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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Root zone proposal goes public

Not-for profit organisation responsible for the global coordination of the Internet’s system of unique identifiers, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has released a proposal for the signing of the root zone file with Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), technology.

The release comes as the United States Department of Commerce (DoC) also announced a Notice of Inquiry on the concept of signing the Root Zone.

A DNS root zone is the top level of the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy for a given DNS system. DNS makes it possible to assign domain names to organizations, thus, is a system that translates domain names into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

Media Advisor for ICANN, Mr. Jason Keenan, said in a press statement made available to ITRealms Online at the weekend, that DNSSEC provides a way for software to validate that Domain Name System (DNS) data have not been modified during Internet transit.

This, he said, is done by incorporating public-private signature key pairs into the DNS hierarchy to form a chain of trust originating at the root zone.

Essentially, he said, DNSSEC is not a form of encryption, noting that it is backward compatible with existing DNS, leaving records as they are – unencrypted.

“DN SSEC ensures record integrity through the use of digital signatures that attest to their authenticity,” he said.

Explaining further, Keenan said, this proposal has been written by ICANN staff, as authorized by its board, with the goal to proceed with appropriate speed and deploy DNSSEC at the root level as a step towards improving the overall security of the DNS.

He quoted ICANN president, Dr. Paul Twomey as saying that the proposal has already been reviewed by a group of global DNSSEC experts.

“The feedback ICANN received from this group indicates that the proposal is technically sound, and appropriate” Twomey said.

He underscored the fact that at the core of DNSSEC is the concept of a ‘chain of trust’, thus ICANN’s proposal builds on that notion and, based on security advice, recommends that the entity responsible for making changes, additions and deletions to the root zone file and confirming those changes are valid.

He pointed out that ICANN presently performs this function under its administrative arm known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function, under contract from the United States Department of Commerce, stressing that it generates and digitally sign the resulting root zone file update.

This signed file, then passed to another organization presently being managed by VeriSign Corporation for distribution.

“In other words, the organization responsible for the initial basis of trust - validating root zone changes with top level domain operators - should also authenticate the validity of the final product before it is distributed, “ he enlightened.

“ICANN has more than a year of experience in producing a signed root zone that has already been widely tested by DNS software vendors and the interested DNSSEC community. ICANN also has “built-in” the participation of a group of world-class DNS experts,” Dr Twomey said.

He described this moment as that of challenge and opportunity in addressing the overall stability and security of the DNS system, a mission around which ICANN was formed.


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