The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN") today announced that the plan to change the cryptographic key that helps protect the Domain Name System (DNS) is being postponed.
Changing the key involves generating a new cryptographic key pair and distributing the new public component to the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC)-validating resolvers. Based on the estimated number of Internet users who use DNSSEC validating resolvers, an estimated one-in-four global Internet users, or 750 million people, could be affected by the KSK rollover.
The changing or "rolling" of the KSK Key was originally scheduled to occur on 11 October, but it is being delayed because some recently obtained data shows that a significant number of resolvers used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Network Operators are not yet ready for the Key Rollover. The availability of this new data is due to a very recent DNS protocol feature that adds the ability for a resolver to report back to the root servers which keys it has configured.
There may be multiple reasons why operators do not have the new key installed in their systems: some may not have their resolver software properly configured and a recently discovered issue in one widely used resolver program appears to not be automatically updating the key as it should, for reasons that are still being explored.
ICANN is reaching out to its community, including its Security and Stability Advisory Committee, the Regional Internet Registries, Network Operator Groups and others to help explore and resolve the issues.
In the meantime, ICANN believes it prudent to follow its process and to delay the changing of the key rather than run the risk of a significant number of Internet users being adversely affected by the changing of the key. ICANN is committed to continuing its education, communication and engagement with the relevant technical organizations to ensure readiness for the key change.
"The security, stability and resiliency of the domain name system is our core mission. We would rather proceed cautiously and reasonably, than continue with the roll on the announced date of 11 October," said Göran Marby. "It would be irresponsible to proceed with the roll after we have identified these new issues that could adversely affect its success and could adversely affect the ability of a significant number of end users.
A new date for the Key Roll has not yet been determined. ICANN's Office of the Chief Technology Officer says it is tentatively hoping to reschedule the Key Roll for the first quarter of 2018, but that it will be dependent on more fully understanding the new information and mitigating as many potential failures as possible.
ICANN will provide additional information as it becomes available and the new Key Roll date will be announced as appropriate.
"It's our hope that network operators will use this additional time period to be certain that their systems are ready for the Key Roll," said Marby. "Our testing platform (http://go.icann.org/KSKtest) will help operators ensure that their resolvers are properly configured with the new key and we will continue our engagement and communications to these operators."
To easily identify resources on the Internet, the underlying numerical addresses for these resources are represented by human readable strings. The conversion of these strings to numbers is done by the distributed hierarchical Domain Name System (DNS). Increased sophistication in computing and networking since its design in 1983 have made this "phone book" vulnerable to attacks. In response to these threats, the international standards organization, IETF, developed DNSSEC to cryptographically ensure DNS content cannot be modified from its source without being detected. Once fully deployed, DNSSEC will stop the attacker's ability to redirect users using the DNS.