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Programmable In-Network Security

Poise, or Programmable In-Network Security, is a novel approach that leverages P4-programmable switches to enforce network access control policies directly on the data plane.

Our paper, Programmable In-Network Security for Context-aware BYOD Policies, has been published at USENIX Security Symposium (SEC '20). Please find our paper at USENIX website.

This repo contains a prototype implementation of the Poise compiler, Poise Android client module and other tools.


This Poise compiler has been tested on Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS. It is based on flex and bison. G++ is required to build Poise.

sudo apt install bison flex g++ make

To run compiled P4 programs, you need to set up a Tofino switch or its simulator. These P4 programs have been tested using Tofino SDE 8.4 and the Tofino Wedge 100BF-32X switch made by Barefoot networks. More information about the Tofino switch can be found at Barefoot website.

Compiling Poise policies to P4 programs

policies/*.poise are examples Poise policies that demonstrate the usage of the Poise language/compiler.

To compile a Poise program, run the following command:

./poise-tofino -f <policy_file> -o <P4_file> -s <sw_command_file>

For instance, running ./poise-tofino -f ../policies/p1.poise -o ../p4/p1.p4 -s ../p4/p1.cmd will process the p1.poise policy and generate switch programs in the p4 folder.

The key function in p1.p4 is the EvaluateContext routine, which implements the Poise policy. This p1.p4 is the policy-dependent part of the final P4 program. poise.p4 implements the P4-independent part, which is shared across all policies.

Running P4 programs in Tofino switch

Next, we will show to run the generated p1.p4 program on Tofino switch. We will need to modify the poise.p4 program in the p4 folder to include the generated p1.p4 program:

#include "./p1.p4"

Next, copy these two p4 files to the Tofino SDE folder and invoke to compile poise.p4. The p1.p4 will be compiled together with poise.p4.

./ -p poise.p4

After the compilation finishes, we can load the P4 program into switch:

./ -p poise

Next, invoke the script (provided by Tofino) to start the control plane the Poise program. This program is used for installing new incoming flows to the flow table.

./ --target asic-model -p <p4-program> <absolute_path_to_ctrpln_progs>/

Add table entries in the p1.cmd file to the switch:

pd eval_h1_tab_rec0_id0 add_entry set_ctx_dec poise_h_h1_start 0 poise_h_h1_end 9 priority 0 action_x 15 entry_hdl 1
pd eval_h1_tab_rec0_id1 add_entry set_ctx_dec poise_h_h1_start 17 poise_h_h1_end 10000 priority 0 action_x 15 entry_hdl 1

Add forwarding rules to the switch. port 0 is the port of the server and 129 is the drop port. Modify port number based on your topology.

pd enforce_cache_dec_tab add_entry forward_to_port meta_cache_dec 0 action_port 0
pd enforce_conn_dec_tab set_default_action forward_to_port action_port 129

pd enforce_conn_dec_tab add_entry forward_to_port meta_conn_dec 0 action_port 129
pd enforce_conn_dec_tab set_default_action forward_to_port action_port 129

Sending/receiving traffic

Once the P4 program and control plane start, we can use the python scripts in the tools folder to synthesize some traffic for testing.

For instance, the following command sends one context packet with customized header=1 to the switch. Note that <iface> is the NIC interface that's connected to the Tofino switch.

/ 1 1 context <iface>

Then we can capture packets from the receiving interfaces and see if Poise enforces the policies correctly.

#see if packets go to the allow iface
./ <allow_iface>
#see if packets go to the drop iface
./ <drop iface>


For more information, please feel free to send an email to: qiaokang at rice dot edu


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