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It's no surprise that the U.S. government's reliance on the Internet to disseminate and provide access to information has significantly increased over the years. While the use of technology has grown, so have the risks associated with potential unauthorized use, compromise and loss of the .gov domain space.

After a major vulnerability in the Domain Name System (DNS) was discovered last summer, the Office of Management and Budget responded by issuing a mandate for deploying Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), the recently defined security standard, to all federal systems by December 2009.

DNS is a core Internet service that translates human-friendly computer names (such as whitehouse.gov) into IP addresses. While it has always been known that there have been flaws in the DNS system, it wasn't until security researcher Dan Kaminsky discovered a significant attack on the domain-name system that the U.S. government committed to deploying DNSSEC. By migrating from DNS to DNSSEC, agencies would be able to ensure the integrity of Internet names and addresses.

DNSSEC is a secure version of DNS that uses digital signatures and public-key encryption that provides assurance that domain names are being mapped to the correct IP address. While all federal systems must comply by the end of the year, deploying DNSSEC is difficult and requires hardware and software components from multiple vendors. It also creates new operational duties related to key generation, zone file signing, and key management. Although organizations are expected to comply and meet the fast-approaching deadline, few have the specialized skills and technical expertise required for a successful migration.

This article examines the operational and administrative requirements organizations need to consider as they migrate from a traditional DNS infrastructure to one based on DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC).

DNSSEC provides security in internet communications

It has always been possible for criminals to use the DNS to masquerade as trustworthy online entities using a technique known as DNS cache poisoning. The Kaminsky exploit increases the danger of cache poisoning attacks by making them easier to launch and almost impossible to detect.


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