Feeds

DNS inventor blames wrangling for insecure interweb

Mockapetris slams 10 years of 'political and technical dithering'

High performance access to file storage

The inventor of the domain name system has blamed technical and political wrangling for delays in improving internet infrastructure security.

Dr Paul Mockapetris, chairman of DNS firm Nominum, explained that the use of digital signatures would help fix fundamental vulnerabilities in the internet's domain name system, highlighted by a much-publicised flaw discovered by security researcher Dan Kaminsky this summer. The flaw created a means to redirect surfers to potentially malicious sites by poisoning DNS look-up tables.

The fix for the flaw, yet to be applied by many, involves source-port randomisation, but this is only a partial fix for a much bigger problem, according to Mockapetris. He reckons that the DNS systems on high speed networks might still be cracked in five hours by an attacker with sufficient knowledge and resources.

"An attack might be possible in five hours with the patch. That's much better than the minutes an attack might have taken before but systems are still not really protected. IT's bought time without solving the underlying problem," Mockapetris told El Reg.

DNSSec (Domain Name System Security Extension), which uses digital signatures to guard against forged requests, offers a means of making internet naming systems more secure. But even 15 years after the standard was developed its adoption remains low.

Mockapetris blames problems in making the technology easy to deploy, delays in developing DNSSec-aware apps, and political wrangles in holding back adoption of the technology. Arguments about whether or not to give VeriSign the role of a trusted third party signing root keys have acted as a roadblock but Mockapetris reckons difficulties in making the technology easy to apply are the greatest obstacle to its deployment.

"There were five years of good work in there to roll out the technology but on top of that we've had 10 years of political and technical dithering," Mockapetris said.

Only a massive blockbuster attack or applications that require DNSSec are likely to spur adoption of the technology, which has never really got out of first gear. One such application could be using using DNS data to distribute reputation on domains taken from feeds such as Spamhaus and blocklists maintained by Trend Micro.

URL filtering and content filtering technologies do a similar job but Mockapetris explained that using the DNS infrastructure would offer faster response alongside greater agility, for example, in tracking botnet systems using Fast Flux approaches to hide phishing and malware sites behind compromised proxy hosts.

Nominum has added MDR (malicious domain redirection) technology to its proprietary DNS technology as a way for ISPs to block access to child pornography sites, based on IP address.

Mockapetris helped invent the DNS system in the 1980s. The original intention was to get systems up and running and add security features later but the process has proved far more protracted than he ever imagined. Mockapetris now reckons DNSSec might eventually be applied in 2015 but given he said five years ago that the technology would be "ubiquitous" by 2008 we ought to treat such predictions with caution.

Whenever a more secure alternative is applied Mockapetris will be recognised as doing as much as anyone to promote its adoption. As well as being one of the parents of DNS, alongside the late Jon Postel, Mockapetris might then also be recognised as one of the midwives of DNSSec. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.