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Domain Name System (DNS) Security

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With no inherent security, Domain Name System (DNS) servers at a host of organizations have been repeatedly compromised to enable a host of malicious endeavors, including cache poisoning (injecting incorrect/fraudulent data into a name server’s cache, which then gets served to users), redirecting phone calls, man-in-the-middle attacks to steal passwords, rerouting email, denial of service attacks, and more.

Domain Name Systems Security Extensions (DNSSEC) secures the DNS server hierarchy by digitally signing DNS records in order to ensure that the messages received are the same as those that were sent.

With DNSSEC in place, organizations can:

  • Boost security. DNS security can help guard against cache poisoning, redirected phone calls, man-in-the-middle attacks, and more.

  • Ensure compliance. DNSSEC can help address ICANN, NSEC, and other mandates and guidelines.

  • Reduce costs. By safeguarding against a range of network based threats, organizations can reduce the time and cost associated with threat mitigation and post-attack forensics and reparation.


Without Robust Security, DNS Security Can Be Compromised

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DNSSEC essentially implements public key infrastructures (PKI) to provide a method of secure communication between DNS servers. As a PKI, DNSSEC requires some new procedures such as key generation, signing, and key management. But, for all the potential benefits of DNSSEC, the intended gains aren’t guaranteed because the resource records introduced by DNSSEC are kept in an unencrypted file.

It is only when the entire DNSSEC infrastructure is fully and comprehensively secured those organizations can begin to fully enjoy DNSSEC’s benefits. To do so, they need capabilities to do the following:

  • Secure digital signatures. DNS messages need to be digitally signed in order to ensure the validity of DNS services.

  • Control access. Organizations need to ensure only authorized customers and internal staff can access sensitive applications and data.

  • Maintain application integrity. All associated application code and processes need to be secured to ensure integrity and prohibit unauthorized application execution.

  • Scale to accommodate high volume processing. Since DNS updates are very frequent, DNSSEC infrastructures need to deliver the performance and scalability required to ensure timely processing at all times.

View DNSSEC Using HSMs Resource Library

DNS Security with Hardware Security Modules

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To ensure the validity of DNS services, DNSSEC employs public key cryptography to digitally sign DNS messages. To realize the security required, robust protection of private signing keys is vital. If the keys and their corresponding digital certificates are compromised, the chain of trust in the DNS hierarchy is broken, rendering the entire system obsolete. This is where hardware security modules (HSMs) come into play.

HSMs are dedicated systems that physically and logically secure the cryptographic keys and cryptographic processing that are at the heart of digital signatures. HSMs support the following functions:

  • Life-cycle management, including key generation, distribution, rotation, storage, termination, and archival.

  • Cryptographic processing, which produces the dual benefits of isolating and offloading cryptographic processing from application servers.

By storing cryptographic keys in a centralized, hardened device, HSMs can eliminate the risks associated with having these assets housed on disparate, poorly secured platforms. In addition, this centralization can significantly streamline security administration.

DNS Security with SafeNet HSMs Diagram


[Diagram] See How it Works: DNS Security with SafeNet HSMs

SafeNet HSMs for DNSSEC:

  • Support DNSSEC Anchor Trust systems

  • Key security for root and entire DNS hierarchy-ZSK and KSK

  • Powerful cryptographic engine offloads cryptographic burden from DNS server

  • Broad array of HSMs fits multiple DNSSEC requirements

  • Standard APIs including PKCS#11, Java, MS CAPI

  • FIPS validated and Common Criteria certified models available

  • Integrates with leading DNS platforms such as OpenDNSSEC, BIND 9.7, FreeBSD

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