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Homeland Security grabs for net's master keys

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The US Department of Homeland Security is pushing to get hold of the master keys for a proposed revision of the internet's domain name system.

The shortcomings of the present DNS have been known for years but difficulties in devising a system that offers backward compatability while scaling to millions of nodes on the net have slowed down the implementation of its successor, Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC). DNSSEC ensures that domain name requests are digitally signed and authenticated, a defence against forged DNS data, a product of attacks such as DNS cache poisoning used to trick surfers into visiting bogus websites that pose as the real thing.

Obtaining the master key for the DNS root zone would give US authorities the ability to track DNS Security Extensions (DNSSec) "all the way back to the servers that represent the name system's root zone on the internet".

Access to the "key-signing key" would give US authorities a supervisory role over DNS lookups, vital for functions ranging from email delivery to surfing the net. At a recent ICANN meeting in Lisbon, Bernard Turcotte, president of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, said managers of country registries were concerned about the proposal to allow the US to control the master keys, giving it privileged control of internet resources, Heise reports.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the ICANN body which handles route management, could be assigned the role of safeguarding the keys. But since the US government has reserved the right the to oversee ICANN this proposal creates as many problems as it solves by making it more difficult to persuade the US into giving up this role, which those outside the US see as anachronistic. ®

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