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11/10/2010
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Kaminsky To Release 'Phreebird' For Easy DNSSEC

Free toolkit lets organizations, developers test-drive new DNS security protocol

Renowned researcher Dan Kaminsky tomorrow at Black Hat Abu Dhabi will release a free toolkit that lets organizations test-drive DNSSEC deployment and also demonstrates his claims that the protocol is simple to implement.

"I've been making a lot of claims and promises about what DNSSEC is capable of and why the security industry should care. This is the argument I've been putting forth, in code form. This is for real," says Kaminsky, who will make the Phreebird Suite 1.0 kit available tomorrow on the Black Hat website. Kaminsky gave a sneak peek demonstration of Phreebird at Black Hat USA in July.

Phreebird Suite 1.0 is a real-time DNSSEC proxy that sits in front of a DNS server and digitally signs its responses. "This is a collection of technologies [that show how] DNSSEC can be very easily deployed on the server side and trivially on client side," he says. The code is not for operational use, he says, but for testing out the technology.

"This code is cool. It makes DNSSEC easy to achieve," Kaminsky says. "It makes it easy to take your existing DNS deployment and supplement it with DNSSEC services."

The goal is to show how DNSSEC could be used to "bootstrap" trust -- a.k.a. authentication -- across organizations, he says, authenticating clients, business partners, customers, contractors, and other groups with one another. DNSSEC has been in the works for nearly two decades: It was finally fully deployed in the root this summer and so far has been implemented in the .gov, .net, .edu, and .org. domains. The .com domain will be signed by DNSSEC in March. The protocol is considered the key to preventing attacks exploiting the now-infamous cache-poisoning vulnerability Kaminsky revealed at Black Hat USA in 2008.

Kaminsky hopes to dispel concerns that DNSSEC will be complex, disruptive, and expensive to deploy in organizations. "Application developers don't want to be cryptography experts," Kaminsky says. "They just want the key ... and to move on."

Phreebird automatically generates keys and provides real-time signing. There is "zero configuration" on the server side with the tool. "There is enough context in the DNS reply to figure out all of the necessary settings for how to sign it. You don't have to have a huge amount of preconfiguration. This is a revolution here," Kaminsky says.

The tool requires using GoDaddy for creating a test .org domain, and in the end it takes about 30 seconds to get valid, signed records via the Internet, according to Kaminsky.

On the client side, Phreebird includes Phreeload, a tool that adds DNSSEC support to OpenSSL applications and sits at the authentication layer. DNSSEC can be used in lieu of of X.509 certificates: Phreebird's Phreeload tool basically provides authentication without certificates, using DNSSEC instead. "At present, it's surprisingly difficult and expensive to validate key material via X509 and CAs [certificate authorities]. I'm demonstrating how to make it easy and inexpensive to validate the same material using DNSSEC," Kaminsky says.

Kaminsky is also working on a Phreebird tool that lets email systems use DNSSEC for authenticating correspondents. "When my mom receives an email from the bank, she should know it's from the bank," he says.

Suresh Krishnaswamy, a research scientist at SPARTA who spoke at OWASP DC today about validating applications with DNSSEC, says DNSSEC wasn't meant to replace X.509. "There are ways they can coexist," he says.

Meanwhile, Kaminsky is urging fellow researchers to hack at Phreebird to look for vulnerabilities. He's hoping to get up-front input on any major vulnerabilities.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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