Dr. Burt Kaliski Jr.

Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.

Dr. Burt Kaliski Jr., senior vice president and chief technology officer (CTO), leads Verisign’s long-term research program. Through the program’s innovation initiatives, the CTO organization, in collaboration with business and technology leaders across the company, explores emerging technologies, assesses their impact on the company’s business, prototypes and evaluates new concepts, and recommends new strategies and solutions. Burt is also responsible for the company’s industry standards engagements, university collaborations and technical community programs.

Prior to joining Verisign in 2011, Burt served as the founding director of the EMC Innovation Network, the global collaboration among EMC’s research and advanced technology groups and its university partners. He joined EMC from RSA Security, where he was vice president of research and chief scientist. Burt started his career at RSA in 1989, where, as the founding scientist of RSA Laboratories, his contributions included the development of the Public-Key Cryptography Standards (PKCS), now widely deployed in internet security.

Burt has held appointments as a guest professor at Wuhan University’s College of Computer Science and as a guest professor and member of the international advisory board of Peking University's School of Software and Microelectronics. He has also taught at Stanford University and Rochester Institute of Technology. Burt was program co-chair of Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems (CHES) 2002, chair of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) P1363 working group, program chair of CRYPTO ’97, and general chair of CRYPTO ’91. He currently serves on the scientific advisory board of QEDIT, a privacy-enhancing technology provider.

Burt is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, a senior member of the IEEE Computer Society, and a member of Tau Beta Pi. Burt received a PhD, Master and Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where his research focused on cryptography.


Recent posts by Dr. Burt Kaliski Jr.:

Newer Cryptographic Advances for the Domain Name System: NSEC5 and Tokenized Queries

This is the third in a multi-part blog series on cryptography and the Domain Name System (DNS).

In my last post, I looked at what happens when a DNS query renders a “negative” response – i.e., when a domain name doesn’t exist. I then examined two cryptographic approaches to handling negative responses: NSEC and NSEC3. In this post, I will examine a third approach, NSEC5, and a related concept that protects client information, tokenized queries.

(more…)

Cryptographic Tools for Non-Existence in the Domain Name System: NSEC and NSEC3

This is the second in a multi-part blog series on cryptography and the Domain Name System (DNS).

In my previous post, I described the first broad scale deployment of cryptography in the DNS, known as the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC). I described how a name server can enable a requester to validate the correctness of a “positive” response to a query — when a queried domain name exists — by adding a digital signature to the DNS response returned.

(more…)
Man looking at technical imagery

The Domain Name System: A Cryptographer’s Perspective

This is the first in a multi-part blog series on cryptography and the Domain Name System (DNS).

As one of the earliest protocols in the internet, the DNS emerged in an era in which today’s global network was still an experiment. Security was not a primary consideration then, and the design of the DNS, like other parts of the internet of the day, did not have cryptography built in.

(more…)
Lock image and DNS

A Balanced DNS Information Protection Strategy: Minimize at Root and TLD, Encrypt When Needed Elsewhere

Over the past several years, questions about how to protect information exchanged in the Domain Name System (DNS) have come to the forefront.

One of these questions was posed first to DNS resolver operators in the middle of the last decade, and is now being brought to authoritative name server operators: “to encrypt or not to encrypt?” It’s a question that Verisign has been considering for some time as part of our commitment to security, stability and resiliency of our DNS operations and the surrounding DNS ecosystem.

(more…)

DNS: An Essential Component of Cloud Computing

The evolution of the internet is anchored in the phenomenon of new technologies replacing their older counterparts. But technology evolution can be just as much about building upon what is already in place, as it is about tearing down past innovations. Indeed, the emergence of cloud computing has been powered by extending an unlikely underlying component: the more than 30-year-old global Domain Name System (DNS).

The DNS has offered a level of utility and resiliency that has been virtually unmatched in its 30-plus years of existence. Not only is this resiliency important for the internet as a whole, it is particularly important for cloud computing. In addition to the DNS’s resiliency, cloud computing relies heavily on DNS capabilities such as naming schemes and lookup mechanisms for its flexibility, usability and functionality.

(more…)

Recognizing Lessons Learned From the First DNSSEC Key Rollover, a Year Later

A year ago, under the leadership of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the internet naming community completed the first-ever rollover of the cryptographic key that plays a critical role in securing internet traffic worldwide. The ultimate success of that endeavor was due in large part to outreach efforts by ICANN and Verisign which, when coupled with the tireless efforts of the global internet measurement community, ensured that this significant event did not disrupt internet name resolution functions for billions of end users.  

(more…)

In Network Security Design, It’s About the Users

One of the longstanding goals of network security design is to be able to prove that a system – any system – is secure.

Designers would like to be able to show that a system, properly implemented and operated, meets its objectives for confidentiality, integrity, availability and other attributes against the variety of threats the system may encounter.

A half century into the computing revolution, this goal remains elusive.

One reason for the shortcoming is theoretical: Computer scientists have made limited progress in proving lower bounds for the difficulty of solving the specific mathematical problems underlying most of today’s cryptography. Although those problems are widely believed to be hard, there’s no assurance that they must be so – and indeed it turns out that some of them may be quite easy to solve given the availability of a full-scale quantum computer.

Another reason is a quite practical one: Even given building blocks that offer a high level of security, designers, as well as implementers, may well put them together in unexpected ways that ultimately undermine the very goals they were supposed to achieve.

(more…)

Blue Folder With Keyhole on digital background

Thinking Ahead on Privacy in the Domain Name System

Earlier this year, I wrote about a recent enhancement to privacy in the Domain Name System (DNS) called qname-minimization. Following the principle of minimum disclosure, this enhancement reduces the information content of a DNS query to the minimum necessary to get either an authoritative response from a name server, or a referral to another name server. This is some additional text.

In typical DNS deployments, queries sent to an authoritative name server originate at a recursive name server that acts on behalf of a community of users, for instance, employees at a company or subscribers at an Internet Service Provider (ISP). A recursive name server maintains a cache of previous responses, and only sends queries to an authoritative name server when it doesn’t have a recent response in its cache. As a result, DNS query traffic from a recursive name server to an authoritative name server corresponds to samples of a community’s browsing patterns. Therefore, qname-minimization may be an adequate starting point to address privacy concerns for these exchanges, both in terms of information available to outside parties and to the authoritative name server.

(more…)

Minimum Disclosure: What Information Does a Name Server Need to Do Its Job?

Two principles in computer security that help bound the impact of a security compromise are the principle of least privilege and the principle of minimum disclosure or need-to-know.

As described by Jerome Saltzer in a July 1974 Communications of the ACM article, Protection and the Control of Information Sharing in Multics, the principle of least privilege states, “Every program and every privileged user should operate using the least amount of privilege necessary to complete the job.”

Need-to-know is the counterpart for sharing information: a system component should be given just enough information to perform its role, and no more. The US Department of Health and Human services adopts this principle in the HIPAA privacy policy, for example, which states: “protected health information should not be used or disclosed when it is not necessary to satisfy a particular purpose or carry out a function.”

There may be tradeoffs, of course, between minimizing the amount of privilege or information given to a component in a system, and other objectives such as performance or simplicity. For instance, a component may be able to do its job more efficiently if given more than the minimum amount.  And it may be easier just to share more than is needed, than to extract out just the minimum required. The minimum amounts of privilege may also be hard to determine exactly, and they might change over time as the system evolves or if it is used in new ways.

Least privilege is well established in DNS through the delegation from one name server to another of just the authority it needs to handle requests within a specific subdomain. The principle of minimum disclosure has come to the forefront recently in the form of a technique called qname-minimization, which aims to improve privacy in the Domain Name System (DNS).

(more…)