IETF: Should we ignore the Kaminsky bug?

Standards body debates fixing DNS or pushing new security scheme

The Internet engineering community is grappling with what to do about a serious flaw in the DNS discovered mid-year, and the ongoing debate brings to mind a famous quotation from Voltaire: "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

At issue is whether the group should use its resources to encourage DNS registries, ISPs and enterprises to upgrade to the ultimate DNS security solution known as DNSSEC; or whether it should tweak the DNS protocols to address the so-called Kaminsky bug as an interim step. The issue is being debated at a meeting of the IETF, the Internet's leading standards body, being held here this week.

In July, security researcher Dan Kaminsky discovered a DNS bug that allows for cache poisoning attacks, where a hacker redirects traffic from a legitimate Web site to a fake one without the user knowing. With DNSSEC, the IETF already has a solution to the Kaminsky problem and other known DNS vulnerabilities. However, DNSSEC hasn't been widely deployed, although it has been under development for more than a decade.

DNSSEC prevents hackers from hijacking Web traffic and redirecting it to bogus sites. The Internet standard prevents spoofing attacks by allowing Web sites to verify their domain names and corresponding IP addresses using digital signatures and public-key encryption.

The problem is that DNSSEC prevents Kaminsky attacks only when it is fully deployed across the Internet -- from the DNS root zone at the top of the DNS heirarchy down to individual top-level domains, such as .com and .net. Until then, Web sites remain vulnerable to Kaminsky-style attacks.

That's why some IETF participants are urging immediate action to address the Kaminsky bug, while others are hoping to use the publicity surrounding the discovery of the Kaminsky bug to promote DNSSEC deployment. "The open question is whether there are other measures we can take as operators of the DNS to improve forgery resilience, or are there changes to the DNS protocols that we should be making that are an interim step that aren't all the way to DNSSEC," explains Andrew Sullivan, co-chair of the IETF's DNS Extensions working group, which is discussing the matter. The working group is split on which direction to take. "We can't tell yet which way it will go," says Olafur Gudmundsson, the other co-chair of the group.

In recent weeks, IETF participants have submitted five documents to the DNS Extensions working group with proposed changes to DNS that would prevent Kaminsky-style attacks. "We've been trying to condense the proposals down to the working group to show what each of the changes would be, how they would help the situation, what the operational costs would be and what would break as a result of the changes," Gudmundsson says. "It's too early to tell if the group is going to coalesce around one of these proposals."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags dns flawKaminskyIETF

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Carolyn Duffy Marsan

Network World
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?