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DNSSec update deadline penciled in for 2011

Long awaited security upgrade heading for .com and .net

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VeriSign announced plans on Monday to roll out the DNSSec security standard for the web's .com and .net Top Level Domain Names (TLDs) by the first quarter of 2011.

Short for Domain Name System Security Extensions Protocol, DNSSec is designed to guard against "man in the middle" and cache poisoning attacks that create a means for hackers to hijack web browsing sessions.

DNSSec adds digital signature to domain name requests, thus making the system more secure. The technology has existed for more than a decade but it was only after Dan Kaminsky discovered a block-buster DNS flaw last year that anybody started paying serious attention to architectural shortcomings that have plagued the net's domain name system since its very beginning.

A decision by the US government to move .gov domains from vanilla DNS to the more secure DNSSec last year began the long-awaited migration process, which has finally begun to get moving after years of technical and bureaucratic wrangling.

VeriSign has begun working with EDUCAUSE, the association for information technology in higher education, and the Department of Commerce (DoC) to deploy DNSSec within the .edu TLD. Lessons learned from this process will be applied to the bigger job of introducing DNSSec to the .net and .com domains over the next 18 months or so.

A successful transition to DNSSEc will involve a huge collective effort involving domain name registrars, ISPs, browser developers and network equipment manufactures, among others. VeriSign has also established an Interoperability Lab within its research arm so that other vendors can evaluate the interoperability of their equipment with DNSSec. The net infrastructure firm is also running a series of technical "boot camps" to help front line network technicians get to grips with DNSSec.

"Successfully implementing DNSSec will involve the entire Internet ecosystem, from registrars and ISPs to browser vendors," explained Ken Silva, CTO of VeriSign in a statement. "Because the reliable operation of .com and .net is crucial around the world, we must take a cautious and orderly approach to this roll-out. VeriSign is committed to helping registrars and ISPs make the implementation decisions that are right for them."

DNSSec is a significant net security upgrade but no panacea. Problems such as malware and hacking are untouched by the deployment of the digital signature-based technology. ®

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