Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” As we consider how Internet domain and address registration data is managed and accessed in a post-WHOIS era, and given the long history of failure in addressing the shortcomings of WHOIS, it is extremely important to start preparing now for the eventual replacement of WHOIS. This is the fundamental purpose of the next Registration Operations Workshop (ROW) that is scheduled for Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Prague, Czech Republic.
ROW 2015-2 will take place at the Hilton Prague hotel, the same venue as the 93rd meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF-93). The workshop will be dedicated to discussion and planning for development and testing deployments of the Registration Data Access Protocol (RDAP), a recent work product of the IETF that is documented in Request For Comments (RFC) documents 7480, 7481, 7482, 7483, and 7484. RDAP was designed from the beginning to address the many shortcomings of WHOIS, but we have very little experience with early-stage implementations that can be used to inform the policy decisions that need to be made. Additional information about WHOIS and RDAP can be found in my “Where Do Old Protocols Go To Die?” blog post published earlier this year. (more…)
Perceptions can be difficult to change. People see the world through the lens of their own experiences and desires, and new ideas can be difficult to assimilate. Such is the case with the registration ecosystem. Today’s operational models exist because of decisions made over time, but the assumptions that were used to support those decisions can (and should) be continuously challenged to ensure that they are addressing today’s realities. Are we ready to challenge assumptions? Can the operators of registration services do things differently?
Do we already have strong security protections for our Internet services? For many years now, we have had numerous cryptographically enhanced protocols. Standards and suites like S/MIME, Transport Layer Security (TLS), IP Security (IPSec), OpenPGP, and many others have been mature for years, have offered us a range of protections and have been implemented by a wealth of code. Indeed, based on these protections, we already count on having “secure” eCommerce transactions, secure point-to-point phone calls that our neighbors can’t listen in on, secure Virtual Private Networks (VPN) that let us remotely connect to our internal enterprise networks, etc. However, our Internet security protocols have all excluded a very important step from their security analyses; none of them describe a crucial step called secure key learning. That is, before we can encrypt data or verify signatures, how does someone bootstrap and learn what cryptographic keys are needed? In lieu of a way to do this, we have traditionally prefaced the security protections from these protocols with techniques like Out of Band (OOB) key learning (learning keys in an unspecified way) or Trust on First Use (ToFU) key learning (just accepting whatever keys are found first), and each protocol must do this separately (and potentially in its own, different, way). This is because the protocols we use for protections have not formally specified a standardized way to securely bootstrap protocols.
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.”
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).
A network traffic analyzer can tell you what’s happening in your network, while a Domain Name System (DNS) analyzer can provide context on the “why” and “how.”
This was the theme of the recent Verisign Labs Distinguished Speaker Series discussion led by Paul Vixie and Robert Edmonds, titled Passive DNS Collection and Analysis – The “dnstap” Approach.
The next Registration Operations Workshop will take place at the start of IETF-92 on Sunday, March 22, 2015, at The Fairmont Dallas Hotel. The workshop will start at 12:30 p.m. CDT and will finish at 4:30 p.m. CDT. We are seeking proposals for Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP) extensions to be featured as part of the workshop, including existing extensions that people wish to register with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and new extensions that people wish to consider for further development.
Have you developed custom EPP extensions in your registry? Please submit a proposal to describe your extension. Facilities for remote participation will be provided.
In Ripley Scott’s classic 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner, replicant Roy Batty (portrayed by Rutger Hauer) delivers this soliloquy:
“I’ve…seen things you people wouldn’t believe…Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those…moments…will be lost in time, like (cough) tears…in…rain. Time…to die.”
The WHOIS protocol was first published as RFC 812 in March 1982 – almost 33 years ago. It was designed for use in a simpler time when the community of Internet users was much smaller. WHOIS eventually became the default registration data directory for the Domain Name System (DNS). As interest in domain names and the DNS has grown over time, attempts have been made to add new features to WHOIS. None of these attempts have been successful, and to this day we struggle with trying to make WHOIS do things it was never designed to do.