• A (very) Brief Introduction to DNSSEC

    This blog entry is meant to provide StopTheHacker customers with a basic understanding of secure DNS. This is important as most customers manage their own websites, which are critical for their businesses. We would like to provide our customers with the information and tools which they can use to secure their websites further.

    The Domain Name System (DNS) is one of the oldest and most fundamental components of the modern Internet. As the mechanism that maps domain names to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, it provides a human-readable layer to navigate the millions of machines and devices on the Internet. In the early 1980s, when DNS was designed, there was no consideration for strong security mechanisms in the protocol. Computers at that time were underpowered compared with today’s machines, public key cryptography was a relatively new concept and highly regulated, and the network was much smaller, with fewer participants who were relatively well known and trusted. As the network grew and evolved, DNS remained unchanged as an insecure and unauthenticated protocol.

    In 1993, the IETF started a public discussion around how DNS could be made more trustworthy. Eventually, a set of extensions to DNS, called Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), were settled on and formally published in 2005. These extensions replaced earlier proposals as a definitive way forward for securing DNS. Though it’s been almost a decade since this publication, DNSSEC is still far from mainstream adoption.

    The security extensions to DNS add protection for DNS records, and allow the resolvers and applications to authenticate the data received. These powerful additions will mean that all answers from DNS can be trusted. DNSSEC operates a lot like the chain of trust used to validate TLS/SSL certificates, except that, rather than many trusted root certificates, there is one trusted root key managed by the DNS root maintainer IANA.

    The point of DNSSEC is to provide a way for DNS records to be trusted by whoever receives them, and the use of public key cryptography is a key innovation of DNSSEC to ensure that DNS records are authentic.

    DNSSEC is a valuable tool for improving the trust and integrity of DNS, the backbone of the modern Internet. DNSSEC deployment is still in its infancy, less than five per cent of all zones had been signed as of mid-2014. Though it has its detractors, adoption is increasing, and DNSSEC is becoming a core tool in the development of a safer and more trustworthy Internet.

    For an in depth look at DNSSEC, see this CloudFlare Blog Post.