that allows operators to improve the performance of their services“, specifies Kévin Vermeulen. The researchers’ ambition is now to select new research projects that can benefit from Reverse Traceroute 2.0.

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