Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


11:00 AM
Connect Directly

New Proposed DNS Security Features Released

Verisign's R&D team has developed new ways to authenticate and optimize DNS traffic on the client side of the domain-name resolution process.

What if the Domain Name System (DNS) ensured that only authenticated and authorized users could access a company's email server or VPN gateway?

That's what one of two new technologies for DNS name servers proposed by Verisign's research and development group could do. So-called Authenticated Resolution would require that the client machine authenticate to the DNS name server; it would return a network address response only if the client is authorized to access the resources it's requesting via the domain request. Authenticated Resolution also could also help thwart distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks — attackers wouldn't be able to access the actual addresses of their targets because they would not be authorized to do so.

The nearly 40-year-old DNS is the underlying technology that translates, or resolves, domain names to their IP addresses on the Internet. Built for interconnection back in the relatively innocent days of the R&D ARPANET, DNS has been stretched security-wise over the past two decades with the explosive growth of the Internet.

Related Content:

Neustar Agrees to Buy Verisign's Public DNS Service

The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence

New on The Edge: An Inside Look at an Account Takeover

Verisign also has devised a technology it calls Adaptive Resolution, which accelerates authorized access to webpages. It speeds up the process because the name server gets information upfront about the authenticated client, such as its device and browser. That ensures the information is accessed and displayed quickly and in an optimal format for the device. The name server also would be provided the user's language preference, for instance, so it returns the network address of a Web server optimized for that language. Those types of details today happen in later stages of the Internet session and entail multiple steps.

Verisign senior vice president and CTO Burt Kaliski says the company's R&D team has been working on these authentication and resolution DNS solutions for several years. With DNS encryption on the horizon, the timing was right, he says. "We are at a new era of the DNS," he says, where there are ways to improve security and efficiency at the lower layers of the DNS hierarchy, where most of the more sensitive information is involved. "The move to DNS encryption below the root- and top-level domains is a great opportunity to rethink how we're doing DNS."

According to Verisign, DNS encryption allows clients to interact directly with enterprise or application-specific DNS resolvers. Therefore, the security can be doled more granularly at this lower level of the DNS process, depending on the client, application, and enterprise.

DNS encryption is aimed at protecting the privacy of end users, but it comes with its own challenges. New Internet standards in the wings — such as DNS over HTTPS (DoH), TLS 1.3 ESNI (Encrypted Server Name Indication), and HTTP/3 over the QUIC Internet transport protocol — could impede next-generation firewalls and other security tools from detecting and filtering out malicious traffic, according to Paul Vixie, the chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Farsight Security. He and other DNS experts have warned enterprises to get ready for encryption now by creating proxies: a private DNS for the access side of their traffic, for instance, or another managed private network that allows them visibility with their next-generation firewalls.

DNS Security-Refresh
Danny McPherson, executive vice president and chief security officer at Verisign and one of the inventors of Authenticated and Adaptive Resolution (AAR), says Authenticated Resolution could enhance DNS security. "It's basically minimizing your attack surface," he says of Authenticated Resolution.

A mobile banking app, for instance, could ensure that only authorized members logging in to their bank accounts would receive the network addresses associated with the app's content servers, he says.

It would also allow organizations to filter out known bad actors and instead send them to a honeypot or deception decoy.

Verisign said it's now publicly sharing AAR technologies to get input from the community on the next steps for beefing up DNS security.

"We want to get people thinking about it — to see what they can do," Kaliski says, noting that Verisign's mission still remains as a root-zone maintainer and top-level domain registry operator.

"For DNS to be more useful, it needs to have more of these features built" into the lower levels, he says.

This will bring DNS in line with security models such as zero trust, according to Verisign. "Authenticated and adaptive resolution complete the story (at least for now) of the transition of DNS practice into a modern mode of operation based on principles such as zero trust. These technologies give DNS a new role in meeting network security and performance objectives, adding both a new security control point and a new navigation capability to network operators' portfolios," Kaliski wrote in a Verisign blog post today.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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 ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Apprentice
12/4/2020 | 4:15:15 PM
Re: New DNS - Article
Thanks for your interest in the topic.  The blog post referenced does have a diagram / clarifying picture that may be helpful.  Please feel free to reach out with any further questions.  -- Burt
User Rank: Apprentice
12/1/2020 | 9:59:46 AM
Re: New DNS - Article
I agree, especially when discussing emerging technologies that do not have other sources.
User Rank: Moderator
11/19/2020 | 12:16:30 PM
New DNS - Article
Can authors please add diagrams when writing articles like this; they are in general excellent apart from this major omission. This one, in particular, cries out for a clarifying picture.
Cyberattacks Are Tailored to Employees ... Why Isn't Security Training?
Tim Sadler, CEO and co-founder of Tessian,  6/17/2021
7 Powerful Cybersecurity Skills the Energy Sector Needs Most
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer,  6/22/2021
Microsoft Disrupts Large-Scale BEC Campaign Across Web Services
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/15/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
Vulnerability in OpenGrok (component: Web App). Versions that are affected are 1.6.7 and prior. Easily exploitable vulnerability allows low privileged attacker with network access via HTTPS to compromise OpenGrok. Successful attacks of this vulnerability can result in takeover of OpenGrok. CVSS 3.1 ...
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
A vulnerability in SonicOS where the HTTP server response leaks partial memory by sending a crafted HTTP request, this can potentially lead to an internal sensitive data disclosure vulnerability.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
A command execution vulnerability exists in the default legacy spellchecker plugin in Moodle 3.10. A specially crafted series of HTTP requests can lead to command execution. An attacker must have administrator privileges to exploit this vulnerabilities.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
Heap based buffer overflow in tsMuxer 2.6.16 allows attackers to cause a Denial of Service (DoS) by running the application with a crafted file.
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
Heap based buffer overflow in tsMuxer 2.6.16 allows attackers to cause a Denial of Service (DoS) by running the application with a crafted file.