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ICANN staff need to get their pee tested

Kevin Murphy, June 8, 2010, Domain Tech

I imagine it’s a pretty hard job, largely thankless, working at ICANN. No matter what you do, there’s always somebody on the internet bitching at you for one reason or another.

The job may be about to get even more irksome for some staffers, if ICANN decides to implement new security recommendations made by risk management firm JAS Communications.

In a report published yesterday, JAS suggests that senior IANA staff – basically anyone with critical responsibilities over the DNS root zone – should be made to agree to personal credit checks, drug screening and even psych evaluations.

To anyone now trying to shake mental images of Rod Beckstrom peeing into a cup for the sake of the internet, I can only apologise.

This is what the report says:

JAS recommends a formal program to vet potential new hires, and to periodically re‐vet employees over time. Such a vetting program would include screening for illegal drugs, evaluation of consumer credit, and psychiatric evaluation, which are all established risk factors for unreliable and/or malicious insider activity and are routinely a part of employee screening in government and critical infrastructure providers.

I’ve gone for the cheap headline here, obviously, but there’s plenty in this report to take seriously, if you can penetrate the management consultant yadda yadda.

There are eight other recommendations not related to stoners running the root, covering contingencies such as IANA accidentally unplugging the internet and Los Angeles sinking into the Pacific.

Probably most interesting of all is the bit explaining how ICANN’s custom Root Zone Management System software, intended to reduce the possibility of errors creeping into the root after hundreds of new TLDs are added, apparently isn’t being built with security in mind.

“No formal requirements exist regarding the security and resiliency of these systems, making it impossible to know whether the system has been built to specification,” the report says.

It also notes that ICANN lacks a proper risk management strategy, and suggests that it improve communications both internally and with VeriSign.

It discloses that “nearly all critical resources are physically located in the greater Los Angeles area”, which puts the IANA function at risk of earthquake damage, if nothing else.

JAS recommends spreading the risk geographically, which should give those opposed to ICANN bloat something new to moan about.

There’s a public comment forum over here.

UPDATE (2010-06-13): As Michael Palage points out over at CircleID, ICANN has pulled the PDF from its web site for reasons unknown.

On the off-chance that there’s a good security reason for this, I shall resist the temptation to cause mischief by uploading it here. This post, however, remains unedited.

Root DNSSEC push delayed two weeks

Kevin Murphy, May 18, 2010, Domain Tech

The final rollout of DNSSEC to the internet’s root servers, a major security upgrade for the domain name system, has been pushed back two weeks to July 15.

ICANN’s DNS director Joe Abley said in an update on root-dnssec.org and in email to the dns-ops mailing list:

The schedule change is intended to allow ICANN and VeriSign an additional two weeks for further analysis of the DURZ rollout, to finalise testing and best ensure the secure, stable and resilient implementation of the root DNSSEC production processes and systems.

The Deliberately-Unvalidatable Root Zone is a way for the root operators to test how normal DNS resolution copes with fatter DNSSEC responses coming from the root, before worrying about issues concerning DNSSEC validation itself.

The DURZ has been cautiously rolled out over the last few months and has been operational across all 13 root servers since May 5.

The original plan called for the roots to become validatable following a key signing ceremony on July 1

The schedule change from ICANN also comes with a notice that the US government will be asking for public comment before the decision is made to properly sign the root.

Prior to 2010-07-15 the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) will issue a public notice announcing the publication of the joint ICANN-VeriSign testing and evaluation report as well as the intent to proceed with the final stage of DNSSEC deployment. As part of this notice the DoC will include a public review and comment period prior to taking any action.

I may be just a little forgetful, but I can’t remember hearing about this Commerce involvement before.

Still, DNSSEC is a big change, so there’s nothing wrong with more of the softly-softly approach.

I-Root yanks Beijing node

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2010, Domain Tech

Autonomica, which runs i-root-servers.net, has stopped advertising its Anycast node in Beijing, after reports last week that its responses were being tampered with.

In the light of recent tensions between China and the US, people got a bit nervous after the Chilean ccTLD manager reported some “odd behaviour” to the dns-ops mailing list last week.

It seemed that DNS lookups for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were being censored as they returned from I-Root’s node in China, which is hosted by CNNIC.

There was no suggestion that Autonomica was complicit in any censorship, and chief executive Karl Erik Lindqvist has now confirmed as much.

“Netnod/Autonomica is 100% committed to serving the root zone DNS data as published by the IANA. We have made a clear and public declaration of this, and we guarantee that the responses sent out by any i.root-servers.net instance consist of the appropriate data in the IANA root zone,” he wrote.

While Lindqvist is not explicit, the suggestion seems to be that somebody on the Chinese internet not associated with I-Root has been messing with DNS queries as they pass across the network.

This is believed to be common practice in China, whose citizens are subject to strict censorship, but any such activity outside its borders obviously represents a threat to the internet’s reliability.

The CNNIC node is offline until further notice.

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