Working Toward a More Secure Domain Name System (DNS) Ecosystem

The Domain Name System Security Facilitation Initiative Technical Study Group (DSFI-TSG) is now well underway and has completed its first major milestone: finalizing its charter and scope.

Attacks on the DNS rarely impact only one actor in the Internet ecosystem and many attacks can be realized due to multiple threat vectors. As a result, the group’s scope is based on the mechanics of broad security issues that include the following areas: identity management; availability of the DNS; infrastructure impersonation; hardware, software, and protocol vulnerabilities; fate sharing; security threats that utilize the DNS; verifying/validating trust in the DNS infrastructure and data; and cryptography.

There is an understanding that while theoretical attacks are unlikely to result in concrete recommendations, the work of the DSFI-TSG will take into account any new attacks that are realized during the course of its work.

The DSFI-TSG will structure the development of its recommendations around five key questions:

What are the mechanisms or functions currently available that address DNS security?
Can we identify the most critical gaps in the current DNS security landscape?
Who is best suited to fill those gaps?
What are the risks associated with these gaps that may not be well understood?
Does the DNS have unique characteristics that attract security problems, which other Internet services don’t have?
The goal of the DSFI-TSG is to look at the cross-functional aspects of the DNS and to create recommendations to the ICANN CEO that promote best practices, facilitate communications, and implement processes to help all stakeholders mitigate and/or respond to threats to the DNS ecosystem.

The completion of the charter and scope is a testament to the DSFI-TSG members’ commitment to improving the world of DNS security despite the challenges introduced by a lack of face-to-face meetings, summer vacations, and a workload that has only increased as a result of COVID-19. I am incredibly grateful for the productive conversations we’ve had so far, and the promise of more to come.

Expect more information through our meeting notes and future blog posts, available on the DSFI-TSG website.
Domain Name SystemInternationalized Domain Name ,IDN,”IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet “”a-z””. An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European “”0-9″”. The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed “”ASCII characters”” (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of “”Unicode characters”” that provides the basis for IDNs. The “”hostname rule”” requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen “”-“”. The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of “”labels”” (separated by “”dots””). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an “”A-label””. All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a “”U-label””. The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for “”test”” — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of “”ASCII compatible encoding”” (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an “”LDH label””. Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as”””” is not an IDN.”

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