US .gov info restricted over attacker fears

Zoning out

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

VeriSign Inc has stopped providing access to information about the .gov internet domain, which is restricted to US government bodies, over concerns the data could be used in planning internet attacks, ComputerWire has learned.

On September 16, the company posted a notice on its web site saying that from September 13 (three days earlier) it would no longer provide FTP access to the so-called "zone file" for .gov, which contains the IP addresses of all the name servers that point to .gov domains.

Ken Silva, VeriSign's director of networks and security, told ComputerWire the company had removed access to information "of potential value to hackers", and that the decision was made "in conjunction with" the General Services Administration, which administers the .gov zone file.

Silva pointed out that while VeriSign manages the .com, .org and .net zone files, and continues to make those available to those willing to enter a no-cost agreement with the company, it does not run .gov, and merely made the data available as a free informational service.

Malicious hackers wanting to take down government web sites would hypothetically be able to do so by denial-of-service attacking the name servers associated with .gov domains. It was not immediately clear if the .gov zone file data is made available in bulk from other sources, but the GSA does not seem to do so.

Also removed from the FTP site was the zone file for in-addr.arpa, which is used for reverse-DNS lookups (when somebody wants to find out what domain is associated with an IP address, rather than the other way around).

© ComputerWire

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