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Vulnerabilities / Threats

99.98% Of Domains Unsigned By DNS Security Extensions

While adoption of DNSSEC has increased, very few sites are safeguarding their servers against outages or attacks, finds new study.

Use of the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) specifications for securing domain names increased by 340% from 2009 to 2010. Even so, only 0.02% of Internet zones are now being signed with DNSSEC, and 23% of those are using expired signatures.

Those results come from a new study released by networking automation vendor InfoBlox and Internet testing and monitoring tool vendor the Measurement Factory.

While all Internet traffic -- browsing, checking email or conducting e-commerce transactions -- gets routed through domain name servers, the study found that organizations are doing little to safeguard those servers against attacks or outages. "This year's survey results -- along with recent related outages like those experienced by Rollingstone.com and Comcast -- should represent a huge wakeup call for any organization with an Internet presence," said Cricket Liu, VP of architecture at Infoblox, in a statement.

He was referring to Comcast subscribers recently suffering multiple, widespread outages due to a faulty domain name server. Notably, Comcast appeared to lack sufficient DNS server diversity to have prevented such failures from occurring.

On a similar note, the survey found little redundancy in authoritative domain name servers. Almost 75% of all name servers, for example, are only advertised in a single, autonomous system, which creates a single point of failure if there's a hiccup in the routing infrastructure.

While DNSSEC adoption remains low, security experts increasingly point to it as an essential step for securing domain names and preventing the types of incidents which led to 1% to 2% of global network prefixes being routed through Chinese servers in April 2010.

According to Liu, "DNSSEC implements an automated trust infrastructure, enabling systems to verify the authenticity of DNS information, and foils attackers' attempts to direct users to alternate sites for collection of credit card information and passwords, to redirect email or otherwise compromise applications."

"DNSSEC is an essential tool in sealing DNS vulnerabilities and mitigating DNS cache poisoning attacks that undermine the integrity of the DNS system," said Matt Larson, VP of DNS research at VeriSign, which sells a DNSSEC signing service, and which also manages two of the world's 13 Internet root servers. "Especially as top-level zones -- including .NET imminently and .COM early next year -- are signed, DNSSEC offers the best protection for all organizations with a presence on the Internet."

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