The New gTLD Applicants Group has slated Interisle Consulting’s report into the risk of new gTLDs causing security problems on the internet, saying the problem is “overstated”.
The group, which represents applicants for hundreds of gTLDs and has a non-voting role in ICANN’s GNSO, called on ICANN to reclassify hundreds of “Uncalculated” risk strings as “Low” risk, meaning they would not face as substantial a delay before or uncertainty about their eventual delegation.
But NTAG said it “agreed” that the high-risk .corp and .home “should be delayed while further studies are conducted”. The current ICANN proposal is actually to reject both of these strings.
NTAG was responding to ICANN’s proposal earlier this month to delay 523 applications (for 279 strings) by three to six months while further studies are carried out.
The proposal was based on Interisle’s study of DNS root server logs, which showed many millions of daily queries for gTLDs that currently do not exist but have been applied for.
The worry is that delegating those strings would cause problems such as downtime or data leakage, where sensitive information intended for a recipient on the same local network would be sent instead to a new gTLD registry or one of its (possibly malicious) registrants.
NTAG reckons the risk presented by Interisle has been overblown, and it presented a point-by-point analysis of its own. It called for everything except .corp and .home to be categorized “Low” risk, saying:
We recognize that a small number of applied for names may possibly pose a risk to current operations, but we believe very strongly that there is no quantitative basis for holding back strings that pose less measurable threat than almost all existing TLDs today. This is why we urge the board to proceed with the applications classified as “Unknown Risk” using the mitigations recommended by staff for “Low Risk” strings. We believe the 80% of strings classified as “Low Risk” should proceed immediately with no additional mitigations.
The group pointed to a recent analysis by Verisign (which, contrarily, was trying to show that new gTLDs should be delayed) which included data about previous new gTLD delegations.
That report (pdf) said that .xxx was seeing 4,018 look-ups per million queries at the DNS root (PPM) before it was delegated. The number for .asia was 2,708.
If you exclude .corp and .home, both of those PPM numbers are multiples larger than the equivalent measures of query volume for every applied-for gTLD today, also according to Verisign’s data.
None of these strings pose any more risk than .xxx, .asia and other currently operating TLDs.
the least “dangerous” current gTLD on the chart, .sx, had 331 queries per million in 2006. This is a higher density of NXDOMAIN queries than all but five proposed new TLDs. 4 Again, .sx was launched successfully in 2012 with none of the problems predicted in these reports.
Verisign’s report, which sought to provide a more qualitative risk analysis based on some data-supported guesses about where the error traffic is coming from and why, anticipated this interpretation.
This could indicate that there is nothing to worry about when adding new TLDs, because there was no global failure of DNS when this was done before. Alternately, one might conclude that traffic volumes are not the only indicator of risk, and the semantic meaning of strings might also play a role. We posit that in some cases, those strings with semantic meanings, and which are in common use (such as in speech, writing, etc.) pose a greater risk for naming collision.
The company spent most of its report making somewhat tenuous correlations between its data (such as a relatively large number of requests for .medical from Japanese IP addresses) and speculative impacts (such as “undiagnosed system failures” at “a healthcare provider in Japan”).
NTAG, by contrast, is playing down the potential for negative outcomes, saying that in many cases the risks introduced by new gTLDs are no different from collision risks at the second level in existing TLDs.
Just as the NTAG would not ask ICANN to halt .com registrations while a twelve month study is performed on these problems, we believe there is no reason to introduce a delay in diversifying the Internet’s namespace due to these concerns.
While it stopped short of alleging shenanigans this time around, NTAG also suggested that future studies of root server error traffic could be gamed if botnets were engaged to crapflood the roots.
Its own mitigation plan, which addresses Interisle’s specific concerns, says that most of the reasons that non-existent TLDs are being looked up are either not a problem or can be easily mitigated.
For example, it says that queries for .youtube that arrived in the form of a request for “www.youtube” are probably browser typos and that there’s no risk for users if they’re taken to the YouTube dot-brand instead of youtube.com.
In another example, it points out that requests for “.cisco” or “.toshiba” without any second-level domains won’t resolve anyway, if dotless domains are banned in those TLDs. (NTAG, which has influential members in favor of dotless domains, stopped short of asking for a blanket ban.)
The Interisle report, and ICANN’s proposal to deal with it, are open for public comment until September 17. NTAG’s response is remarkably quick off the mark, for guessable reasons.