Network Working Group D. Eastlake
Request for Comments: 2535 IBM
Obsoletes: 2065 March 1999
Updates: 2181, 1035, 1034
Category: Standards Track
Domain Name System Security Extensions
Status of this Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1999). All Rights Reserved.
Extensions to the Domain Name System (DNS) are described that provide
data integrity and authentication to security aware resolvers and
applications through the use of cryptographic digital signatures.
These digital signatures are included in secured zones as resource
records. Security can also be provided through non-security aware
DNS servers in some cases.
The extensions provide for the storage of authenticated public keys
in the DNS. This storage of keys can support general public key
distribution services as well as DNS security. The stored keys
enable security aware resolvers to learn the authenticating key of
zones in addition to those for which they are initially configured.
Keys associated with DNS names can be retrieved to support other
protocols. Provision is made for a variety of key types and
In addition, the security extensions provide for the optional
authentication of DNS protocol transactions and requests.
This document incorporates feedback on RFC 2065 from early
implementers and potential users.
The significant contributions and suggestions of the following
persons (in alphabetic order) to DNS security are gratefully
James M. Galvin
Radia J. Perlman
Jeffrey I. Schiller
Steven (Xunhua) Wang
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments............................................21. Overview of Contents....................................42. Overview of the DNS Extensions..........................52.1 Services Not Provided..................................52.2 Key Distribution.......................................52.3 Data Origin Authentication and Integrity...............62.3.1 The SIG Resource Record..............................72.3.2 Authenticating Name and Type Non-existence...........72.3.3 Special Considerations With Time-to-Live.............72.3.4 Special Considerations at Delegation Points..........82.3.5 Special Considerations with CNAME....................82.3.6 Signers Other Than The Zone..........................92.4 DNS Transaction and Request Authentication.............93. The KEY Resource Record................................103.1 KEY RDATA format......................................103.1.1 Object Types, DNS Names, and Keys...................113.1.2 The KEY RR Flag Field...............................113.1.3 The Protocol Octet..................................133.2 The KEY Algorithm Number Specification................143.3 Interaction of Flags, Algorithm, and Protocol Bytes...153.4 Determination of Zone Secure/Unsecured Status.........153.5 KEY RRs in the Construction of Responses..............174. The SIG Resource Record................................174.1 SIG RDATA Format......................................174.1.1 Type Covered Field..................................184.1.2 Algorithm Number Field..............................184.1.3 Labels Field........................................184.1.4 Original TTL Field..................................19
4.1.5 Signature Expiration and Inception Fields...........194.1.6 Key Tag Field.......................................204.1.7 Signer's Name Field.................................204.1.8 Signature Field.....................................22.214.171.124 Calculating Transaction and Request SIGs..........214.2 SIG RRs in the Construction of Responses..............214.3 Processing Responses and SIG RRs......................224.4 Signature Lifetime, Expiration, TTLs, and Validity....235. Non-existent Names and Types...........................245.1 The NXT Resource Record...............................245.2 NXT RDATA Format......................................255.3 Additional Complexity Due to Wildcards................265.4 Example...............................................265.5 Special Considerations at Delegation Points...........275.6 Zone Transfers........................................275.6.1 Full Zone Transfers.................................285.6.2 Incremental Zone Transfers..........................286. How to Resolve Securely and the AD and CD Bits.........296.1 The AD and CD Header Bits.............................296.2 Staticly Configured Keys..............................316.3 Chaining Through The DNS..............................316.3.1 Chaining Through KEYs...............................316.3.2 Conflicting Data....................................336.4 Secure Time...........................................337. ASCII Representation of Security RRs...................347.1 Presentation of KEY RRs...............................347.2 Presentation of SIG RRs...............................357.3 Presentation of NXT RRs...............................368. Canonical Form and Order of Resource Records...........368.1 Canonical RR Form.....................................368.2 Canonical DNS Name Order..............................378.3 Canonical RR Ordering Within An RRset.................378.4 Canonical Ordering of RR Types........................379. Conformance............................................379.1 Server Conformance....................................379.2 Resolver Conformance..................................3810. Security Considerations...............................3811. IANA Considerations...................................39
Appendix A: Base 64 Encoding..............................42
Appendix B: Changes from RFC 2065.........................44
Appendix C: Key Tag Calculation...........................46
Full Copyright Statement..................................47
1. Overview of Contents
This document standardizes extensions of the Domain Name System (DNS)
protocol to support DNS security and public key distribution. It
assumes that the reader is familiar with the Domain Name System,
particularly as described in RFCs 1033, 1034, 1035 and later RFCs. An
earlier version of these extensions appears in RFC 2065. This
replacement for that RFC incorporates early implementation experience
and requests from potential users.
Section 2 provides an overview of the extensions and the key
distribution, data origin authentication, and transaction and request
security they provide.
Section 3 discusses the KEY resource record, its structure, and use
in DNS responses. These resource records represent the public keys
of entities named in the DNS and are used for key distribution.
Section 4 discusses the SIG digital signature resource record, its
structure, and use in DNS responses. These resource records are used
to authenticate other resource records in the DNS and optionally to
authenticate DNS transactions and requests.
Section 5 discusses the NXT resource record (RR) and its use in DNS
responses including full and incremental zone transfers. The NXT RR
permits authenticated denial of the existence of a name or of an RR
type for an existing name.
Section 6 discusses how a resolver can be configured with a starting
key or keys and proceed to securely resolve DNS requests.
Interactions between resolvers and servers are discussed for various
combinations of security aware and security non-aware. Two
additional DNS header bits are defined for signaling between
resolvers and servers.
Section 7 describes the ASCII representation of the security resource
records for use in master files and elsewhere.
Section 8 defines the canonical form and order of RRs for DNS
Section 9 defines levels of conformance for resolvers and servers.
Section 10 provides a few paragraphs on overall security
Section 11 specified IANA considerations for allocation of additional
values of paramters defined in this document.
Appendix A gives details of base 64 encoding which is used in the
file representation of some RRs defined in this document.
Appendix B summarizes changes between this memo and RFC 2065.
Appendix C specified how to calculate the simple checksum used as a
key tag in most SIG RRs.
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].
2. Overview of the DNS Extensions
The Domain Name System (DNS) protocol security extensions provide
three distinct services: key distribution as described in Section 2.2
below, data origin authentication as described in Section 2.3 below,
and transaction and request authentication, described in Section 2.4
Special considerations related to "time to live", CNAMEs, and
delegation points are also discussed in Section 2.3.
2.1 Services Not Provided
It is part of the design philosophy of the DNS that the data in it is
public and that the DNS gives the same answers to all inquirers.
Following this philosophy, no attempt has been made to include any
sort of access control lists or other means to differentiate
No effort has been made to provide for any confidentiality for
queries or responses. (This service may be available via IPSEC [RFC
2401], TLS, or other security protocols.)
Protection is not provided against denial of service.
2.2 Key Distribution
A resource record format is defined to associate keys with DNS names.
This permits the DNS to be used as a public key distribution
mechanism in support of DNS security itself and other protocols.
The syntax of a KEY resource record (RR) is described in Section 3.
It includes an algorithm identifier, the actual public key
parameter(s), and a variety of flags including those indicating the
type of entity the key is associated with and/or asserting that there
is no key associated with that entity.
Under conditions described in Section 3.5, security aware DNS servers
will automatically attempt to return KEY resources as additional
information, along with those resource records actually requested, to
minimize the number of queries needed.
2.3 Data Origin Authentication and Integrity
Authentication is provided by associating with resource record sets
(RRsets [RFC 2181]) in the DNS cryptographically generated digital
signatures. Commonly, there will be a single private key that
authenticates an entire zone but there might be multiple keys for
different algorithms, signers, etc. If a security aware resolver
reliably learns a public key of the zone, it can authenticate, for
signed data read from that zone, that it is properly authorized. The
most secure implementation is for the zone private key(s) to be kept
off-line and used to re-sign all of the records in the zone
periodically. However, there are cases, for example dynamic update
[RFCs 2136, 2137], where DNS private keys need to be on-line [RFC
The data origin authentication key(s) are associated with the zone
and not with the servers that store copies of the data. That means
compromise of a secondary server or, if the key(s) are kept off line,
even the primary server for a zone, will not necessarily affect the
degree of assurance that a resolver has that it can determine whether
data is genuine.
A resolver could learn a public key of a zone either by reading it
from the DNS or by having it staticly configured. To reliably learn
a public key by reading it from the DNS, the key itself must be
signed with a key the resolver trusts. The resolver must be
configured with at least a public key which authenticates one zone as
a starting point. From there, it can securely read public keys of
other zones, if the intervening zones in the DNS tree are secure and
their signed keys accessible.
Adding data origin authentication and integrity requires no change to
the "on-the-wire" DNS protocol beyond the addition of the signature
resource type and the key resource type needed for key distribution.
(Data non-existence authentication also requires the NXT RR as
described in 2.3.2.) This service can be supported by existing
resolver and caching server implementations so long as they can
support the additional resource types (see Section 9). The one
exception is that CNAME referrals in a secure zone can not be
authenticated if they are from non-security aware servers (see
If signatures are separately retrieved and verified when retrieving
the information they authenticate, there will be more trips to the
server and performance will suffer. Security aware servers mitigate
that degradation by attempting to send the signature(s) needed (see
2.3.1 The SIG Resource Record
The syntax of a SIG resource record (signature) is described in
Section 4. It cryptographicly binds the RRset being signed to the
signer and a validity interval.
Every name in a secured zone will have associated with it at least
one SIG resource record for each resource type under that name except
for glue address RRs and delegation point NS RRs. A security aware
server will attempt to return, with RRs retrieved, the corresponding
SIGs. If a server is not security aware, the resolver must retrieve
all the SIG records for a name and select the one or ones that sign
the resource record set(s) that resolver is interested in.
2.3.2 Authenticating Name and Type Non-existence
The above security mechanism only provides a way to sign existing
RRsets in a zone. "Data origin" authentication is not obviously
provided for the non-existence of a domain name in a zone or the
non-existence of a type for an existing name. This gap is filled by
the NXT RR which authenticatably asserts a range of non-existent
names in a zone and the non-existence of types for the existing name
just before that range.
Section 5 below covers the NXT RR.
2.3.3 Special Considerations With Time-to-Live
A digital signature will fail to verify if any change has occurred to
the data between the time it was originally signed and the time the
signature is verified. This conflicts with our desire to have the
time-to-live (TTL) field of resource records tick down while they are
This could be avoided by leaving the time-to-live out of the digital
signature, but that would allow unscrupulous servers to set
arbitrarily long TTL values undetected. Instead, we include the
"original" TTL in the signature and communicate that data along with
the current TTL. Unscrupulous servers under this scheme can
manipulate the TTL but a security aware resolver will bound the TTL
value it uses at the original signed value. Separately, signatures
include a signature inception time and a signature expiration time. A
resolver that knows the absolute time can determine securely whether
a signature is in effect. It is not possible to rely solely on the
signature expiration as a substitute for the TTL, however, since the
TTL is primarily a database consistency mechanism and non-security
aware servers that depend on TTL must still be supported.
2.3.4 Special Considerations at Delegation Points
DNS security would like to view each zone as a unit of data
completely under the control of the zone owner with each entry
(RRset) signed by a special private key held by the zone manager.
But the DNS protocol views the leaf nodes in a zone, which are also
the apex nodes of a subzone (i.e., delegation points), as "really"
belonging to the subzone. These nodes occur in two master files and
might have RRs signed by both the upper and lower zone's keys. A
retrieval could get a mixture of these RRs and SIGs, especially since
one server could be serving both the zone above and below a
delegation point. [RFC 2181]
There MUST be a zone KEY RR, signed by its superzone, for every
subzone if the superzone is secure. This will normally appear in the
subzone and may also be included in the superzone. But, in the case
of an unsecured subzone which can not or will not be modified to add
any security RRs, a KEY declaring the subzone to be unsecured MUST
appear with the superzone signature in the superzone, if the
superzone is secure. For all but one other RR type the data from the
subzone is more authoritative so only the subzone KEY RR should be
signed in the superzone if it appears there. The NS and any glue
address RRs SHOULD only be signed in the subzone. The SOA and any
other RRs that have the zone name as owner should appear only in the
subzone and thus are signed only there. The NXT RR type is the
exceptional case that will always appear differently and
authoritatively in both the superzone and subzone, if both are
secure, as described in Section 5.
2.3.5 Special Considerations with CNAME
There is a problem when security related RRs with the same owner name
as a CNAME RR are retrieved from a non-security-aware server. In
particular, an initial retrieval for the CNAME or any other type may
not retrieve any associated SIG, KEY, or NXT RR. For retrieved types
other than CNAME, it will retrieve that type at the target name of
the CNAME (or chain of CNAMEs) and will also return the CNAME. In
particular, a specific retrieval for type SIG will not get the SIG,
if any, at the original CNAME domain name but rather a SIG at the
Security aware servers must be used to securely CNAME in DNS.
Security aware servers MUST (1) allow KEY, SIG, and NXT RRs along
with CNAME RRs, (2) suppress CNAME processing on retrieval of these
types as well as on retrieval of the type CNAME, and (3)
automatically return SIG RRs authenticating the CNAME or CNAMEs
encountered in resolving a query. This is a change from the previous
DNS standard [RFCs 1034/1035] which prohibited any other RR type at a
node where a CNAME RR was present.
2.3.6 Signers Other Than The Zone
There are cases where the signer in a SIG resource record is other
than one of the private key(s) used to authenticate a zone.
One is for support of dynamic update [RFC 2136] (or future requests
which require secure authentication) where an entity is permitted to
authenticate/update its records [RFC 2137] and the zone is operating
in a mode where the zone key is not on line. The public key of the
entity must be present in the DNS and be signed by a zone level key
but the other RR(s) may be signed with the entity's key.
A second case is support of transaction and request authentication as
described in Section 2.4.
In additions, signatures can be included on resource records within
the DNS for use by applications other than DNS. DNS related
signatures authenticate that data originated with the authority of a
zone owner or that a request or transaction originated with the
relevant entity. Other signatures can provide other types of
2.4 DNS Transaction and Request Authentication
The data origin authentication service described above protects
retrieved resource records and the non-existence of resource records
but provides no protection for DNS requests or for message headers.
If header bits are falsely set by a bad server, there is little that
can be done. However, it is possible to add transaction
authentication. Such authentication means that a resolver can be
sure it is at least getting messages from the server it thinks it
queried and that the response is from the query it sent (i.e., that
these messages have not been diddled in transit). This is
accomplished by optionally adding a special SIG resource record at
the end of the reply which digitally signs the concatenation of the
server's response and the resolver's query.
Requests can also be authenticated by including a special SIG RR at
the end of the request. Authenticating requests serves no function
in older DNS servers and requests with a non-empty additional
information section produce error returns or may even be ignored by
many of them. However, this syntax for signing requests is defined as
a way of authenticating secure dynamic update requests [RFC 2137] or
future requests requiring authentication.
The private keys used in transaction security belong to the entity
composing the reply, not to the zone involved. Request
authentication may also involve the private key of the host or other
entity composing the request or other private keys depending on the
request authority it is sought to establish. The corresponding public
key(s) are normally stored in and retrieved from the DNS for
Because requests and replies are highly variable, message
authentication SIGs can not be pre-calculated. Thus it will be
necessary to keep the private key on-line, for example in software or
in a directly connected piece of hardware.
3. The KEY Resource Record
The KEY resource record (RR) is used to store a public key that is
associated with a Domain Name System (DNS) name. This can be the
public key of a zone, a user, or a host or other end entity. Security
aware DNS implementations MUST be designed to handle at least two
simultaneously valid keys of the same type associated with the same
The type number for the KEY RR is 25.
A KEY RR is, like any other RR, authenticated by a SIG RR. KEY RRs
must be signed by a zone level key.
3.1 KEY RDATA format
The RDATA for a KEY RR consists of flags, a protocol octet, the
algorithm number octet, and the public key itself. The format is as
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| flags | protocol | algorithm |
/ public key /
The KEY RR is not intended for storage of certificates and a separate
certificate RR has been developed for that purpose, defined in [RFC
The meaning of the KEY RR owner name, flags, and protocol octet are
described in Sections 3.1.1 through 3.1.5 below. The flags and
algorithm must be examined before any data following the algorithm
octet as they control the existence and format of any following data.
The algorithm and public key fields are described in Section 3.2.
The format of the public key is algorithm dependent.
KEY RRs do not specify their validity period but their authenticating
SIG RR(s) do as described in Section 4 below.
3.1.1 Object Types, DNS Names, and Keys
The public key in a KEY RR is for the object named in the owner name.
A DNS name may refer to three different categories of things. For
example, foo.host.example could be (1) a zone, (2) a host or other
end entity , or (3) the mapping into a DNS name of the user or
account email@example.com. Thus, there are flag bits, as described
below, in the KEY RR to indicate with which of these roles the owner
name and public key are associated. Note that an appropriate zone
KEY RR MUST occur at the apex node of a secure zone and zone KEY RRs
occur only at delegation points.
3.1.2 The KEY RR Flag Field
In the "flags" field:
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5
| A/C | Z | XT| Z | Z | NAMTYP| Z | Z | Z | Z | SIG |
Bit 0 and 1 are the key "type" bits whose values have the following
10: Use of the key is prohibited for authentication.
01: Use of the key is prohibited for confidentiality.
00: Use of the key for authentication and/or confidentiality
is permitted. Note that DNS security makes use of keys
for authentication only. Confidentiality use flagging is
provided for use of keys in other protocols.
Implementations not intended to support key distribution
for confidentiality MAY require that the confidentiality
use prohibited bit be on for keys they serve.
11: If both bits are one, the "no key" value, there is no key
information and the RR stops after the algorithm octet.
By the use of this "no key" value, a signed KEY RR can
authenticatably assert that, for example, a zone is not
secured. See section 3.4 below.
Bits 2 is reserved and must be zero.
Bits 3 is reserved as a flag extension bit. If it is a one, a second
16 bit flag field is added after the algorithm octet and
before the key data. This bit MUST NOT be set unless one or
more such additional bits have been defined and are non-zero.
Bits 4-5 are reserved and must be zero.
Bits 6 and 7 form a field that encodes the name type. Field values
have the following meanings:
00: indicates that this is a key associated with a "user" or
"account" at an end entity, usually a host. The coding
of the owner name is that used for the responsible
individual mailbox in the SOA and RP RRs: The owner name
is the user name as the name of a node under the entity
name. For example, "j_random_user" on
host.subdomain.example could have a public key associated
through a KEY RR with name
j_random_user.host.subdomain.example. It could be used
in a security protocol where authentication of a user was
desired. This key might be useful in IP or other
security for a user level service such a telnet, ftp,
01: indicates that this is a zone key for the zone whose name
is the KEY RR owner name. This is the public key used
for the primary DNS security feature of data origin
authentication. Zone KEY RRs occur only at delegation
10: indicates that this is a key associated with the non-zone
"entity" whose name is the RR owner name. This will
commonly be a host but could, in some parts of the DNS
tree, be some other type of entity such as a telephone
number [RFC 1530] or numeric IP address. This is the
public key used in connection with DNS request and
transaction authentication services. It could also be
used in an IP-security protocol where authentication at
the host, rather than user, level was desired, such as
routing, NTP, etc.
Bits 8-11 are reserved and must be zero.
Bits 12-15 are the "signatory" field. If non-zero, they indicate
that the key can validly sign things as specified in DNS
dynamic update [RFC 2137]. Note that zone keys (see bits
6 and 7 above) always have authority to sign any RRs in
the zone regardless of the value of the signatory field.
3.1.3 The Protocol Octet
It is anticipated that keys stored in DNS will be used in conjunction
with a variety of Internet protocols. It is intended that the
protocol octet and possibly some of the currently unused (must be
zero) bits in the KEY RR flags as specified in the future will be
used to indicate a key's validity for different protocols.
The following values of the Protocol Octet are reserved as indicated:
5-254 - available for assignment by IANA
In more detail:
1 is reserved for use in connection with TLS.
2 is reserved for use in connection with email.
3 is used for DNS security. The protocol field SHOULD be set to
this value for zone keys and other keys used in DNS security.
Implementations that can determine that a key is a DNS
security key by the fact that flags label it a zone key or the
signatory flag field is non-zero are NOT REQUIRED to check the
4 is reserved to refer to the Oakley/IPSEC [RFC 2401] protocol
and indicates that this key is valid for use in conjunction
with that security standard. This key could be used in
connection with secured communication on behalf of an end
entity or user whose name is the owner name of the KEY RR if
the entity or user flag bits are set. The presence of a KEY
resource with this protocol value is an assertion that the
host speaks Oakley/IPSEC.
255 indicates that the key can be used in connection with any
protocol for which KEY RR protocol octet values have been
defined. The use of this value is discouraged and the use of
different keys for different protocols is encouraged.
3.2 The KEY Algorithm Number Specification
This octet is the key algorithm parallel to the same field for the
SIG resource as described in Section 4.1. The following values are
0 - reserved, see Section 11
1 RSA/MD5 [RFC 2537] - recommended
2 Diffie-Hellman [RFC 2539] - optional, key only
3 DSA [RFC 2536] - MANDATORY
4 reserved for elliptic curve crypto
5-251 - available, see Section 11
252 reserved for indirect keys
253 private - domain name (see below)
254 private - OID (see below)
255 - reserved, see Section 11
Algorithm specific formats and procedures are given in separate
documents. The mandatory to implement for interoperability algorithm
is number 3, DSA. It is recommended that the RSA/MD5 algorithm,
number 1, also be implemented. Algorithm 2 is used to indicate
Diffie-Hellman keys and algorithm 4 is reserved for elliptic curve.
Algorithm number 252 indicates an indirect key format where the
actual key material is elsewhere. This format is to be defined in a
Algorithm numbers 253 and 254 are reserved for private use and will
never be assigned a specific algorithm. For number 253, the public
key area and the signature begin with a wire encoded domain name.
Only local domain name compression is permitted. The domain name
indicates the private algorithm to use and the remainder of the
public key area is whatever is required by that algorithm. For
number 254, the public key area for the KEY RR and the signature
begin with an unsigned length byte followed by a BER encoded Object
Identifier (ISO OID) of that length. The OID indicates the private
algorithm in use and the remainder of the area is whatever is
required by that algorithm. Entities should only use domain names
and OIDs they control to designate their private algorithms.
Values 0 and 255 are reserved but the value 0 is used in the
algorithm field when that field is not used. An example is in a KEY
RR with the top two flag bits on, the "no-key" value, where no key is
3.3 Interaction of Flags, Algorithm, and Protocol Bytes
Various combinations of the no-key type flags, algorithm byte,
protocol byte, and any future assigned protocol indicating flags are
possible. The meaning of these combinations is indicated below:
NK = no key type (flags bits 0 and 1 on)
AL = algorithm byte
PR = protocols indicated by protocol byte or future assigned flags
x represents any valid non-zero value(s).
AL PR NK Meaning
0 0 0 Illegal, claims key but has bad algorithm field.
0 0 1 Specifies total lack of security for owner zone.
0 x 0 Illegal, claims key but has bad algorithm field.
0 x 1 Specified protocols unsecured, others may be secure.
x 0 0 Gives key but no protocols to use it.
x 0 1 Denies key for specific algorithm.
x x 0 Specifies key for protocols.
x x 1 Algorithm not understood for protocol.
3.4 Determination of Zone Secure/Unsecured Status
A zone KEY RR with the "no-key" type field value (both key type flag
bits 0 and 1 on) indicates that the zone named is unsecured while a
zone KEY RR with a key present indicates that the zone named is
secure. The secured versus unsecured status of a zone may vary with
different cryptographic algorithms. Even for the same algorithm,
conflicting zone KEY RRs may be present.
Zone KEY RRs, like all RRs, are only trusted if they are
authenticated by a SIG RR whose signer field is a signer for which
the resolver has a public key they trust and where resolver policy
permits that signer to sign for the KEY owner name. Untrusted zone
KEY RRs MUST be ignored in determining the security status of the
zone. However, there can be multiple sets of trusted zone KEY RRs
for a zone with different algorithms, signers, etc.
For any particular algorithm, zones can be (1) secure, indicating
that any retrieved RR must be authenticated by a SIG RR or it will be
discarded as bogus, (2) unsecured, indicating that SIG RRs are not
expected or required for RRs retrieved from the zone, or (3)
experimentally secure, which indicates that SIG RRs might or might
not be present but must be checked if found. The status of a zone is
determined as follows:
1. If, for a zone and algorithm, every trusted zone KEY RR for the
zone says there is no key for that zone, it is unsecured for that
2. If, there is at least one trusted no-key zone KEY RR and one
trusted key specifying zone KEY RR, then that zone is only
experimentally secure for the algorithm. Both authenticated and
non-authenticated RRs for it should be accepted by the resolver.
3. If every trusted zone KEY RR that the zone and algorithm has is
key specifying, then it is secure for that algorithm and only
authenticated RRs from it will be accepted.
(1) A resolver initially trusts only signatures by the superzone of
zone Z within the DNS hierarchy. Thus it will look only at the KEY
RRs that are signed by the superzone. If it finds only no-key KEY
RRs, it will assume the zone is not secure. If it finds only key
specifying KEY RRs, it will assume the zone is secure and reject any
unsigned responses. If it finds both, it will assume the zone is
(2) A resolver trusts the superzone of zone Z (to which it got
securely from its local zone) and a third party, cert-auth.example.
When considering data from zone Z, it may be signed by the superzone
of Z, by cert-auth.example, by both, or by neither. The following
table indicates whether zone Z will be considered secure,
experimentally secure, or unsecured, depending on the signed zone KEY
RRs for Z;
c e r t - a u t h . e x a m p l e
KEY RRs| None | NoKeys | Mixed | Keys |
u None | illegal | unsecured | experim. | secure |
e NoKeys | unsecured | unsecured | experim. | secure |
Z Mixed | experim. | experim. | experim. | secure |
n Keys | secure | secure | secure | secure |
3.5 KEY RRs in the Construction of Responses
An explicit request for KEY RRs does not cause any special additional
information processing except, of course, for the corresponding SIG
RR from a security aware server (see Section 4.2).
Security aware DNS servers include KEY RRs as additional information
in responses, where a KEY is available, in the following cases:
(1) On the retrieval of SOA or NS RRs, the KEY RRset with the same
name (perhaps just a zone key) SHOULD be included as additional
information if space is available. If not all additional information
will fit, type A and AAAA glue RRs have higher priority than KEY
(2) On retrieval of type A or AAAA RRs, the KEY RRset with the same
name (usually just a host RR and NOT the zone key (which usually
would have a different name)) SHOULD be included if space is
available. On inclusion of A or AAAA RRs as additional information,
the KEY RRset with the same name should also be included but with
lower priority than the A or AAAA RRs.
4. The SIG Resource Record
The SIG or "signature" resource record (RR) is the fundamental way
that data is authenticated in the secure Domain Name System (DNS). As
such it is the heart of the security provided.
The SIG RR unforgably authenticates an RRset [RFC 2181] of a
particular type, class, and name and binds it to a time interval and
the signer's domain name. This is done using cryptographic
techniques and the signer's private key. The signer is frequently
the owner of the zone from which the RR originated.
The type number for the SIG RR type is 24.
4.1 SIG RDATA Format
The RDATA portion of a SIG RR is as shown below. The integrity of
the RDATA information is protected by the signature field.
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| type covered | algorithm | labels |
| original TTL |
| signature expiration |
| signature inception |
| key tag | |
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ signer's name +
/ signature /
4.1.1 Type Covered Field
The "type covered" is the type of the other RRs covered by this SIG.
4.1.2 Algorithm Number Field
This octet is as described in section 3.2.
4.1.3 Labels Field
The "labels" octet is an unsigned count of how many labels there are
in the original SIG RR owner name not counting the null label for
root and not counting any initial "*" for a wildcard. If a secured
retrieval is the result of wild card substitution, it is necessary
for the resolver to use the original form of the name in verifying
the digital signature. This field makes it easy to determine the
If, on retrieval, the RR appears to have a longer name than indicated
by "labels", the resolver can tell it is the result of wildcard
substitution. If the RR owner name appears to be shorter than the
labels count, the SIG RR must be considered corrupt and ignored. The
maximum number of labels allowed in the current DNS is 127 but the
entire octet is reserved and would be required should DNS names ever
be expanded to 255 labels. The following table gives some examples.
The value of "labels" is at the top, the retrieved owner name on the
left, and the table entry is the name to use in signature
verification except that "bad" means the RR is corrupt.
labels= | 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
.| . | bad | bad | bad | bad |
d.| *. | d. | bad | bad | bad |
c.d.| *. | *.d. | c.d. | bad | bad |
b.c.d.| *. | *.d. | *.c.d. | b.c.d. | bad |
a.b.c.d.| *. | *.d. | *.c.d. | *.b.c.d. | a.b.c.d. |
4.1.4 Original TTL Field
The "original TTL" field is included in the RDATA portion to avoid
(1) authentication problems that caching servers would otherwise
cause by decrementing the real TTL field and (2) security problems
that unscrupulous servers could otherwise cause by manipulating the
real TTL field. This original TTL is protected by the signature
while the current TTL field is not.
NOTE: The "original TTL" must be restored into the covered RRs when
the signature is verified (see Section 8). This generaly implies
that all RRs for a particular type, name, and class, that is, all the
RRs in any particular RRset, must have the same TTL to start with.
4.1.5 Signature Expiration and Inception Fields
The SIG is valid from the "signature inception" time until the
"signature expiration" time. Both are unsigned numbers of seconds
since the start of 1 January 1970, GMT, ignoring leap seconds. (See
also Section 4.4.) Ring arithmetic is used as for DNS SOA serial
numbers [RFC 1982] which means that these times can never be more
than about 68 years in the past or the future. This means that these
times are ambiguous modulo ~136.09 years. However there is no
security flaw because keys are required to be changed to new random
keys by [RFC 2541] at least every five years. This means that the
probability that the same key is in use N*136.09 years later should
be the same as the probability that a random guess will work.
A SIG RR may have an expiration time numerically less than the
inception time if the expiration time is near the 32 bit wrap around
point and/or the signature is long lived.
(To prevent misordering of network requests to update a zone
dynamically, monotonically increasing "signature inception" times may
A secure zone must be considered changed for SOA serial number
purposes not only when its data is updated but also when new SIG RRs
are inserted (ie, the zone or any part of it is re-signed).
4.1.6 Key Tag Field
The "key Tag" is a two octet quantity that is used to efficiently
select between multiple keys which may be applicable and thus check
that a public key about to be used for the computationally expensive
effort to check the signature is possibly valid. For algorithm 1
(MD5/RSA) as defined in [RFC 2537], it is the next to the bottom two
octets of the public key modulus needed to decode the signature
field. That is to say, the most significant 16 of the least
significant 24 bits of the modulus in network (big endian) order. For
all other algorithms, including private algorithms, it is calculated
as a simple checksum of the KEY RR as described in Appendix C.
4.1.7 Signer's Name Field
The "signer's name" field is the domain name of the signer generating
the SIG RR. This is the owner name of the public KEY RR that can be
used to verify the signature. It is frequently the zone which
contained the RRset being authenticated. Which signers should be
authorized to sign what is a significant resolver policy question as
discussed in Section 6. The signer's name may be compressed with
standard DNS name compression when being transmitted over the
4.1.8 Signature Field
The actual signature portion of the SIG RR binds the other RDATA
fields to the RRset of the "type covered" RRs with that owner name
and class. This covered RRset is thereby authenticated. To
accomplish this, a data sequence is constructed as follows:
data = RDATA | RR(s)...
where "|" is concatenation,
RDATA is the wire format of all the RDATA fields in the SIG RR itself
(including the canonical form of the signer's name) before but not
including the signature, and
RR(s) is the RRset of the RR(s) of the type covered with the same
owner name and class as the SIG RR in canonical form and order as
defined in Section 8.
How this data sequence is processed into the signature is algorithm
dependent. These algorithm dependent formats and procedures are
described in separate documents (Section 3.2).
SIGs SHOULD NOT be included in a zone for any "meta-type" such as
ANY, AXFR, etc. (but see section 5.6.2 with regard to IXFR).
126.96.36.199 Calculating Transaction and Request SIGs
A response message from a security aware server may optionally
contain a special SIG at the end of the additional information
section to authenticate the transaction.
This SIG has a "type covered" field of zero, which is not a valid RR
type. It is calculated by using a "data" (see Section 4.1.8) of the
entire preceding DNS reply message, including DNS header but not the
IP header and before the reply RR counts have been adjusted for the
inclusion of any transaction SIG, concatenated with the entire DNS
query message that produced this response, including the query's DNS
header and any request SIGs but not its IP header. That is
data = full response (less transaction SIG) | full query
Verification of the transaction SIG (which is signed by the server
host key, not the zone key) by the requesting resolver shows that the
query and response were not tampered with in transit, that the
response corresponds to the intended query, and that the response
comes from the queried server.
A DNS request may be optionally signed by including one or more SIGs
at the end of the query. Such SIGs are identified by having a "type
covered" field of zero. They sign the preceding DNS request message
including DNS header but not including the IP header or any request
SIGs at the end and before the request RR counts have been adjusted
for the inclusions of any request SIG(s).
WARNING: Request SIGs are unnecessary for any currently defined
request other than update [RFC 2136, 2137] and will cause some old
DNS servers to give an error return or ignore a query. However, such
SIGs may in the future be needed for other requests.
Except where needed to authenticate an update or similar privileged
request, servers are not required to check request SIGs.
4.2 SIG RRs in the Construction of Responses
Security aware DNS servers SHOULD, for every authenticated RRset the
query will return, attempt to send the available SIG RRs which
authenticate the requested RRset. The following rules apply to the
inclusion of SIG RRs in responses:
1. when an RRset is placed in a response, its SIG RR has a higher
priority for inclusion than additional RRs that may need to be
included. If space does not permit its inclusion, the response
MUST be considered truncated except as provided in 2 below.
2. When a SIG RR is present in the zone for an additional
information section RR, the response MUST NOT be considered
truncated merely because space does not permit the inclusion of
the SIG RR with the additional information.
3. SIGs to authenticate glue records and NS RRs for subzones at a
delegation point are unnecessary and MUST NOT be sent.
4. If a SIG covers any RR that would be in the answer section of
the response, its automatic inclusion MUST be in the answer
section. If it covers an RR that would appear in the authority
section, its automatic inclusion MUST be in the authority
section. If it covers an RR that would appear in the additional
information section it MUST appear in the additional information
section. This is a change in the existing standard [RFCs 1034,
1035] which contemplates only NS and SOA RRs in the authority
5. Optionally, DNS transactions may be authenticated by a SIG RR at
the end of the response in the additional information section
(Section 188.8.131.52). Such SIG RRs are signed by the DNS server
originating the response. Although the signer field MUST be a
name of the originating server host, the owner name, class, TTL,
and original TTL, are meaningless. The class and TTL fields
SHOULD be zero. To conserve space, the owner name SHOULD be
root (a single zero octet). If transaction authentication is
desired, that SIG RR must be considered the highest priority for
4.3 Processing Responses and SIG RRs
The following rules apply to the processing of SIG RRs included in a
1. A security aware resolver that receives a response from a
security aware server via a secure communication with the AD bit
(see Section 6.1) set, MAY choose to accept the RRs as received
without verifying the zone SIG RRs.
2. In other cases, a security aware resolver SHOULD verify the SIG
RRs for the RRs of interest. This may involve initiating
additional queries for SIG or KEY RRs, especially in the case of
getting a response from a server that does not implement
security. (As explained in 2.3.5 above, it will not be possible
to secure CNAMEs being served up by non-secure resolvers.)
NOTE: Implementers might expect the above SHOULD to be a MUST.
However, local policy or the calling application may not require
the security services.
3. If SIG RRs are received in response to a user query explicitly
specifying the SIG type, no special processing is required.
If the message does not pass integrity checks or the SIG does not
check against the signed RRs, the SIG RR is invalid and should be
ignored. If all of the SIG RR(s) purporting to authenticate an RRset
are invalid, then the RRset is not authenticated.
If the SIG RR is the last RR in a response in the additional
information section and has a type covered of zero, it is a
transaction signature of the response and the query that produced the
response. It MAY be optionally checked and the message rejected if
the checks fail. But even if the checks succeed, such a transaction
authentication SIG does NOT directly authenticate any RRs in the
message. Only a proper SIG RR signed by the zone or a key tracing
its authority to the zone or to static resolver configuration can
directly authenticate RRs, depending on resolver policy (see Section
6). If a resolver does not implement transaction and/or request
SIGs, it MUST ignore them without error.
If all checks indicate that the SIG RR is valid then RRs verified by
it should be considered authenticated.
4.4 Signature Lifetime, Expiration, TTLs, and Validity
Security aware servers MUST NOT consider SIG RRs to authenticate
anything before their signature inception or after its expiration
time (see also Section 6). Security aware servers MUST NOT consider
any RR to be authenticated after all its signatures have expired.
When a secure server caches authenticated data, if the TTL would
expire at a time further in the future than the authentication
expiration time, the server SHOULD trim the TTL in the cache entry
not to extent beyond the authentication expiration time. Within
these constraints, servers should continue to follow DNS TTL aging.
Thus authoritative servers should continue to follow the zone refresh
and expire parameters and a non-authoritative server should count
down the TTL and discard RRs when the TTL is zero (even for a SIG
that has not yet reached its authentication expiration time). In
addition, when RRs are transmitted in a query response, the TTL
should be trimmed so that current time plus the TTL does not extend
beyond the authentication expiration time. Thus, in general, the TTL
on a transmitted RR would be
When signatures are generated, signature expiration times should be
set far enough in the future that it is quite certain that new
signatures can be generated before the old ones expire. However,
setting expiration too far into the future could mean a long time to
flush any bad data or signatures that may have been generated.
It is recommended that signature lifetime be a small multiple of the
TTL (ie, 4 to 16 times the TTL) but not less than a reasonable
maximum re-signing interval and not less than the zone expiry time.
5. Non-existent Names and Types
The SIG RR mechanism described in Section 4 above provides strong
authentication of RRs that exist in a zone. But it is not clear
above how to verifiably deny the existence of a name in a zone or a
type for an existent name.
The nonexistence of a name in a zone is indicated by the NXT ("next")
RR for a name interval containing the nonexistent name. An NXT RR or
RRs and its or their SIG(s) are returned in the authority section,
along with the error, if the server is security aware. The same is
true for a non-existent type under an existing name except that there
is no error indication other than an empty answer section
accompanying the NXT(s). This is a change in the existing standard
[RFCs 1034/1035] which contemplates only NS and SOA RRs in the
authority section. NXT RRs will also be returned if an explicit query
is made for the NXT type.
The existence of a complete set of NXT records in a zone means that
any query for any name and any type to a security aware server
serving the zone will result in an reply containing at least one
signed RR unless it is a query for delegation point NS or glue A or
5.1 The NXT Resource Record
The NXT resource record is used to securely indicate that RRs with an
owner name in a certain name interval do not exist in a zone and to
indicate what RR types are present for an existing name.
The owner name of the NXT RR is an existing name in the zone. It's
RDATA is a "next" name and a type bit map. Thus the NXT RRs in a zone
create a chain of all of the literal owner names in that zone,
including unexpanded wildcards but omitting the owner name of glue
address records unless they would otherwise be included. This implies
a canonical ordering of all domain names in a zone as described in
Section 8. The presence of the NXT RR means that no name between its
owner name and the name in its RDATA area exists and that no other
types exist under its owner name.
There is a potential problem with the last NXT in a zone as it wants
to have an owner name which is the last existing name in canonical
order, which is easy, but it is not obvious what name to put in its
RDATA to indicate the entire remainder of the name space. This is
handled by treating the name space as circular and putting the zone
name in the RDATA of the last NXT in a zone.
The NXT RRs for a zone SHOULD be automatically calculated and added
to the zone when SIGs are added. The NXT RR's TTL SHOULD NOT exceed
the zone minimum TTL.
The type number for the NXT RR is 30.
NXT RRs are only signed by zone level keys.
5.2 NXT RDATA Format
The RDATA for an NXT RR consists simply of a domain name followed by
a bit map, as shown below.
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| next domain name /
| type bit map /
The NXT RR type bit map format currently defined is one bit per RR
type present for the owner name. A one bit indicates that at least
one RR of that type is present for the owner name. A zero indicates
that no such RR is present. All bits not specified because they are
beyond the end of the bit map are assumed to be zero. Note that bit
30, for NXT, will always be on so the minimum bit map length is
actually four octets. Trailing zero octets are prohibited in this
format. The first bit represents RR type zero (an illegal type which
can not be present) and so will be zero in this format. This format
is not used if there exists an RR with a type number greater than
127. If the zero bit of the type bit map is a one, it indicates that
a different format is being used which will always be the case if a
type number greater than 127 is present.
The domain name may be compressed with standard DNS name compression
when being transmitted over the network. The size of the bit map can
be inferred from the RDLENGTH and the length of the next domain name.
5.3 Additional Complexity Due to Wildcards
Proving that a non-existent name response is correct or that a
wildcard expansion response is correct makes things a little more
In particular, when a non-existent name response is returned, an NXT
must be returned showing that the exact name queried did not exist
and, in general, one or more additional NXT's need to be returned to
also prove that there wasn't a wildcard whose expansion should have
been returned. (There is no need to return multiple copies of the
same NXT.) These NXTs, if any, are returned in the authority section
of the response.
Furthermore, if a wildcard expansion is returned in a response, in
general one or more NXTs needs to also be returned in the authority
section to prove that no more specific name (including possibly more
specific wildcards in the zone) existed on which the response should
have been based.
Assume zone foo.nil has entries for
Then a query to a security aware server for huge.foo.nil would
produce an error reply with an RCODE of NXDOMAIN and the authority
section data including something like the following:
foo.nil. NXT big.foo.nil NS KEY SOA NXT ;prove no *.foo.nil
foo.nil. SIG NXT 1 2 ( ;type-cov=NXT, alg=1, labels=2
19970102030405 ;signature expiration
19961211100908 ;signature inception
2143 ;key identifier
fiYy2X+8XpFjwICHc398kzWsTMKlxovpz2FnCTM= ;signature (640 bits)
big.foo.nil. NXT medium.foo.nil. A MX SIG NXT ;prove no huge.foo.nil
big.foo.nil. SIG NXT 1 3 ( ;type-cov=NXT, alg=1, labels=3
19970102030405 ;signature expiration
19961211100908 ;signature inception
2143 ;key identifier
1tVfSCSqQYn6//11U6Nld80jEeC8aTrO+KKmCaY= ;signature (640 bits)
Note that this response implies that big.foo.nil is an existing name
in the zone and thus has other RR types associated with it than NXT.
However, only the NXT (and its SIG) RR appear in the response to this
query for huge.foo.nil, which is a non-existent name.
5.5 Special Considerations at Delegation Points
A name (other than root) which is the head of a zone also appears as
the leaf in a superzone. If both are secure, there will always be
two different NXT RRs with the same name. They can be easily
distinguished by their signers, the next domain name fields, the
presence of the SOA type bit, etc. Security aware servers should
return the correct NXT automatically when required to authenticate
the non-existence of a name and both NXTs, if available, on explicit
query for type NXT.
Non-security aware servers will never automatically return an NXT and
some old implementations may only return the NXT from the subzone on
5.6 Zone Transfers
The subsections below describe how full and incremental zone
transfers are secured.
SIG RRs secure all authoritative RRs transferred for both full and
incremental [RFC 1995] zone transfers. NXT RRs are an essential
element in secure zone transfers and assure that every authoritative
name and type will be present; however, if there are multiple SIGs
with the same name and type covered, a subset of the SIGs could be
sent as long as at least one is present and, in the case of unsigned
delegation point NS or glue A or AAAA RRs a subset of these RRs or
simply a modified set could be sent as long as at least one of each
type is included.
When an incremental or full zone transfer request is received with
the same or newer version number than that of the server's copy of
the zone, it is replied to with just the SOA RR of the server's
current version and the SIG RRset verifying that SOA RR.
The complete NXT chains specified in this document enable a resolver
to obtain, by successive queries chaining through NXTs, all of the
names in a zone even if zone transfers are prohibited. Different
format NXTs may be specified in the future to avoid this.
5.6.1 Full Zone Transfers
To provide server authentication that a complete transfer has
occurred, transaction authentication SHOULD be used on full zone
transfers. This provides strong server based protection for the
entire zone in transit.
5.6.2 Incremental Zone Transfers
Individual RRs in an incremental (IXFR) transfer [RFC 1995] can be
verified in the same way as for a full zone transfer and the
integrity of the NXT name chain and correctness of the NXT type bits
for the zone after the incremental RR deletes and adds can check each
disjoint area of the zone updated. But the completeness of an
incremental transfer can not be confirmed because usually neither the
deleted RR section nor the added RR section has a compete zone NXT
chain. As a result, a server which securely supports IXFR must
handle IXFR SIG RRs for each incremental transfer set that it
The IXFR SIG is calculated over the incremental zone update
collection of RRs in the order in which it is transmitted: old SOA,
then deleted RRs, then new SOA and added RRs. Within each section,
RRs must be ordered as specified in Section 8. If condensation of
adjacent incremental update sets is done by the zone owner, the
original IXFR SIG for each set included in the condensation must be
discarded and a new on IXFR SIG calculated to cover the resulting
The IXFR SIG really belongs to the zone as a whole, not to the zone
name. Although it SHOULD be correct for the zone name, the labels
field of an IXFR SIG is otherwise meaningless. The IXFR SIG is only
sent as part of an incremental zone transfer. After validation of
the IXFR SIG, the transferred RRs MAY be considered valid without
verification of the internal SIGs if such trust in the server
conforms to local policy.
6. How to Resolve Securely and the AD and CD Bits
Retrieving or resolving secure data from the Domain Name System (DNS)
involves starting with one or more trusted public keys that have been
staticly configured at the resolver. With starting trusted keys, a
resolver willing to perform cryptography can progress securely
through the secure DNS structure to the zone of interest as described
in Section 6.3. Such trusted public keys would normally be configured
in a manner similar to that described in Section 6.2. However, as a
practical matter, a security aware resolver would still gain some
confidence in the results it returns even if it was not configured
with any keys but trusted what it got from a local well known server
as if it were staticly configured.
Data stored at a security aware server needs to be internally
categorized as Authenticated, Pending, or Insecure. There is also a
fourth transient state of Bad which indicates that all SIG checks
have explicitly failed on the data. Such Bad data is not retained at
a security aware server. Authenticated means that the data has a
valid SIG under a KEY traceable via a chain of zero or more SIG and
KEY RRs allowed by the resolvers policies to a KEY staticly
configured at the resolver. Pending data has no authenticated SIGs
and at least one additional SIG the resolver is still trying to
authenticate. Insecure data is data which it is known can never be
either Authenticated or found Bad in the zone where it was found
because it is in or has been reached via a unsecured zone or because
it is unsigned glue address or delegation point NS data. Behavior in
terms of control of and flagging based on such data labels is
described in Section 6.1.
The proper validation of signatures requires a reasonably secure
shared opinion of the absolute time between resolvers and servers as
described in Section 6.4.
6.1 The AD and CD Header Bits
Two previously unused bits are allocated out of the DNS
query/response format header. The AD (authentic data) bit indicates
in a response that all the data included in the answer and authority
portion of the response has been authenticated by the server
according to the policies of that server. The CD (checking disabled)
bit indicates in a query that Pending (non-authenticated) data is
acceptable to the resolver sending the query.
These bits are allocated from the previously must-be-zero Z field as
1 1 1 1 1 1
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5
| ID |
|QR| Opcode |AA|TC|RD|RA| Z|AD|CD| RCODE |
| QDCOUNT |
| ANCOUNT |
| NSCOUNT |
| ARCOUNT |
These bits are zero in old servers and resolvers. Thus the responses
of old servers are not flagged as authenticated to security aware
resolvers and queries from non-security aware resolvers do not assert
the checking disabled bit and thus will be answered by security aware
servers only with Authenticated or Insecure data. Security aware
resolvers MUST NOT trust the AD bit unless they trust the server they
are talking to and either have a secure path to it or use DNS
Any security aware resolver willing to do cryptography SHOULD assert
the CD bit on all queries to permit it to impose its own policies and
to reduce DNS latency time by allowing security aware servers to
answer with Pending data.
Security aware servers MUST NOT return Bad data. For non-security
aware resolvers or security aware resolvers requesting service by
having the CD bit clear, security aware servers MUST return only
Authenticated or Insecure data in the answer and authority sections
with the AD bit set in the response. Security aware servers SHOULD
return Pending data, with the AD bit clear in the response, to
security aware resolvers requesting this service by asserting the CD
bit in their request. The AD bit MUST NOT be set on a response
unless all of the RRs in the answer and authority sections of the
response are either Authenticated or Insecure. The AD bit does not
cover the additional information section.
6.2 Staticly Configured Keys
The public key to authenticate a zone SHOULD be defined in local
configuration files before that zone is loaded at the primary server
so the zone can be authenticated.
While it might seem logical for everyone to start with a public key
associated with the root zone and staticly configure this in every
resolver, this has problems. The logistics of updating every DNS
resolver in the world should this key ever change would be severe.
Furthermore, many organizations will explicitly wish their "interior"
DNS implementations to completely trust only their own DNS servers.
Interior resolvers of such organizations can then go through the
organization's zone servers to access data outside the organization's
domain and need not be configured with keys above the organization's
Host resolvers that are not part of a larger organization may be
configured with a key for the domain of their local ISP whose
recursive secure DNS caching server they use.
6.3 Chaining Through The DNS
Starting with one or more trusted keys for any zone, it should be
possible to retrieve signed keys for that zone's subzones which have
a key. A secure sub-zone is indicated by a KEY RR with non-null key
information appearing with the NS RRs in the sub-zone and which may
also be present in the parent. These make it possible to descend
within the tree of zones.
6.3.1 Chaining Through KEYs
In general, some RRset that you wish to validate in the secure DNS
will be signed by one or more SIG RRs. Each of these SIG RRs has a
signer under whose name is stored the public KEY to use in
authenticating the SIG. Each of those KEYs will, generally, also be
signed with a SIG. And those SIGs will have signer names also
referring to KEYs. And so on. As a result, authentication leads to
chains of alternating SIG and KEY RRs with the first SIG signing the
original data whose authenticity is to be shown and the final KEY
being some trusted key staticly configured at the resolver performing
In testing such a chain, the validity periods of the SIGs encountered
must be intersected to determine the validity period of the
authentication of the data, a purely algorithmic process. In
addition, the validation of each SIG over the data with reference to
a KEY must meet the objective cryptographic test implied by the
cryptographic algorithm used (although even here the resolver may
have policies as to trusted algorithms and key lengths). Finally,
the judgement that a SIG with a particular signer name can
authenticate data (possibly a KEY RRset) with a particular owner
name, is primarily a policy question. Ultimately, this is a policy
local to the resolver and any clients that depend on that resolver's
decisions. It is, however, recommended, that the policy below be
Let A < B mean that A is a shorter domain name than B formed by
dropping one or more whole labels from the left end of B, i.e.,
A is a direct or indirect superdomain of B. Let A = B mean that
A and B are the same domain name (i.e., are identical after
letter case canonicalization). Let A > B mean that A is a
longer domain name than B formed by adding one or more whole
labels on the left end of B, i.e., A is a direct or indirect
subdomain of B
Let Static be the owner names of the set of staticly configured
trusted keys at a resolver.
Then Signer is a valid signer name for a SIG authenticating an
RRset (possibly a KEY RRset) with owner name Owner at the
resolver if any of the following three rules apply:
(1) Owner > or = Signer (except that if Signer is root, Owner
must be root or a top level domain name). That is, Owner is the
same as or a subdomain of Signer.
(2) ( Owner < Signer ) and ( Signer > or = some Static ). That
is, Owner is a superdomain of Signer and Signer is staticly
configured or a subdomain of a staticly configured key.
(3) Signer = some Static. That is, the signer is exactly some
staticly configured key.
Rule 1 is the rule for descending the DNS tree and includes a special
prohibition on the root zone key due to the restriction that the root
zone be only one label deep. This is the most fundamental rule.
Rule 2 is the rule for ascending the DNS tree from one or more
staticly configured keys. Rule 2 has no effect if only root zone
keys are staticly configured.
Rule 3 is a rule permitting direct cross certification. Rule 3 has
no effect if only root zone keys are staticly configured.
Great care should be taken that the consequences have been fully
considered before making any local policy adjustments to these rules
(other than dispensing with rules 2 and 3 if only root zone keys are
6.3.2 Conflicting Data
It is possible that there will be multiple SIG-KEY chains that appear
to authenticate conflicting RRset answers to the same query. A
resolver should choose only the most reliable answer to return and
discard other data. This choice of most reliable is a matter of
local policy which could take into account differing trust in
algorithms, key sizes, staticly configured keys, zones traversed,
etc. The technique given below is recommended for taking into
account SIG-KEY chain length.
A resolver should keep track of the number of successive secure zones
traversed from a staticly configured key starting point to any secure
zone it can reach. In general, the lower such a distance number is,
the greater the confidence in the data. Staticly configured data
should be given a distance number of zero. If a query encounters
different Authenticated data for the same query with different
distance values, that with a larger value should be ignored unless
some other local policy covers the case.
A security conscious resolver should completely refuse to step from a
secure zone into a unsecured zone unless the unsecured zone is
certified to be non-secure by the presence of an authenticated KEY RR
for the unsecured zone with the no-key type value. Otherwise the
resolver is getting bogus or spoofed data.
If legitimate unsecured zones are encountered in traversing the DNS
tree, then no zone can be trusted as secure that can be reached only
via information from such non-secure zones. Since the unsecured zone
data could have been spoofed, the "secure" zone reached via it could
be counterfeit. The "distance" to data in such zones or zones
reached via such zones could be set to 256 or more as this exceeds
the largest possible distance through secure zones in the DNS.
6.4 Secure Time
Coordinated interpretation of the time fields in SIG RRs requires
that reasonably consistent time be available to the hosts
implementing the DNS security extensions.
A variety of time synchronization protocols exist including the
Network Time Protocol (NTP [RFC 1305, 2030]). If such protocols are
used, they MUST be used securely so that time can not be spoofed.
Otherwise, for example, a host could get its clock turned back and
might then believe old SIG RRs, and the data they authenticate, which
were valid but are no longer.
7. ASCII Representation of Security RRs
This section discusses the format for master file and other ASCII
presentation of the three DNS security resource records.
The algorithm field in KEY and SIG RRs can be represented as either
an unsigned integer or symbolicly. The following initial symbols are
defined as indicated:
7.1 Presentation of KEY RRs
KEY RRs may appear as single logical lines in a zone data master file
The flag field is represented as an unsigned integer or a sequence of
mnemonics as follows separated by instances of the verticle bar ("|")
BIT Mnemonic Explanation
0-1 key type
NOCONF =1 confidentiality use prohibited
NOAUTH =2 authentication use prohibited
NOKEY =3 no key present
2 FLAG2 - reserved
3 EXTEND flags extension
4 FLAG4 - reserved
5 FLAG5 - reserved
6-7 name type
USER =0 (default, may be omitted)
HOST =2 (host or other end entity)
NTYP3 - reserved
8 FLAG8 - reserved
9 FLAG9 - reserved
10 FLAG10 - reserved
11 FLAG11 - reserved
12-15 signatory field, values 0 to 15
can be represented by SIG0, SIG1, ... SIG15
No flag mnemonic need be present if the bit or field it represents is
The protocol octet can be represented as either an unsigned integer
or symbolicly. The following initial symbols are defined:
Note that if the type flags field has the NOKEY value, nothing
appears after the algorithm octet.
The remaining public key portion is represented in base 64 (see
Appendix A) and may be divided up into any number of white space
separated substrings, down to single base 64 digits, which are
concatenated to obtain the full signature. These substrings can span
lines using the standard parenthesis.
Note that the public key may have internal sub-fields but these do
not appear in the master file representation. For example, with
algorithm 1 there is a public exponent size, then a public exponent,
and then a modulus. With algorithm 254, there will be an OID size,
an OID, and algorithm dependent information. But in both cases only a
single logical base 64 string will appear in the master file.
7.2 Presentation of SIG RRs
A data SIG RR may be represented as a single logical line in a zone
data file [RFC 1033] but there are some special considerations as
described below. (It does not make sense to include a transaction or
request authenticating SIG RR in a file as they are a transient
authentication that covers data including an ephemeral transaction
number and so must be calculated in real time.)
There is no particular problem with the signer, covered type, and
times. The time fields appears in the form YYYYMMDDHHMMSS where YYYY
is the year, the first MM is the month number (01-12), DD is the day
of the month (01-31), HH is the hour in 24 hours notation (00-23),
the second MM is the minute (00-59), and SS is the second (00-59).
The original TTL field appears as an unsigned integer.
If the original TTL, which applies to the type signed, is the same as
the TTL of the SIG RR itself, it may be omitted. The date field
which follows it is larger than the maximum possible TTL so there is
The "labels" field appears as an unsigned integer.
The key tag appears as an unsigned number.
However, the signature itself can be very long. It is the last data
field and is represented in base 64 (see Appendix A) and may be
divided up into any number of white space separated substrings, down
to single base 64 digits, which are concatenated to obtain the full
signature. These substrings can be split between lines using the
7.3 Presentation of NXT RRs
NXT RRs do not appear in original unsigned zone master files since
they should be derived from the zone as it is being signed. If a
signed file with NXTs added is printed or NXTs are printed by
debugging code, they appear as the next domain name followed by the
RR type present bits as an unsigned interger or sequence of RR
8. Canonical Form and Order of Resource Records
This section specifies, for purposes of domain name system (DNS)
security, the canonical form of resource records (RRs), their name
order, and their overall order. A canonical name order is necessary
to construct the NXT name chain. A canonical form and ordering
within an RRset is necessary in consistently constructing and
verifying SIG RRs. A canonical ordering of types within a name is
required in connection with incremental transfer (Section 5.6.2).
8.1 Canonical RR Form
For purposes of DNS security, the canonical form for an RR is the
wire format of the RR with domain names (1) fully expanded (no name
compression via pointers), (2) all domain name letters set to lower
case, (3) owner name wild cards in master file form (no substitution
made for *), and (4) the original TTL substituted for the current
8.2 Canonical DNS Name Order
For purposes of DNS security, the canonical ordering of owner names
is to sort individual labels as unsigned left justified octet strings
where the absence of a octet sorts before a zero value octet and
upper case letters are treated as lower case letters. Names in a
zone are sorted by sorting on the highest level label and then,
within those names with the same highest level label by the next
lower label, etc. down to leaf node labels. Within a zone, the zone
name itself always exists and all other names are the zone name with
some prefix of lower level labels. Thus the zone name itself always
8.3 Canonical RR Ordering Within An RRset
Within any particular owner name and type, RRs are sorted by RDATA as
a left justified unsigned octet sequence where the absence of an
octet sorts before the zero octet.
8.4 Canonical Ordering of RR Types
When RRs of the same name but different types must be ordered, they
are ordered by type, considering the type to be an unsigned integer,
except that SIG RRs are placed immediately after the type they cover.
Thus, for example, an A record would be put before an MX record
because A is type 1 and MX is type 15 but if both were signed, the
order would be A < SIG(A) < MX < SIG(MX).
Levels of server and resolver conformance are defined below.
9.1 Server Conformance
Two levels of server conformance for DNS security are defined as
BASIC: Basic server compliance is the ability to store and retrieve
(including zone transfer) SIG, KEY, and NXT RRs. Any secondary or
caching server for a secure zone MUST have at least basic compliance
and even then some things, such as secure CNAMEs, will not work
without full compliance.
FULL: Full server compliance adds the following to basic compliance:
(1) ability to read SIG, KEY, and NXT RRs in zone files and (2)
ability, given a zone file and private key, to add appropriate SIG
and NXT RRs, possibly via a separate application, (3) proper
automatic inclusion of SIG, KEY, and NXT RRs in responses, (4)
suppression of CNAME following on retrieval of the security type RRs,
(5) recognize the CD query header bit and set the AD query header
bit, as appropriate, and (6) proper handling of the two NXT RRs at
delegation points. Primary servers for secure zones MUST be fully
compliant and for complete secure operation, all secondary, caching,
and other servers handling the zone SHOULD be fully compliant as
9.2 Resolver Conformance
Two levels of resolver compliance (including the resolver portion of
a server) are defined for DNS Security:
BASIC: A basic compliance resolver can handle SIG, KEY, and NXT RRs
when they are explicitly requested.
FULL: A fully compliant resolver (1) understands KEY, SIG, and NXT
RRs including verification of SIGs at least for the mandatory
algorithm, (2) maintains appropriate information in its local caches
and database to indicate which RRs have been authenticated and to
what extent they have been authenticated, (3) performs additional
queries as necessary to attempt to obtain KEY, SIG, or NXT RRs when
needed, (4) normally sets the CD query header bit on its queries.
10. Security Considerations
This document specifies extensions to the Domain Name System (DNS)
protocol to provide data integrity and data origin authentication,
public key distribution, and optional transaction and request
It should be noted that, at most, these extensions guarantee the
validity of resource records, including KEY resource records,
retrieved from the DNS. They do not magically solve other security
problems. For example, using secure DNS you can have high confidence
in the IP address you retrieve for a host name; however, this does
not stop someone for substituting an unauthorized host at that
address or capturing packets sent to that address and falsely
responding with packets apparently from that address. Any reasonably
complete security system will require the protection of many
additional facets of the Internet beyond DNS.
The implementation of NXT RRs as described herein enables a resolver
to determine all the names in a zone even if zone transfers are
prohibited (section 5.6). This is an active area of work and may
A number of precautions in DNS implementation have evolved over the
years to harden the insecure DNS against spoofing. These precautions
should not be abandoned but should be considered to provide
additional protection in case of key compromise in secure DNS.
11. IANA Considerations
KEY RR flag bits 2 and 8-11 and all flag extension field bits can be
assigned by IETF consensus as defined in RFC 2434. The remaining
values of the NAMTYP flag field and flag bits 4 and 5 (which could
conceivably become an extension of the NAMTYP field) can only be
assigned by an IETF Standards Action [RFC 2434].
Algorithm numbers 5 through 251 are available for assignment should
sufficient reason arise. However, the designation of a new algorithm
could have a major impact on interoperability and requires an IETF
Standards Action [RFC 2434]. The existence of the private algorithm
types 253 and 254 should satify most needs for private or proprietary
Additional values of the Protocol Octet (5-254) can be assigned by
IETF Consensus [RFC 2434].
The meaning of the first bit of the NXT RR "type bit map" being a one
can only be assigned by a standards action.
[RFC 1033] Lottor, M., "Domain Administrators Operations Guide", RFC
1033, November 1987.
[RFC 1034] Mockapetris, P., "Domain Names - Concepts and
Facilities", STD 13, RFC 1034, November 1987.
[RFC 1035] Mockapetris, P., "Domain Names - Implementation and
Specifications", STD 13, RFC 1035, November 1987.
[RFC 1305] Mills, D., "Network Time Protocol (v3)", RFC 1305, March
[RFC 1530] Malamud, C. and M. Rose, "Principles of Operation for the
TPC.INT Subdomain: General Principles and Policy", RFC
1530, October 1993.
[RFC 2401] Kent, S. and R. Atkinson, "Security Architecture for the
Internet Protocol", RFC 2401, November 1998.
[RFC 1982] Elz, R. and R. Bush, "Serial Number Arithmetic", RFC
1982, September 1996.
[RFC 1995] Ohta, M., "Incremental Zone Transfer in DNS", RFC 1995,
[RFC 2030] Mills, D., "Simple Network Time Protocol (SNTP) Version 4
for IPv4, IPv6 and OSI", RFC 2030, October 1996.
[RFC 2045] Freed, N. and N. Borenstein, "Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions (MIME) Part One: Format of Internet Message
Bodies", RFC 2045, November 1996.
[RFC 2065] Eastlake, D. and C. Kaufman, "Domain Name System Security
Extensions", RFC 2065, January 1997.
[RFC 2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
[RFC 2136] Vixie, P., Thomson, S., Rekhter, Y. and J. Bound,
"Dynamic Updates in the Domain Name System (DNS UPDATE)",
RFC 2136, April 1997.
[RFC 2137] Eastlake, D., "Secure Domain Name System Dynamic Update",
RFC 2137, April 1997.
[RFC 2181] Elz, R. and R. Bush, "Clarifications to the DNS
Specification", RFC 2181, July 1997.
[RFC 2434] Narten, T. and H. Alvestrand, "Guidelines for Writing an
IANA Considerations Section in RFCs", BCP 26, RFC 2434,
[RFC 2537] Eastlake, D., "RSA/MD5 KEYs and SIGs in the Domain Name
System (DNS)", RFC 2537, March 1999.
[RFC 2539] Eastlake, D., "Storage of Diffie-Hellman Keys in the
Domain Name System (DNS)", RFC 2539, March 1999.
[RFC 2536] Eastlake, D., "DSA KEYs and SIGs in the Domain Name
System (DNS)", RFC 2536, March 1999.
[RFC 2538] Eastlake, D. and O. Gudmundsson, "Storing Certificates in
the Domain Name System", RFC 2538, March 1999.
[RFC 2541] Eastlake, D., "DNS Operational Security Considerations",
RFC 2541, March 1999.
[RSA FAQ] - RSADSI Frequently Asked Questions periodic posting.
Donald E. Eastlake 3rd
65 Shindegan Hill Road
Carmel, NY 10512
Phone: +1-914-784-7913 (w)
Fax: +1-914-784-3833 (w-fax)
Appendix A: Base 64 Encoding
The following encoding technique is taken from [RFC 2045] by N.
Borenstein and N. Freed. It is reproduced here in an edited form for
A 65-character subset of US-ASCII is used, enabling 6 bits to be
represented per printable character. (The extra 65th character, "=",
is used to signify a special processing function.)
The encoding process represents 24-bit groups of input bits as output
strings of 4 encoded characters. Proceeding from left to right, a
24-bit input group is formed by concatenating 3 8-bit input groups.
These 24 bits are then treated as 4 concatenated 6-bit groups, each
of which is translated into a single digit in the base 64 alphabet.
Each 6-bit group is used as an index into an array of 64 printable
characters. The character referenced by the index is placed in the
Table 1: The Base 64 Alphabet
Value Encoding Value Encoding Value Encoding Value Encoding
0 A 17 R 34 i 51 z
1 B 18 S 35 j 52 0
2 C 19 T 36 k 53 1
3 D 20 U 37 l 54 2
4 E 21 V 38 m 55 3
5 F 22 W 39 n 56 4
6 G 23 X 40 o 57 5
7 H 24 Y 41 p 58 6
8 I 25 Z 42 q 59 7
9 J 26 a 43 r 60 8
10 K 27 b 44 s 61 9
11 L 28 c 45 t 62 +
12 M 29 d 46 u 63 /
13 N 30 e 47 v
14 O 31 f 48 w (pad) =
15 P 32 g 49 x
16 Q 33 h 50 y
Special processing is performed if fewer than 24 bits are available
at the end of the data being encoded. A full encoding quantum is
always completed at the end of a quantity. When fewer than 24 input
bits are available in an input group, zero bits are added (on the
right) to form an integral number of 6-bit groups. Padding at the
end of the data is performed using the '=' character. Since all base
64 input is an integral number of octets, only the following cases
can arise: (1) the final quantum of encoding input is an integral
multiple of 24 bits; here, the final unit of encoded output will be
an integral multiple of 4 characters with no "=" padding, (2) the
final quantum of encoding input is exactly 8 bits; here, the final
unit of encoded output will be two characters followed by two "="
padding characters, or (3) the final quantum of encoding input is
exactly 16 bits; here, the final unit of encoded output will be three
characters followed by one "=" padding character.
Appendix B: Changes from RFC 2065
This section summarizes the most important changes that have been
made since RFC 2065.
1. Most of Section 7 of [RFC 2065] called "Operational
Considerations", has been removed and may be made into a separate
document [RFC 2541].
2. The KEY RR has been changed by (2a) eliminating the "experimental"
flag as unnecessary, (2b) reserving a flag bit for flags
expansion, (2c) more compactly encoding a number of bit fields in
such a way as to leave unchanged bits actually used by the limited
code currently deployed, (2d) eliminating the IPSEC and email flag
bits which are replaced by values of the protocol field and adding
a protocol field value for DNS security itself, (2e) adding
material to indicate that zone KEY RRs occur only at delegation
points, and (2f) removing the description of the RSA/MD5 algorithm
to a separate document [RFC 2537]. Section 3.4 describing the
meaning of various combinations of "no-key" and key present KEY
RRs has been added and the secure / unsecure status of a zone has
been clarified as being per algorithm.
3. The SIG RR has been changed by (3a) renaming the "time signed"
field to be the "signature inception" field, (3b) clarifying that
signature expiration and inception use serial number ring
arithmetic, (3c) changing the definition of the key footprint/tag
for algorithms other than 1 and adding Appendix C to specify its
calculation. In addition, the SIG covering type AXFR has been
eliminated while one covering IXFR [RFC 1995] has been added (see
4. Algorithm 3, the DSA algorithm, is now designated as the mandatory
to implement algorithm. Algorithm 1, the RSA/MD5 algorithm, is
now a recommended option. Algorithm 2 and 4 are designated as the
Diffie-Hellman key and elliptic cryptography algorithms
respectively, all to be defined in separate documents. Algorithm
code point 252 is designated to indicate "indirect" keys, to be
defined in a separate document, where the actual key is elsewhere.
Both the KEY and SIG RR definitions have been simplified by
eliminating the "null" algorithm 253 as defined in [RFC 2065].
That algorithm had been included because at the time it was
thought it might be useful in DNS dynamic update [RFC 2136]. It
was in fact not so used and it is dropped to simplify DNS
security. Howver, that algorithm number has been re-used to
indicate private algorithms where a domain name specifies the
5. The NXT RR has been changed so that (5a) the NXT RRs in a zone
cover all names, including wildcards as literal names without
expansion, except for glue address records whose names would not
otherwise appear, (5b) all NXT bit map areas whose first octet has
bit zero set have been reserved for future definition, (5c) the
number of and circumstances under which an NXT must be returned in
connection with wildcard names has been extended, and (5d) in
connection with the bit map, references to the WKS RR have been
removed and verticle bars ("|") have been added between the RR
type mnemonics in the ASCII representation.
6. Information on the canonical form and ordering of RRs has been
moved into a separate Section 8.
7. A subsection covering incremental and full zone transfer has been
added in Section 5.
8. Concerning DNS chaining: Further specification and policy
recommendations on secure resolution have been added, primarily in
Section 6.3.1. It is now clearly stated that authenticated data
has a validity period of the intersection of the validity periods
of the SIG RRs in its authentication chain. The requirement to
staticly configure a superzone's key signed by a zone in all of
the zone's authoritative servers has been removed. The
recommendation to continue DNS security checks in a secure island
of DNS data that is separated from other parts of the DNS tree by
insecure zones and does not contain a zone for which a key has
been staticly configured was dropped.
9. It was clarified that the presence of the AD bit in a response
does not apply to the additional information section or to glue
address or delegation point NS RRs. The AD bit only indicates
that the answer and authority sections of the response are
10. It is now required that KEY RRs and NXT RRs be signed only with
11. Add IANA Considerations section and references to RFC 2434.
Appendix C: Key Tag Calculation
The key tag field in the SIG RR is just a means of more efficiently
selecting the correct KEY RR to use when there is more than one KEY
RR candidate available, for example, in verifying a signature. It is
possible for more than one candidate key to have the same tag, in
which case each must be tried until one works or all fail. The
following reference implementation of how to calculate the Key Tag,
for all algorithms other than algorithm 1, is in ANSI C. It is coded
for clarity, not efficiency. (See section 4.1.6 for how to determine
the Key Tag of an algorithm 1 key.)
/* assumes int is at least 16 bits
first byte of the key tag is the most significant byte of return
second byte of the key tag is the least significant byte of
int keytag (
unsigned char key, /* the RDATA part of the KEY RR */
unsigned int keysize, /* the RDLENGTH */
long int ac; /* assumed to be 32 bits or larger */
for ( ac = 0, i = 0; i < keysize; ++i )
ac += (i&1) ? key[i] : key[i]<<8;
ac += (ac>>16) & 0xFFFF;
return ac & 0xFFFF;
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