[dns-operations] thoughts on DNSSEC

Daniel Kalchev daniel at digsys.bg
Wed Jul 18 18:07:01 UTC 2012

On 18.07.12 19:30, Vernon Schryver wrote:
> } From: Daniel Kalchev<daniel at digsys.bg>
> } Obviously, e-mail authentication is not appropriate, as is any in-band
> } authentication as well.
> It's not clear to me that e-mail authentication using something like
> https://www.ietf.org/id/draft-hoffman-dane-smime-03.txt
> "Using Secure DNS to Associate Certificates with Domain Names For S/MIME"
> is less secure than commercial PKI certificates.
> Of course, if you've lost your key files, it might not work very well.
> But in the future when (and if) your HTTP authentication also relies
> on DNS (e.g. DANE), ...

The trouble is with any in-band authentication. When you break DNSSEC, 
and you require DNS in any form in order to communicate, and especially 
to authenticate the other party -- obviously you can't trust it anymore.

> } For example, while implementing DNSSEC back in 2007, we have made it
> } mandatory in the BG registry to use qualified electronic signatures in
> } order to manipulate DNSSEC.
> What do you define as a qualified electronic signature?  What do you
> do for key distribution?  HTTPS with commercial PKI is far better than
> unauthenticated, trivially forged mail, but it's not exactly secure.

I was curious how this could be interpreted, as it might be not 
widespread. In our case it is defined as non-repudiation signature with 
an officially issued digital certificate. There is no key distribution 
concerning the registry/registrar in this case, it is all external (out 
of band, essentially out-of-Internet).
The "security level" aspect of course could be debated, but is in fact 
irrelevant in this discussion -- important is that this is an 
out-of-band authenticator, not related to DNS in any way.

> }                             About the only operation you can do without
> } it is "turn DNSSEC off" and for this to work you need other than e-mail
> } authentication.
> Why should turning DNSSEC off be easier than adding or removing
> DS RRs?  I understand that turning DNSSEC off is very useful in
> emergencies, but it also sounds very useful to your adversaries.

This is indeed a temporary solution. Ideally, everything should be 
authenticated out of band. When things break, you cannot rely on the 
in-band communication.

But, as long as NS records and other registration data could be 
communicated "less securely", the same should be valid for "turn DNSSEC 

Why "turn DNSSEC off" is an special case? Because, with DNSSEC, there is 
end-to-end validation that can be employed by various applications 
levels and an DNSSEC enabled domain can be considered "secure". When 
DNSSEC is off for the domain, it will become "insecure" and there will 
be no confusion.
Also, if NS changes can happen with less strict authentication checks, 
it is entirely possible for adversaries to just change NS records, thus 
making your DNSSEC setup invalid.

For this reason we also have "certificate-only" flag, which if set 
disables any DNSSEC manipulation, including turning off when not using 
certificate authentication.

> In theory, mail management of DNSSEC could be better than standard DNS
> web management pages.

Note, I did not specify certificates are used on web forms. We use them 
in e-mail and in our RegRR (EPP extension) protocol and not only for DNSSEC.

The use of non-repudiation certificates makes things much, much simpler. 
The only trouble is, these are not particularly widespread around the 


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