P2P Scoring System And Network Security

0007Standards TrackProposalJinyang JiangNervos Foundation2018-10-02

P2P Scoring System And Network Security


This document describes the scoring system of CKB P2P Networking layer and several networking security strategies based on it.


CKB network is designed as an open peer-to-peer network and any node can join the network without permission. This openness, however, also makes it possible for malicious nodes to join and attack the peer-to-peer network.

There were "Eclipse Attack" security issues in both Bitcoin network and Ethereum network, which also designed as the open peer-to-peer network. The principle of Eclipse Attack is that the attacker would occupy all Peers connection slots of the victim node by manipulating malicious nodes, then filter the victim's view of the blockchain network.

Via "Eclipse Attack" the attacker can take down a victim node with low cost. After that, the attacker could control the victim's mining power for its nefarious purposes, or cheat this victim node to launch a double spent attack.

Reference paper -- Eclipse Attacks on Bitcoin’s Peer-to-Peer Network

There are several strategies to prevent "Eclipse attack" introduced in this paper and parts of them have already been implemented in the Bitcoin network. That is to say, this document will describe how to deploy these strategies to CKB network.

In addition, this document also describes the scoring system of CKB P2P Networking layer and we want to handle more generalized network security cases by combining it with more sophisticated security strategies from the Bitcoin network.

Based on the scoring system, we can follow several rules below to handle malicious peers:

  1. Nodes should store peers information as much as possible.
  2. Nodes need to score Peers' good and bad behavior continuously.
  3. Nodes should retain good (high-score) peers and evict bad (low-score) peers out.

CKB client should implement the scoring system and following security strategies.



  • Node
  • Peer - Other nodes connected through the network
  • PeerInfo - A data struct used for describing information of Peer
  • PeerStore - A component used to store PeerInfo
  • outbound peer - describe a peer which initiates a connection.
  • inbound peer - describe a peer which accepts a connection.
  • max_outbound - Max number of outbound peers.
  • max_inbound - Max number of inbound peers.
  • network group - A concept which used when to evict out peers, calculating from the peer's IP address(prefix 16 bits of IPv4 and prefix 32 bits of IPv6).

Peer Store and Peer Info

PeerStore should be persistent storage and store PeerInfos as more as possible.

PeerInfo should include fields below at least:

PeerInfo {
Direction, // Inbound or Outbound
LastConnectedAt, // The time of the last connection

Scoring System

Parameters below are required in Scoring System:

  • PEER_INIT_SCORE - the initial score of peers
  • BEHAVIOURS - a set of peer's possible behaviors, such as: UNEXPECTED_DISCONNECT, TIMEOUT, CONNECTED
  • SCORING_SCHEMA - describe different scores corresponding to different behaviors, such as: {"TIMEOUT": -10, "CONNECTED": 10}
  • BAN_SCORE - a peer will be banned when its score is lower than this value.

Network layer should provide the scoring interface, allow upper sub-protocols (such as: sync, relay) to report behaviors of a peer, and update peer's score based on SCORING_SCHEMA.


Peer's behaviors can be distinguished into three categories:

  1. Correct behaviors which follow the specification:
    • For example, a node downloads a new block from a peer; a node connects to a peer successfully. Considering a bad peer may pretend like a good one before launching an attack, we should give the peer a relatively low positive score instead of giving a high score at once to encourage the peer to accumulate his credit by performing good behaviors for a long time.
  2. Incorrect behaviors which may be caused by network exception:
    • For example, a peer disconnect unexpectedly; a node failed to connect to a peer; ping timeout. Since we can't tell whether these behaviors are intentional bad behavior or caused by the network, we should give the peer a little negative score to keep tolerant.
  3. Incorrect behaviors which violate the protocol:
    • For example, a peer sends an illegal encoded content; a peer sends an invalid block; a peer sends an invalid transaction. We should give a peer a negative score when we can be pretty sure its behavior is malicious, and when a peer's score is lower than BAN_SCORE, this peer should be banned.


  • Peer 1 connected successfully. A node reported this peer's CONNECTED behavior and peer 1 got a 10 score rewarded.
  • Peer 2 gets a connection timeout. A node reports TIMEOUT behavior and peer 2 get a -10 score as punishment.
  • Peer 1 sent repetitive GET_BLOCK messages. A node reported DUPLICATED_REQUEST_BLOCK behavior and peer 1 got a -50 score as punishment.
  • Peer 1's score is lower than BAN_SCORE, node disconnect with peer 1 then ban the peer.

Parameters like BEHAVIOURS, SCORING_SCHEMA are not a part of consensus protocol, so CKB client should tune these parameters according to the actual situation of the network.

Outbound peers selection

The "Eclipse Attack" paper describes a critical security issue during Bitcoin node restarting process:

  1. The attacker tries to fit the victim node's addrman(Bitcoin's peer store) with attacker's bad nodes' addresses.
  2. The attacker waits the victim node to restart (or use several methods to force it).
  3. After the restart, the victim node will select some address from addrman to connect.
  4. The attack successes if all outbound connections of the victim node are connected to the attacker's bad nodes.

CKB should avoid this problem when initialize the network.

The process of initializing outbound peers

Required parameters:

  • TRY_SCORE - We only try to connect a peer when its score is higher than this value.
  • ANCHOR_PEERS - the number of anchor peers should be less than max_outbound, such as 2

Required variables:

  • try_new_outbound_peer - network component checks this variable to decide whether to connect to extra outbound peers or not.

The process of choosing an outbound peer:

  1. Execute step 2 if currently connected outbound peers less than ANCHOR_PEERS, otherwise execute step 3.
  2. Choose an "anchor peer":
    1. Choose recently connected outbound peers from peer store(can select by LastConnectedAt field of peer info).
    2. Execute step 3, if recent_peers is empty; otherwise, we choose the peer which has got the highest score from recent_peers and return it as the new outbound peer.
  3. Choose peer info randomly which must have a higher score than TRY_SCORE and have different network group from all currently connected outbound peers from PeerStore, return it as the new outbound peer and if we can't find anyone, then execute step 4.
  4. Choose peer info randomly from boot nodes.

In step 1, we choose an anchor peer if the node has zero or only a few connected outbound peers. This behavior refers to "Anchor Connection" strategy which described in the Eclipse Attack paper.


# return our new outbound peer
def find_outbound_peer
connected_outbound_peers = connected_peers.select{|peer| peer.outbound? && !peer.feeler? }
# step 1
if connected_outbound_peers.length < ANCHOR_PEERS
find_anchor_peer() || find_random_peer() || random_boot_node()
find_random_peer() || random_boot_node()
# step 2
def find_anchor_peer
last_connected_peers = peer_store.sort_by{|peer| -peer.last_connected_at}.take(max_outbound)
# return the higest scored peer info
# step 3
def find_random_peer
connected_outbound_peers = connected_peers.select{|peer| peer.outbound? && !peer.feeler? }
exists_network_groups = connected_outbound_peers.map(&:network_group)
candidate_peers = peer_store.select do |peer|
peer.score >= TRY_SCORE && !exists_network_groups.include?(peer.network_group)
# step 4
def random_boot_node

The node should repeat this process until the number of connected outbound peers is equal to or greater than max_outbound and try_new_outbound_peer is false.

check_outbound_peers_interval = 15
# continually check the number of outbound peers
loop do
connected_outbound_peers = connected_peers.select{|peer| peer.outbound? && !peer.feeler? }
if connected_outbound_peers.length >= max_outbound && !try_new_outbound_peer
new_outbound_peer = find_outbound_peer()

try_new_outbound_peer variable is used for some situation where a node can't get any useful messages in a duration time. Then we will set try_new_outbound_peer to true and allow the node to connect to more extra outbound peers. This strategy would be introduced later.

Under this strategy, the attacker must achieve the following conditions to apply an eclipse attack:

  1. The attacker needs to have n malicious peers (n == ANCHOR_PEERS) to be the victim node's outbound peers and these peers must have the highest scores.
  2. The attacker needs to prepare at least max_outbound - ANCHOR_PEERS bad peers' addresses in PeerStore. At the same time, the attacker must make sure that the randomly selected max_outbound - ANCHOR_PEERS outbound peers are all camouflage nodes of the attacker.

Extra outbound peers and eviction

Network component should check the main protocol (for example: sync protocol in CKB) status every few minutes.

def sync_maybe_stale
now = Time.now
# use block product time to detect network status
# we consider network maybe stale if block not produced within a predicted time
last_tip_updated_at < now - block_produce_interval * n

The network component should set try_new_outbound_peer to true when sync protocol doesn't work and set back to false when sync protocol puts back.

check_sync_stale_at = Time.now
loop_interval = 30
check_sync_stale_interval = 15 * 60 # 15 minutes
loop do
# try evict
now = Time.now
if check_sync_stale_at >= now
# update try_new_outbound_peer
check_sync_stale_at = now + check_sync_stale_interval

CKB network will try to connect to extra outbound peers continually when try_new_outbound_peer is true, and try to evict useless extra peers every few minutes to prevent too many connections.

# eviction logic
def evict_extra_outbound_peers
connected_outbound_peers = connected_peers.select{|peer| peer.outbound? && !peer.feeler? }
if connected_outbound_peers.length <= max_outbound
now = Time.now
# here use last_block_anoncement_at to evict peers, we assume the oldest one is useless for us
evict_target = connected_outbound_peers.sort_by do |peer|
if evict_target
if now - evict_target.last_connected_at > MINIMUM_CONNECT_TIME && !is_downloading?(evict_target)
# prevent connect to too many peers

The process of accepting inbound peers

In Bitcoin, a node will try to evict connected inbound peers if the number of connected inbound peers reaches max_inbound and another new inbound connection tries to connect. (check Bitcoin source code for details)

This eviction behavior is intended to keep high-quality peers and evict low-quality peers.

CKB refers to Bitcoin's eviction test and steps are as follows:

  1. Consider currently connected inbound peers as candidate_peers.
  2. Protect peers(N represent the number of peers to protect in each step):
    1. Delete N peers from candidate_peers which has the highest score.
    2. Delete N peers from candidate_peers which has the lowest ping.
    3. Delete N peers from candidate_peers which most recently sent us messages.
    4. Delete candidate_peers.size / 2 peers from candidate_peers which have the longest connection time.
  3. Group candidate_peers according to network group field.
  4. Find out the group which contains the most peers.
  5. Evict the lowest scored peer from the group found in step 4 if it is not empty. Otherwise, reject the connection from the new peer.

We protect some peers from eviction based on characteristics that an attacker is hard to simulate or manipulate, to enhence the security of the network.

Feeler Connection

Feeler Connection is intended to test a peer is connectable or not.

Node will start a feeler connection every few minutes after outbound peers reach max_outbound limit.

  1. Pick out peer info from PeerStore randomly which we never connected to
  2. Connect to this peer
  3. Run handshake protocol
  4. Disconnect

Feeler peers would be assumed to disconnect soon.

Delete peer info from PeerStore

Required parameters:

  • PEER_STORE_LIMIT - max number of PeerInfo in PeerStore
  • PEER_NOT_SEEN_TIMEOUT - used for protecting peers which recently connected. Only peer info over last_connected_to would be deleted.

When the number of peer info reaches PEER_STORE_LIMIT:

  1. Group all PeerInfos in PeerStore according to network group field
  2. Find out the group which contains the most peer infos
  3. Search peers have not been connected recently from this group: peer.last_connected_at < Time.now - PEER_NOT_SEEN_TIMEOUT
  4. Find out the lowest scored peer info as candidate_peer_info
  5. if candidate_peer_info.score < new_peer_info.score then we delete candidate_peer_info and add new_peer_info, otherwise we do not accept new_peer_info


  1. Bitcoin source code
  2. Eclipse Attacks on Bitcoin’s Peer-to-Peer Network