Home Networking ICANN to update DNS security, ISPs must follow or risk outage

ICANN to update DNS security, ISPs must follow or risk outage

For the first time ever, ICANN is changing the cryptographic keys that secure DNS. ISPs must ensure their software is up-to-date or risk their customers being unable to reach any site on the Internet.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the non-profit organisation responsible for co-ordinating the maintenance and procedures of several critical databases responsible for the Internet’s stable and secure operation.

Among these is the Domain Name System root zone registry. For the first time, since DNS commenced use in 1985, some 32 years ago, ICANN is about to change the cryptographic keys used to secure DNS.

Much as security best-practice is for individuals to change their passwords regularly, so too “rolling” the cryptographic key is a critical step in keeping global DNS safe and secure, by ensuring important security infrastructure can support changing password if ever a situation arose where this became essential.

However, there is a problem: not every ISP may be ready, and if an ISP’s DNS servers are unable to communicate with the root DNS zone, the majority of that ISP’s customers will be unable to use the Internet, the exception being customers who manually chose to use a different DNS server such as Google’s 8.8.8.8 or OpenDNS.

“It is critical that ISPs and network operators around the world make certain they are ready for this change as failure to do so can result in their users being unable to look up domain names and thus be unable to reach any site on the Internet,” said David Conrad, ICANN's chief technology officer.

"Network operators should ensure they have up-to-date software, have enabled DNSSEC, and verified that their systems can update their keys automatically or they have processes in place to manually update to the new key by 1600 UTC on 11 October 2017.”

To help, ICANN has released a testing platform allowing Internet users to test if their ISP or network is compliant before the 11 October deadline.

ICANN has been working with technical partners such as the regional Internet registries, network operations groups, and domain name registries and registrars as well as others in the Internet ecosystem, such as the Internet Society and Internet trade associations, to make certain that those around the world who may be impacted by the key roll are aware of the pending change.

ICANN chief executive officer Göran Marby has further advised more than 170 government officials, including regulators and participants in ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee, to ask that they make certain the network operators in their respective countries are aware and ready for the key change.

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David M Williams

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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.