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DNSSEC to kill the ISP wildcard?

Kevin Murphy, October 19, 2010, Domain Tech

Comcast is to switch off its Domain Helper service, which captures DNS error traffic and presents surfers with sponsored search results instead, as part of its DNSSEC implementation.

The ISP said yesterday that it has started to roll out the new security mechanism to its production DNS servers across the US and expects to have all customers using DNSSEC by the “early part of 2011”.

The deployment will come in two phases. The first phase, expected to last 60 days, sees DNSSEC turned on for subscribers who have previously opted out of the Domain Helper system.

After that, Comcast will continue the rollout to all of its customers, which will involve killing off the Domain Helper service for good.

As the company says in its FAQ:

# We believe that the web error redirection function of Comcast Domain Helper is technically incompatible with DNSSEC.
# Comcast has always known this and plans to turn off such redirection when DNSSEC is fully implemented.
# The production network DNSSEC servers do not have Comcast Domain Helper’s DNS redirect functionality enabled.

When web users try to visit a non-existent domain, DNS normally supplies a “does-not-exist” reply. Over recent years it has become increasingly common for ISPs to intercept this response and show users a monetized search page instead.

But DNSSEC introduces new anti-spoofing features that require such responses to be cryptographically signed. This, it seems, means ISPs will no longer be able to intercept and monetize error traffic without interfering with the end-to-end functionality of DNSSEC.

Comcast, which has been trialing the technology with volunteers for most of the year, says that to do so “breaks the chain of trust critical to proper DNSSEC validation functionality”.

It looks like it’s the beginning of the end of the ISP error wildcard. That’s got to be a good thing, right?

IPv4 pool to dry up in 2011

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2010, Domain Tech

ICANN has confirmed that it will run out of unassigned IPv4 address space some time next year.

In an update to its Plan for Enhancing Internet Security, Stability and Resiliency, published yesterday, ICANN said it “expects to make the last allocations of IPv4 unicast space to the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) during the calendar year 2011.”

While this means ICANN will largely be out of the IPv4 business, it does not of course mean that there will be no IPv4 address space left to be allocated to ISPs and businesses.

ICANN points out that the RIRs will still have their pools of unallocated addresses, and that they’ve been drawing up plans to hand out smaller blocks to new ISPs as well as allowing the transfer of IPv4 addresses between networks.

The confirmation that 2011 is the year that IPv4 dries up is not unanticipated. ICANN has been flagging it up as the likely timeframe for a few years now.

The solution to the problem is IPv6, which is large enough to never run out of addresses. The trick is making sure the new protocol is universally supported, so IPv6 networks can talk to IPv4 networks and vice versa.

The updated security plan document contains a few other nibbles of interest.

For instance, the security budget for the next year is down slightly on the last, $11.52 million versus $12.8 million, largely due to a requirement last year to build out a secure data center.

There’s also the admission that ICANN has developed an as-yet unpublished “Meetings Security Plan”, presumably in response to the terrorism fears that kept many constituents at home for the Nairobi meeting in March.

Afilias adds DNSSEC to .info zone

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2010, Domain Tech

The .info domain has become the latest gTLD to be signed with DNSSEC, the security standard for domain name lookups.

Afilias, which runs the .info registry, said today that it has signed its zone and added the necessary records to the DNS root.

DNSSEC is designed to prevent cache poisoning attacks, which can be used to hijack domain names and carry out phishing campaigns.

For registrants, DNSSEC in .info doesn’t mean much in practical terms yet. If you have a .info, you’ll have to wait for registrars to start to support the standard.

At the moment, only 19 second-level .info domains, including afilias.info and comcast.info, have been signed, as part of a “friends and family” testbed program.

The .org zone, which Afilias also provides the back-end for, was signed in June.

Neustar added full DNSSEC support for .biz in August, according to an announcement this week.

For .com and .net, VeriSign is currently planning to roll out the technology in the first quarter of 2011.

Go Daddy files for patent on available domain ads

Kevin Murphy, September 2, 2010, Domain Tech

Go Daddy has applied for a US patent on a system that automatically inserts available domain names into banner ads based on the dynamic content of a web page.

The application “Generating online advertisements based upon available dynamic content relevant domain names” was filed in February 2009 and published today.

The patent would cover a way to analyze the content of a web page, perhaps using image identification technology, then generate keywords and check for available domain names to put in the ad.

Instead of a standard Go Daddy banner, visitors to a web page would be shown a custom ad offering an available or aftermarket domains relevant to the content of the page.

The application also seems to cover an API whereby an advertising network, such as Google, would also be able to offer available domains via Adsense.

Registrars “unprepared” for DNSSEC

Kevin Murphy, August 23, 2010, Domain Tech

Only one in 10 domain name registrars believes it is fully prepared to offer DNSSEC services today, according to new research out from Afilias, the .info registry.

The Registrar DNSSEC Readiness Report (pdf) also shows that a perceived lack of customer demand for the technology has translated into ambivalence at most registrars.

DNSSEC is a standard extension to DNS that helps prevent domain name hijacking through man-in-the-middle attacks.

The survey shows that 9.86% of registrars say they are “fully prepared” to offer DNSSEC to customers now, with 52.2% saying they were “somewhat” prepared. The remainder were not at all prepared.

A little over a quarter of respondents rated DNSSEC a “high” priority for the next 12 months, with less than 3% saying it was an “extremely high” priority.

Two of the biggest reasons for the lack of urgency were lack of customer demand – 59% of registrars said they saw no demand at all – and difficulties developing key management systems.

Despite this, when asked the question “Should TLD registries support DNSSEC?”, a whopping 80% responded in the affirmative.

I expect interest in the technology will pick up early next year, when VeriSign signs the .com zone.

The Afilias survey was conducted electronically earlier this month. The sample size was quite small, with only 71 respondents, and most of them were on the smaller side by domain count.

The report was released to coincide with Afilias’ launch of a broad effort to add DNSSEC support to all of the TLDs for which it provides registry services.

The company already offers the technology in .org, and that will now be extended to gTLDs including .info and ccTLDs such as .in. You can read the release at CircleID.