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DNSSEC Rollout Gains Traction

VeriSign updates its plans for .com and .net DNSSEC adoption, and new survey from Infoblox shows DNSSEC getting a big bump over the past year
More signs that DNSSEC implementation is making inroads: The number of DNSSEC-signed zones has increased 300 percent over last year, according to a new survey, and VeriSign today announced its launch of a "boot camp" program to assist registrars, ISPs, and large registrants in deploying DNSSEC.

VeriSign also gave more definitive dates for the completion of DNSSEC adoption for the .net domain -- fourth quarter of 2010 -- and .com by the first quarter of 2011.

The massive .com and .net Internet domains are the last to deploy DNSSEC. The .org domain is already DNSSEC-signed, federal agencies must adopt DNSSEC by December for their .gov domains, and new FISMA regulations call for agencies to sign their intranet zones with DNSSEC by the middle of next year. The .edu domain is currently implementing DNSSEC.

VeriSign, which has worked with EDUCAUSE to deploy DNSSEC in the .edu academic community, says it has also set up an interoperability lab for DNSSEC vendors to test their products.

Meanwhile, a new DNS survey by Infoblox that was also released today demonstrates just how much momentum the DNSSEC security protocol for DNS is finally enjoying after nearly 15 years in the works. The survey found that signed zones rose from 45 last year to 167 this year.

"As part of the infrastructure side, we are doing everything we can do with DNSSEC," says Cricket Liu, vice president of architecture for Infoblox and author of several DNS books. "Every major top-level domain has...commenced [its implementation]. We're setting the stage, and it's going quite well."

DNSSEC finally started to catch on earlier last year in the wake of concerns over how to defend against the DNS cache-poisoning flaw discovered by Dan Kaminsky. The .gov and .org top-level domains have begun to adopt the Domain Name Service (DNS) security protocol, and .edu has been under way recently, as well.

But security experts say having the .com and .net top-level domains signed with DNSSEC will go a long way in protecting DNS servers. The big missing link still to come, however, is signing the root zone DNS servers. Then the entire DNS process, from root to authoritative name server, will get the full power of DNSSEC.

DNSSEC uses public key cryptography to digitally sign DNS data. That protects DNS queries and responses from cache poisoning, redirects to phishing sites, and man-in-the-middle attacks. A DNSSEC-signed DNS response verifies that it's legitimate.

"When you send a DNS query to an authoritative name server that's DNSSEC-enabled, you get a response with key information and a signature that authenticates that you got the response from the server you thought you were querying," says Joe Waldron, director of product management for naming services at VeriSign. "It ensures the information has not been tampered with or corrupted."

While DNSSEC goes a long way in protecting DNS servers, it's just one layer of security needed to beef up Internet security, security experts say. "DNSSEC does not solve many of the most common threats to Internet security. This is why other layers of protection, such as Extended Validation SSL certificates and two-factor authentication, are so critical to making the Internet secure for everyone," said Ken Silva, CTO of VeriSign, in a statement.

Infoblox's Liu says while DNSSEC is making headway, there's still a long way to go. "I would hope that as all the parent zones are signed, you'll start to see real acceleration of DNSSEC," he says.

Meanwhile, organizations should start getting ready to adopt DNSSEC. "They ought to gear up and do validation after the root zone is signed," he says. "When the root zone is signed, it becomes incumbent on us to digitally validate data once it's easy to do. Any organization not signing their external zones should at least plan for validation of signed data."

The Infoblox survey also found that 79.6 percent of the DNS name servers in its random sample are open to recursion -- up from 52.1 percent in 2007. Recursive servers can be abused for distributed denial-of-service attacks, Liu says.

VeriSign's Waldron says widely deploying DNSSEC is a complex process. "It touches the entire DNS infrastructure. It affects ISPs, registrars, registries, and end-user domain name holders," he says. "We want to learn lessons from registries that are in the process of DNSSEC or have signed their zones."

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