Robust Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) Security Practices

Robust Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) Security Practices

Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a secure wide-area networking technology. It runs on a dedicated physical infrastructure. It uses proprietary hardware to route data packets securely. It allows only selected devices and systems inside the network.

MPLS security secures the network using traffic engineering and rapid recovery methods. Security practices protect businesses from malicious attacks like DDoS or DoS. These practices maintain a reliable and secure data flow over the MPLS network.

Here are a few best MPLS security practices businesses must use:

1. Use a Defense-in-Depth Strategy

Defense-in-depth uses several layers of defensive strategies or security measures. It involves deploying firewalls, packet filtering, and intrusion detection systems in MPLS networks.

An inline Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) inspects the intranet’s traffic. Moreover, businesses can implement application-level gateway devices for protection and review.

They must also set a firewall policy to block access to all unnecessary ports at the perimeter. A firewall will only allow established connections through specific ports where needed.

2. Divide Control Plane and Data Plane

The control plane indicates the data plane to forward data from one network node to another. Businesses can use the information for routing decisions and monitoring network-related statistics.

They can also use setting up protocols like Routing Information Protocols (RIP). Dividing these planes will not allow the hacker to change or intercept the traffic on the data plane.

Businesses can create separate networks with firewalls. They can also set routing protocols like OSPF or BGP to limit access to each protocol level.

3. Use an Access Control List (ACL) Within MPLS Domain

Businesses must place ACL at the edge of the MPLS domain when setting up an MPLS network. ACL will only allow trusted devices access to the MPLS domain.

ACLs commands must run periodically against hosts inside and outside the MPLS domain. It determines whether the traffic flows properly through all points on a network.

4. Ingress and Egress Filtering

Businesses must establish security zones on each ingress/egress point. It helps maintain separation between networks and accordingly set rules.

Ingress filtering will only allow the connections to come from a trusted source. Egress filtering will allow the connections destined for a trusted network.

In these methods, the firewall drops an attempt to reach the source or destination host on an untrusted network. Filtering out packets with invalid headers can prevent attacks.

Additionally, limiting access to protocols can help keep the networks secure. Businesses must check the interfaces regularly.

Network admins must check routers’ ingress and egress ports connected to external links. It will help them identify unexpected spikes in traffic volume.

5. Place firewalls at all the Nodes 

Firewalls control the in or out traffic of the MPLS network. Inbound firewalls secure the MPLS network from malicious software on an incoming computer.

Outbound firewalls filter unauthorized packets from the current MPLS network guarding against attacks. Deploying several firewalls at all nodes reduces the vulnerability to a DoS attack.

Businesses can use these practices:

  • Captive Portals: These portals need users to verify with a username and password to connect to the MPLS network.
  • Authentication: It requires users to provide means of identification to connect to the MPLS network.
  • Packet Filtering: It allows a firewall administrator to configure which packet type to forward or block.

6. Set Bandwidth Limits on Every Link with Proper Policing

Bandwidths are essential tools to control network traffic. More often, businesses do not configure the bandwidths correctly. Inappropriate bandwidth limiting leaves gaps that leads to congestion and oversubscription.

Thus, businesses must apply bandwidth limits at each Layer 2 link with appropriate policing and shaping policies.

Policing examples include Token Bucket in MPLS QoS for the multiservice networks.

7. Implement Encryption Between Provider Edge (PE) and Customer Edge (CE) Routers

An end-to-end VPN tunnel between PE and CE routers can secure the MPLS network. Businesses must use encryption benefits when connecting PE and CE routers. They must use this, especially in the presence of many router hops.

There are risks of data tampering, eavesdropping, or message insertion attacks. These risks arise when a packet moves from one router to another. Using IPsec can help combat these attacks.

IPsec-enabled routers will encrypt and decrypt traffic between the two devices. It provides an extra layer of protection against those attacks.

8. Set an Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS) Solution

An IDPS offers real-time security against attacks. Hackers try to overwhelm the network by sending non-pre permitted packets.

IDPS handles these packets as per specific levels of load or attack types. It checks the packets entering and exiting the network and blocks the malicious ones.

9. Encrypt Where Needed

MPLS encryption combines two approaches. They are Digital Encryption Standard (DES) and 3DES or Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption.

There are also standard approaches for encrypting VPN traffic over MPLS networks. These include Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) and Secure Socket Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS)

Businesses can deploy these approaches independently or in integration with one another. They can also combine several methods on MPLS networks. It allows them to interoperate with other security measures deployed in the network.

Using transport mode IPsec ESP encryption, MPLS VPNs offer data confidentiality. Companies can also use ESP integrity algorithms. These include HMAC-MD5, HMAC-SHA1, or HMAC-SHA256 to maintain data integrity.

10. Place Anomaly-based Detection

Businesses can achieve MPLS network security via a proactive rather than a reactive approach. Anomaly-based detection flags abnormal activity in traffic patterns. It checks the packet flow on the network, offering complete coverage and a low false positive rate.

It identifies stealthy attacks by checking changes in behavior over time using statistical data. With anomaly-based detection, businesses can track when attackers enter their network. It enables them to take appropriate measures immediately.

Also Read: Enhancing Remote Network Security: Alternatives to Traditional VPNs


MPLS connections run over a private and dedicated network. It helps ensure privacy. Moreover, packet labeling enhances security via specific identifiers. Businesses must set MPLS security to achieve high levels of reliability and protection.

It provides flexibility and visibility by supporting many service types over a single label-switched path (LSP).

MPLS VPNs allow businesses to securely extend their private IP address space across public IP networks. They can achieve this without exposing it to outside threats. An essential practice is to use a VPN tunnel between CE and PE routers.

MPLS does not slow the data transfer speed since it does not encrypt at each point over a connection. Its hardware-based switching capabilities offer better performance than software-based switches. It makes them ideal for environments where latency is vital.

Organizations must use extra security measures to ensure MPLS networks’ security. Security best practices must comprise a defense-in-depth approach to filtering malicious packets. They must also use authentication approaches to limit access.

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