Ultra AEP warns of on-going danger of ‘dirty domains’
Only 53 per cent of global top level domains ‘secure’
Loudwater, UK, 23rd January 2014: Over three years after the world’s first top level domains (TLDs) (such as .org, .com and .net) were signed with domain name system security extensions (DNSSEC), nearly half (47 per cent) remain open to malicious tampering. This is potentially leaving millions of the world’s internet users open to malicious redirect to fake websites, warns FTSE 250 cyber security company Ultra Electronics AEP.
Some of the world’s most advanced Internet economies such as Italy (.it), Spain (.es) and South Africa (.za) remain unsigned, leaving every Internet visitor to a website ending with that extension at risk of being re-routed to a bogus website and potentially being fooled into parting with personal information.
Sonia Freed, Managing Director of Ultra Electronics AEP explains: “This is an issue that affects every Internet user in the world and a poor level of take up of DNSSEC amongst top level domains is a barrier to the evolution of a safer Internet. Unless the top level domain is signed, every single website operating under a national domain can have its DNS spoofed, potentially directing Internet users straight into the hands of cyber criminals via fake websites that often look just like the real thing.”
Freed continues: “Whilst many of the domains we are familiar with such as .com, co.uk and .org are secure, it’s becoming increasingly common for websites to use extensions from other countries even when they do not have a local presence. Many popular file sharing sites for instance use unsecured domains from tiny Caribbean islands and are using them as a ‘flag of convenience’. With this fragmentation, comes potential confusion and an environment in which cyber criminals can thrive.”
Richard Lamb at Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN): “It is now three and a half years since the root of the Domain Name System was signed, however our figures show there is still a great deal of work to do. DNSSEC is a leap forward in preventing attackers from redirecting end users to websites under their own control (for account and password collection). We urge the owners of the remaining unsigned TLDs to work with ICANN and help develop a safer web to protect the world’s internet users.”
Freed highlights the scale of the problem: “DNS cache poisoning continues to affect the world’s Internet users. Towards the end of last year, users of Google’s Malaysian domain (www.google.com.my) were directed to a fake website in Pakistan. The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) have also exploited DNS weaknesses to modify DNS entries and redirect users accessing The New York Times and Twitter to propaganda pages.”
Freed notes: “Securing the TLD is a major first step but it’s also necessary for responsible individual domain name owners to ensure the integrity of their zone data and hence the integrity of their associated web services by implementing a DNSSEC solution and signing their zone DNS resource records. A DNSSEC solution comprises a DNS Server with DNSSEC extensions and cryptographic keys.”
DNSSEC uses public key cryptography to digitally sign DNS data. It means that responses to DNS queries are digitally signed by the DNS server using private keys and are automatically verified by the client using the corresponding public key.
Digital signing also guarantees the validity of DNS responses. As such Internet users are protected from the fraudulent DNS responses that could contribute to phishing techniques and other forms of fraud. Using a hardware secure module (HSM) can enhance the security of a DNSSEC solution. In addition to highly secure key generation and storage, HSMs provide fast cryptographic processing, which offload computationally intensive calculations from servers.
AEP Keyper is the only network-attached HSM on the market certified to FIPS 140-2 Level 4 overall, the highest FIPS accreditation.
For further information, please see: http://www.internetsociety.org/deploy360/dnssec/
 Figures published by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on 20.01.2014: http://stats.research.icann.org/dns/tld_report/index.html
 Source: MYNIC (official registrar of Malaysian internet domains): http://mynic.my/en/news.php?id=162
About Ultra Electronics AEP
AEP provides trusted security everywhere and develops the highest grade security and communication technologies, securing data regardless of device, environment or location, tested and accredited to industry security standards, including FIPS 140-2 Level 4 and CAPS to IL3/IL4. Trusted by businesses, governments and the defence sector, its extensive portfolio of products and solutions protect the integrity of very sensitive data and are extremely reliable, survivable and resilient. AEP is a business unit of Ultra Electronics an internationally successful security, defence and aerospace company with a long, consistent track record of development and growth. Ultra businesses constantly innovate to create solutions to customer requirements that are different from, and better than competitors.