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Verisign wildcard changes spark fury

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Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Updated Network administrators are fuming about changes made by domain registrar Verisign to the DNS system yesterday that they say violate longstanding Internet standards.

Verisign yesterday added wildcard DNS records to all .com and .net domains - redirecting surfers who get lost on the Net to a search page, called Site Finder, run by the company. Those who type in non-existent addresses will also be served up Site Finder, instead of an error message.

There's widespread concern the alterations will frustrate commonly used anti-spam techniques. Mail packages often check to see whether the domain an email is coming from is valid but with the changes all domains have suddenly become valid, frustrating the technique.

The radical, and largely unheralded, changes were made yesterday and followed up by a post by Verisign to the NANOG mailing list. This did little beyond stating that Verisign has added a "wildcard A record to the .com and .net zones" and pointing users to a white paper that Verisign has prepared.

So, Verisign has turned domain name typos into an advertising opportunity. Critics believe this is an abuse of Verisign's role, via acquired company Network Solutions, in administering the .com and .net registry DNS servers.

And then there are the practical issues: sysadmins are fuming at the knock-on effects of the changes.

The concerns raised by Reg reader Pete Farrow, who believes the move will lead to more spam, are typical.

"This means that the basic 'sender domain does not resolve' check in sendmail and many other mail server software is now obsolete because any .net and .com now resolves. This will open the internet up to more spam," said Farrow.

"Perhaps mail servers should check to see if the sender domain for a particular piece of email resolves to the IP above. If it does, forward the email to Verisign," he adds.

Ray Bellis, technical director of ISP Community Internet, echoes these concerns.

"This frustrates spam prevention techniques, where mail servers verify that the *sender's* domain is legitimate before accepting an email," Bellis said.

"This breaks all sorts of things horribly," he added.

Sys admins are still analysing the effects of the changes and there's dispute among experts like Beliis about the effect of the changes.

Already a backlash is building, with Net admins being urged to block Verisign's catch-all domain. This could all get very messy. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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