US gov't proposes digital signing of DNS root zone file

Proposal to cryptographically sign records in the DNS root zone draws criticism from ICANN for being too US-centric.

The US government is soliciting input on a way to make the Internet's addressing system less susceptible to tampering by hackers.

Under the idea, records in the DNS (Domain Name System) root zone would be cryptographically signed using DNSSEC (Domain Name and Addressing System Security Extensions), a set of protocols that allows DNS records to carry a digital signature.

The US Department of Commerce is asking for comments through Nov. 24 on how DNSSEC could best be deployed.

The root zone is the master list of where computers can go to look up an address in a particular domain such as ".com." The DNS translates Web site names, such as www.idg.com into a numerical IP (Internet Protocol) address, which is used by computers to find a Web site.

But several security problems within the DNS make it possible for hackers to supply a different IP address for a Web site. It means a user thinks she is viewing "www.idg.com" but actually is on a phishing site.

The most serious of these DNS vulnerabilities was revealed in July by security researcher Dan Kaminsky. Nearly all DNS software is vulnerable to the attack. Major vendors have deployed temporary patches but are working on a more permanent fix.

Security experts for years have advocated the adoption of DNSSEC, but implementation has been patchy. The US government has said it will use DNSSEC for its ".gov" domain. Other ccTLDs (country-code Top-Level Domains) operators in Sweden (.se), Brazil (.br), Puerto Rico (.pr) and Bulgaria (.bg), are also using DNSSEC. The operator of the ".org" TLD has also committed to the system, according to the US Department of Commerce.

But to get the full benefits of DNSSEC requires domain name registrars, domain name registries, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and others to upgrade their software. Users' systems would also have to be configured to verify digital signatures.

"DNSSEC signed root zone would represent one of most significant changes to the DNS infrastructure since it was created," according to a notice issued by the US Department of Commerce in the Federal Register, a daily digest of US government notices.

Implementing DNSSEC would also introduce new steps in how changes to the root zone are published. As it stands now, TLD operators send changes to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which is part of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN then sends the changes to the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is part of the US Department of Commerce. After approval, VeriSign -- a commercial company -- modifies the root file and sends it to the operators of the 13 root servers around the world.

The heavy involvement of the US government, as well as the interests of VeriSign, in how the Internet's addressing system is administered has drawn criticism that the process is too US-centric.

And there appears to be a battle brewing over which entity will manage the cryptographic keys required to sign the root zone file.

ICANN has submitted a proposal advocating it should hold the keys. ICANN said it is a nonprofit, transparent organization that is "not subject to market-based profit and loss considerations."

VeriSign countered in its proposal that it should be able to hold one kind of key necessary for the signing process, and the other kind should be split amongst other entities.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags ICANNDNS

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?