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Kaminsky calls for DNSSEC deployment

Political hot potato

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ARLINGTON, VA. -- Dan Kaminsky's second act has begun: Pushing the adoption of the DNSSEC security standard for the domain-name system.

So many security frameworks — from password resets via e-mail to SSL certificates — rely on DNS in some way that the protocol has to be secured for Internet security to work, Kaminsky told attendees at the Black Hat DC Security Briefings. DNSSEC is by far the leading security standard for the domain-name system, and the US government has already committed to deploying the protocol this year.

However, DNSSEC is hard to deploy and maintain and is a political hot potato, because in the simplest case, a single root — administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce — would authenticate the entire domain-name system for the Internet, Kaminsky said. Yet, other countries can maintain their own root servers for their domains, and as long as the servers are maintained, the DNS system will continue to work, he said.

"Politics is getting in our way more than security," Kaminsky said. "It's time to sign the root and be done with it."

Last July, Kaminsky and a number of Internet infrastructure companies announced that he had discovered a significant attack on the domain-name system. The companies issued patches for their products, but within three weeks, online attackers had already started using the flaw to attack some popular domains. Many DNS servers remain unpatched, he said.

Kaminsky, who is the director of penetration testing for security firm IOActive, has taken two months leave from his work to advocate DNSSEC adoption, he told SecurityFocus.

The researcher also argued for simple implementations of DNSSEC. While the protocol is fine, DNSSEC systems are not easy to deploy or maintain. Without automation, administrators will keep putting off deployments, he stressed.

This article originally appeared in SecurityFocus.

Copyright © 2008, SecurityFocus

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