News

DNS May Be Patched, but Danger Still Lurks

We dodged a bullet last month -- the discovery of a fundamental flaw in the Domain Name System, Dan Kaminsky told a standing-room only (and some sitting on the floor) crowd at the Black Hat Briefings Wednesday. However, we can't count on our good luck continuing, he said.

Kaminsky, director of penetration testing for IOActive Inc., last month announced the unique coordinated multi-vendor release of a patch for the vulnerability, and he led a promotional effort to encourage organizations to install patches.

"There has been a remarkable amount of uptake on this patch," he said. Hundreds of millions of servers have been protected, Kaminsky added. Seventy percent of the Fortune 500 companies have tested and installed the patch on mail servers.

However, there are limits to the success. Another 15 percent have had problems installing the patch because of Network Address Translation, and 15 percent have not yet moved to install it.

"That's ridiculous," Kaminsky said. "We have to get better at fixing infrastructure. We got lucky this time. The next bug won't be as easy to deal with, and this one hasn't been easy."

Kaminsky discovered the bug about six months ago. Because it could affect virtually all name servers that translate domain names to IP addresses for Internet traffic, he did not go public with the news until major vendors had a chance to agree on a fix.

That fix was to increase the randomization of query IDs used to authenticate queries and responses. Adding port randomization raised the odds of guessing the right ID number from one in 65,000 to as little as one in 2 billion.

Kaminsky and the vendors have been criticized because the patch does not directly address the problem, and instead is a lowest-common denominator solution. Kaminsky defended the decision after illustrating ways to exploit the vulnerability.

"There are 15 ways of doing this attack," he said. "We chose a design that would make all of the attacks harder, not just the ones we know about."

One key of the patching strategy was to try to keep specific information about the vulnerability hidden for a month to give everyone a chance to install the patches. The goal met with only limited success.

"All patches can be reverse engineered," Kaminsky said, and the first details of the vulnerability were being worked out within two days of the July 8 announcement.

Owning DNS and being able to return false results to address queries could open a wide range of exploits on almost all kinds of Internet traffic, Kaminsky said. But the experience of the last month showed that cooperation among vendors works to improve safety.

"The industry did rally like we've never seen it rally before," he added.

About the Author

William Jackson is the senior writer for Government Computer News (GCN.com).

Featured

  • Microsoft, Google and IBM Among First Members of Open Source Security Group

    Microsoft has joined a high-powered group of tech giants in a new industry foundation aimed at improving the security of open source software.

  • Microsoft In Talks To Acquire TikTok

    A deal between Microsoft and Beijing-based ByteDance is in the works that would have Microsoft acquiring some of ByteDance's holdings in the TikTok social media service.

  • Some Cortana Features Ending as Part of Microsoft 365 Shift

    Microsoft may be promoting Cortana more as a Microsoft 365 business perk, but the digital assistant will soon see several of its capabilities falling out of support.

  • 2020 Microsoft Conference Calendar: For Partners, IT Pros and Developers

    Here's your guide to all the IT training sessions, partner meet-ups and annual Microsoft conferences you won't want to miss. (Now updated with COVID-19-related event changes.)

RCP Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.