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Attack Vectors: Domain Name System Security Facilitation Initiative Technical Study Group Update

18 December 2020

Over the past few months, the Domain Name System Security Facilitation Initiative Technical Study Group (DSFI-TSG) has progressed its work by discussing various past breaches and attack campaigns that either utilized or directly impacted the Domain Name System (DNS). The primary focus of this inquiry has been to enumerate all of the attack vectors utilized to gain insights into potential commonalities. Some of the issues we are considering are whether any attack vectors are utilized more frequently than others and which attack vectors have the most impact on DNS ecosystem security.

While this list is not inclusive to all of the attack vectors under discussion, it includes:

  • Registrant credential compromise
  • Registrar/reseller credential compromise
  • Registry credential compromise
  • Inadequate access control
  • Insecure third-party networks
  • Impersonating an authoritative name server
  • Impersonating a recursive resolver
  • Use of DNS as a covert channel
  • Use of DNS as data exfiltration
  • Denial of service
  • DNS cache poisoning 

Many malicious campaigns utilize a multitude of attack vectors. As the DSFI-TSG continues to work through each attack vector, the group is also delving into issues around potential mitigation techniques. Specifically, we are exploring what mitigation techniques exist for each attack vector; whether there are technical, operational, or process gaps in mitigation deployments; and where mitigation techniques do not exist.

As this part of the work continues, the aim is to start developing answers to questions 1, 2, and 4 of the DSFI-TSG charter’s Key Questions:

1. What are the mechanisms or functions currently available that address DNS security?

2. Can we identify the most critical gaps in the current DNS security landscape?

     a) What are the technical requirements needed to address the gaps?

     b) What operational best practices need to be developed, modified, promoted, or implemented to address the gaps?

     c) What are hindrances to deployments of best practices and other technical measures?

4. What are the risks associated with these gaps that may not be well understood?

    a) What are the risk considerations?

    b) Where are there gaps in knowledge of the threat models to the DNS ecosystem?

    c) What externalities do people need to be aware of?

The DSFI-TSG members and the ICANN org support staff recognize the ongoing challenge of conducting the work without face-to-face meetings. The group conducts its work through one-hour meetings every two weeks, augmented by three-hour online workshops once a month. You can follow our work on our webpage. I want to thank all of the DSFI-TSG contributors and the ICANN org support staff for their continued dedication to this work. 


Merike Käo

Merike Käo