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Friday, January 23, 2009

DISA certifies DNSsec IPv6 appliance

Defense Department, other agencies can benefit from InfoWeapons SolidDNS

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) has concluded that InfoWeapons SolidDNS meets the requirements to qualify as a certified IPv6-ready device, providing organizations with the ability to run an IPv4/IPv6 dual-stack Domain Name Service (DNS) from a single appliance.

SolidDNS also supports DNS Security (DNSsec), making it the only DNS appliance on the market that supports both IPv6 and DNSsec.

The JITC certification is required for a product to be placed on the Defense Department's Approved Product List, which is used by defense, intelligence and other agencies.

“This is a prestigious certification given by the U.S. Defense Department,” said Lawrence Hughes, chairman and founder of InfoWeapons. “This particular certification was related to IPv6 interoperability, and the tests they used were primarily from the IPv6 Forum’s ‘IPv6-ready’ certification suite.”

DNS is one of the most critical functions on the Internet and in enterprise networks. All computers use DNS to translate simple Web site domain names to their Internet Protocol address. .

Many DNS vulnerabilities have been identified, and patched, the most recent being the infamous “Kaminsky bug” named after Internet security researcher Dan Kaminsky who discovered the major security risk in July 2008. This vulnerability allows hackers to exploit DNS and cause “cache poisoning”, which can lead Web surfers to give up personal information to a bogus Web site that appears to be the real site. DNS Security Extension (DNSsec), which can mitigate this bug and other DNS security risks, had already been generating attention. The Kaminsky bug brought it more to the forefront, causing security experts to push even harder for enterprises and service providers to move to DNSsec on their DNS.

“There has been a ‘fix’ for BIND [the Berkeley Internet Name Domain] that makes the ‘Kaminsky’ bug more difficult to exploit, but this is not a clean solution,” Hughes said. “The real solution requires the ability to trust DNS records obtained from other services, and the only airtight solution to that is DNSsec, which involves the use of public key based digital signatures.”

DNSsec is an upgrade to basic DNS and includes protections against certain types of attacks such as cache poisoning. With the addition of four new types of resource records, DNSsec provides origin authentication of DNS data, data integrity and authenticated denial of existence.

“Given the sensitive nature of many Government websites, it is critical that they be protected with DNSsec,” said Hughes. “A strong dual stack DNS server with full support for DNSsec is critical going forward.”

InfoWeapons’ SolidDNS is a DNS appliance based on a hardened version of FreeBSD, with support not only for IPv4, but also for IPv6 in dual-stack mode. SolidDNS can provide DNS query resolution over dual-stack transport and can resolve both IPv4 host (“A”) or IPv6 host (“AAAA” or “quad-A”) records. As the government moves forward towards IPv6, it is critical that the underlying network devices not only be dual-stack capable, but also contain the necessary security capabilities.

“It does not make sense to buy equipment that does not support IPv6,” said Hughes. “The IPv6 Ready logo is very important as it is currently the only certification in the world that insures full conformance with IPv6 standards, as well as interoperability.”

Implementing DNS as an appliance represents a relatively new trend in networking. DNS has been one of the last networking technologies to move to an appliance-based approach, with many organizations sticking with the tried BIND-on-UNIX method. Although this method continues to work, many organizations are looking towards DNS appliances to simplify their operation and enhance the security of their DNS. Operating a traditional BIND-based DNS has its own complications; adding DNSsec takes it up an order of magnitude.

“A well designed appliance has a GUI that requires no UNIX or BIND knowledge, and can ensure error-free configuration even with an entry level administrator,” added Hughes. “Adding DNSsec only requires the administrator to check one box that says ‘sign this domain’. Everything else, including best practices such as key rotation, is done automatically within the appliance. “

DNS appliances provide a highly functional GUI interface to simplify administration. The appliances also tend to include Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) functionality and Internet Protocol Address Management (IPAM) capabilities, two features heavily tied to DNS, but not often integrated well in organizations. Adding DNSsec to the appliance is a major benefit.

“Deploying DNSsec on BIND directly without the aid of an appliance requires very rare and expensive expertise in cryptography, digital signatures and key management, in addition to use of Perl scripts and text editors,” added Hughes. “Even if you can find and afford an administrator that can manage this, they would be far more profitably used doing things other than managing DNS. No such expertise is required for a SolidDNS appliance administrator.”

The December 2008 draft document entitled The Business Case and Roadmap for Completing IPv6 Adoption in the US Government recommends that agencies “plan for future upgrades to an IPv6-capable DNS” and to “investigate and implement DNSsec security features in operational IPv6 DNS servers.” (See related GCN article, OMB seeks comments on IPv6 adoption).

The document, produced by the Federal CIO Council's Architecture and Infrastructure Committee, Services Subcommittee & Governance Subcommittee, which is comprised of government and industry IPv6 experts, is intended to be the next step following the June 30, 2008 Federal IPv6 capability mandate described in the Office of Management and Budget's memorandum M-05-22. The document speaks to the OMB M-08-23 memorandum, which requires agencies to add DNSsec cryptographic authentication functionality to DNS servers by December 2009.

InfoWeapons SolidDNS has “very easy to configure DNSsec, which has been mandated for the entire .gov domain tree by December 2009,” Hughes said. “At no additional cost, SolidDNS is the only DNSsec solution that will also help them with the ongoing migration to IPv6.”


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A New Web of Trust

A protocol that could make the Internet more secure is finally being implemented.

A core element of the Internet that helps millions of computer systems locate each other is finally getting a much-needed upgrade. The domain name system (DNS) works a lot like the Internet's phone book, translating the URLs that users type into a browser into the numerical addresses used to identify the servers that host the requested site.

Recently, this 30-year-old system has begun showing its age.

Last year, a team of high-profile security researchers raced to repair a critical flaw in DNS that made it possible to hijack legitimate communications, potentially directing unsuspecting Web surfers to malicious Web pages. The patch that the team came up with reduced the immediate danger but wasn't meant to be a permanent solution.

For a long-term fix, many experts are now looking to DNSSEC, a protocol that verifies DNS messages with digital signatures. The Public Interest Registry, which handles the .org domain, is implementing DNSSEC across all Web addresses ending with this suffix, and it plans to complete the first phase of the process early this year. The U.S. government has committed to turning on DNSSEC for .gov as well, and the newly formed DNSSEC Industry Coalition is pushing to get the protocol adopted even more widely.

This is something of a turnaround. In the 14 years since DNSSEC was first conceived, the protocol struggled to gain widespread adoption because it was seen to unnecessarily increase the complexity of implementing DNS. The key to the DNS flaw discovered last year is that the protocol was designed during a more trusting time and does not bother to authenticate information. Dan Kaminsky, director of penetration testing at IOActive, a security company based in Seattle, realized that, if an attacker could worm his way into a DNS communication, he could redirect Web traffic in almost any way. Features have been added to DNS to reduce the threat that messages will be hijacked, but DNSSEC adds real authentication to the system for the first time.

Alexa Raad, CEO of the Public Interest Registry, notes that someone had to be the first to implement the new protocol. Before now, she says, the organizations responsible for domain names weren't moving to integrate DNSSEC because they'd either be sending out credentials to servers that weren't listening for them, or they'd be listening for credentials that wouldn't be there. Raad says that the Public Interest Registry started integrating DNSSEC well before Kaminsky's flaw was announced, hoping to encourage adoption of the protocol by setting an example. The revelations of Kaminsky's flaw simply helped intensify the debate, she says. "For the past two years, a lot of the debate around DNSSEC centered around, 'Do we need it? Are there other technologies? How viable is it?' I think the debate has completely moved away from that. We all understand that DNS is in fact broken. The only solution for that is, in fact, DNSSEC. The debate is now, 'How do we deploy?'"