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Proposal To Sign the Root Zone Made Public

A proposal [PDF, 276K] to sign the root zone file with Domain Name System Security Extensions, or DNSSEC, technology was released by ICANN today.

DNSSEC provides a way for software to validate that Domain Name System (DNS) data have not been modified during Internet transit. This is done by incorporating public-private signature key pairs into the DNS hierarchy to form a chain of trust originating at the root zone. Importantly, DNSSEC is not a form of encryption.  It is backward compatible with existing DNS, leaving records as they are – unencrypted.  DNSSEC ensures record integrity through the use of digital signatures that attest to their authenticity.

This proposal has been written by ICANN staff, as authorized by ICANN's Board, with the goal to proceed with appropriate speed and deploy DNSSEC at the root level as a step towards improving the overall security of the DNS.

"The proposal has already been reviewed by a group of global DNSSEC experts. The feedback ICANN received from this group indicates that the proposal is technically sound, and appropriate" ICANN's President and CEO Paul Twomey said. 

At the core of DNSSEC is the concept of a 'chain of trust'. ICANN's proposal builds on that notion and, based on security advice, recommends that the entity responsible for making changes, additions and deletions to the root zone file and confirming those changes are valid, should generate and digitally sign the resulting root zone file update. This signed file should then be passed to another organization (presently VeriSign Corporation) for distribution.  In other words, the organization responsible for the initial basis of trust - validating root zone changes with top level domain operators - should also authenticate the validity of the final product before it is distributed.

The release occurs as the United States Department of Commerce also announced a Notice of Inquiry on the concept of signing the Root Zone. Details can be found here: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-23974.pdf [PDF, 72K].

"ICANN has more than a year of experience in producing a signed root zone that has already been widely tested by DNS software vendors and the interested DNSSEC community. ICANN also has "built-in" the participation of a group of world-class DNS experts" Dr Twomey said.

"This is a moment of challenge and opportunity in addressing the overall stability and security of the DNS system - the mission around which ICANN was formed" he added.

A set of questions and answers on what DNSSEC is and why it is important is also published to assist with the reading of the proposal.

About ICANN:

To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer - a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn't have one global Internet. ICANN is responsible for the global coordination of the Internet's system of unique identifiers like domain names (like .org, .museum and country codes like .uk) and the addresses used in a variety of Internet protocols that help computers reach each other over the Internet.

ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet's unique identifiers.

ICANN doesn't control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn't deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet's naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.

Media Contact:

Jason Keenan
Media Advisor, ICANN
P: +1 310 382 4004
E: jason.keenan@icann.org


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Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."