This is a purely informative rendering of an RFC that includes verified errata. This rendering may not be used as a reference.

The following 'Verified' errata have been incorporated in this document: EID 81
Network Working Group                                          S. Weiler
Request for Comments: 4470                                  SPARTA, Inc.
Updates: 4035, 4034                                             J. Ihren
Category: Standards Track                                  Autonomica AB
                                                              April 2006

       Minimally Covering NSEC Records and DNSSEC On-line Signing

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 Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006).


   This document describes how to construct DNSSEC NSEC resource records
   that cover a smaller range of names than called for by RFC 4034.  By
   generating and signing these records on demand, authoritative name
   servers can effectively stop the disclosure of zone contents
   otherwise made possible by walking the chain of NSEC records in a
   signed zone.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction ....................................................1
   2. Applicability of This Technique .................................2
   3. Minimally Covering NSEC Records .................................2
   4. Better Epsilon Functions ........................................4
   5. Security Considerations .........................................5
   6. Acknowledgements ................................................6
   7. Normative References ............................................6

1.  Introduction

   With DNSSEC [1], an NSEC record lists the next instantiated name in
   its zone, proving that no names exist in the "span" between the
   NSEC's owner name and the name in the "next name" field.  In this
   document, an NSEC record is said to "cover" the names between its
   owner name and next name.

   Through repeated queries that return NSEC records, it is possible to
   retrieve all of the names in the zone, a process commonly called
   "walking" the zone.  Some zone owners have policies forbidding zone
   transfers by arbitrary clients; this side effect of the NSEC
   architecture subverts those policies.

   This document presents a way to prevent zone walking by constructing
   NSEC records that cover fewer names.  These records can make zone
   walking take approximately as many queries as simply asking for all
   possible names in a zone, making zone walking impractical.  Some of
   these records must be created and signed on demand, which requires
   on-line private keys.  Anyone contemplating use of this technique is
   strongly encouraged to review the discussion of the risks of on-line
   signing in Section 5.

1.2.  Keywords

   The keywords "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [4].

2.  Applicability of This Technique

EID 81 (Verified) is as follows:

Section: 2

Original Text:

             ).com 3600 IN NSEC ( RRSIG NSEC )

Corrected Text:

            \).com 3600 IN NSEC \ ( RRSIG NSEC )
Line should use the escape characters as defined in RFC 1035.
The technique presented here may be useful to a zone owner that wants to use DNSSEC, is concerned about exposure of its zone contents via zone walking, and is willing to bear the costs of on-line signing. As discussed in Section 5, on-line signing has several security risks, including an increased likelihood of private keys being disclosed and an increased risk of denial of service attack. Anyone contemplating use of this technique is strongly encouraged to review the discussion of the risks of on-line signing in Section 5. Furthermore, at the time this document was published, the DNSEXT working group was actively working on a mechanism to prevent zone walking that does not require on-line signing (tentatively called NSEC3). The new mechanism is likely to expose slightly more information about the zone than this technique (e.g., the number of instantiated names), but it may be preferable to this technique. 3. Minimally Covering NSEC Records This mechanism involves changes to NSEC records for instantiated names, which can still be generated and signed in advance, as well as the on-demand generation and signing of new NSEC records whenever a name must be proven not to exist. In the "next name" field of instantiated names' NSEC records, rather than list the next instantiated name in the zone, list any name that falls lexically after the NSEC's owner name and before the next instantiated name in the zone, according to the ordering function in RFC 4034 [2] Section 6.1. This relaxes the requirement in Section 4.1.1 of RFC 4034 that the "next name" field contains the next owner name in the zone. This change is expected to be fully compatible with all existing DNSSEC validators. These NSEC records are returned whenever proving something specifically about the owner name (e.g., that no resource records of a given type appear at that name). Whenever an NSEC record is needed to prove the non-existence of a name, a new NSEC record is dynamically produced and signed. The new NSEC record has an owner name lexically before the QNAME but lexically following any existing name and a "next name" lexically following the QNAME but before any existing name. The generated NSEC record's type bitmap MUST have the RRSIG and NSEC bits set and SHOULD NOT have any other bits set. This relaxes the requirement in Section 2.3 of RFC4035 that NSEC RRs not appear at names that did not exist before the zone was signed. The functions to generate the lexically following and proceeding names need not be perfect or consistent, but the generated NSEC records must not cover any existing names. Furthermore, this technique works best when the generated NSEC records cover as few names as possible. In this document, the functions that generate the nearby names are called "epsilon" functions, a reference to the mathematical convention of using the greek letter epsilon to represent small deviations. An NSEC record denying the existence of a wildcard may be generated in the same way. Since the NSEC record covering a non-existent wildcard is likely to be used in response to many queries, authoritative name servers using the techniques described here may want to pregenerate or cache that record and its corresponding RRSIG. For example, a query for an A record at the non-instantiated name might produce the following two NSEC records, the first denying the existence of the name and the second denying the existence of a wildcard: 3600 IN NSEC ( RRSIG NSEC ) \).com 3600 IN NSEC ( RRSIG NSEC ) Before answering a query with these records, an authoritative server must test for the existence of names between these endpoints. If the generated NSEC would cover existing names (e.g., or *, a better epsilon function may be used or the covered name closest to the QNAME could be used as the NSEC owner name or next name, as appropriate. If an existing name is used as the NSEC owner name, that name's real NSEC record MUST be returned. Using the same example, assuming an delegation exists, this record might be returned from the parent: 3600 IN NSEC ( NS DS RRSIG NSEC ) Like every authoritative record in the zone, each generated NSEC record MUST have corresponding RRSIGs generated using each algorithm (but not necessarily each DNSKEY) in the zone's DNSKEY RRset, as described in RFC 4035 [3] Section 2.2. To minimize the number of signatures that must be generated, a zone may wish to limit the number of algorithms in its DNSKEY RRset. 4. Better Epsilon Functions Section 6.1 of RFC 4034 defines a strict ordering of DNS names. Working backward from that definition, it should be possible to define epsilon functions that generate the immediately following and preceding names, respectively. This document does not define such functions. Instead, this section presents functions that come reasonably close to the perfect ones. As described above, an authoritative server should still ensure than no generated NSEC covers any existing name. To increment a name, add a leading label with a single null (zero- value) octet. To decrement a name, decrement the last character of the leftmost label, then fill that label to a length of 63 octets with octets of value 255. To decrement a null (zero-value) octet, remove the octet -- if an empty label is left, remove the label. Defining this function numerically: fill the leftmost label to its maximum length with zeros (numeric, not ASCII zeros) and subtract one. In response to a query for the non-existent name, these functions produce NSEC records of the following: fon\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255 \255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255 \255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255 \255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255 \ 3600 IN NSEC \ ( NSEC RRSIG ) \)\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255 \255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255 \255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255 \255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255\255 \255\ 3600 IN NSEC \000.* ( NSEC RRSIG ) The first of these NSEC RRs proves that no exact match for exists, and the second proves that there is no wildcard in Both of these functions are imperfect: they do not take into account constraints on number of labels in a name nor total length of a name. As noted in the previous section, though, this technique does not depend on the use of perfect epsilon functions: it is sufficient to test whether any instantiated names fall into the span covered by the generated NSEC and, if so, substitute those instantiated owner names for the NSEC owner name or next name, as appropriate. 5. Security Considerations This approach requires on-demand generation of RRSIG records. This creates several new vulnerabilities. First, on-demand signing requires that a zone's authoritative servers have access to its private keys. Storing private keys on well-known Internet-accessible servers may make them more vulnerable to unintended disclosure. Second, since generation of digital signatures tends to be computationally demanding, the requirement for on-demand signing makes authoritative servers vulnerable to a denial of service attack. Last, if the epsilon functions are predictable, on-demand signing may enable a chosen-plaintext attack on a zone's private keys. Zones using this approach should attempt to use cryptographic algorithms that are resistant to chosen-plaintext attacks. It is worth noting that although DNSSEC has a "mandatory to implement" algorithm, that is a requirement on resolvers and validators -- there is no requirement that a zone be signed with any given algorithm. The success of using minimally covering NSEC records to prevent zone walking depends greatly on the quality of the epsilon functions chosen. An increment function that chooses a name obviously derived from the next instantiated name may be easily reverse engineered, destroying the value of this technique. An increment function that always returns a name close to the next instantiated name is likewise a poor choice. Good choices of epsilon functions are the ones that produce the immediately following and preceding names, respectively, though zone administrators may wish to use less perfect functions that return more human-friendly names than the functions described in Section 4 above. Another obvious but misguided concern is the danger from synthesized NSEC records being replayed. It is possible for an attacker to replay an old but still validly signed NSEC record after a new name has been added in the span covered by that NSEC, incorrectly proving that there is no record at that name. This danger exists with DNSSEC as defined in [3]. The techniques described here actually decrease the danger, since the span covered by any NSEC record is smaller than before. Choosing better epsilon functions will further reduce this danger. 6. Acknowledgements Many individuals contributed to this design. They include, in addition to the authors of this document, Olaf Kolkman, Ed Lewis, Peter Koch, Matt Larson, David Blacka, Suzanne Woolf, Jaap Akkerhuis, Jakob Schlyter, Bill Manning, and Joao Damas. In addition, the editors would like to thank Ed Lewis, Scott Rose, and David Blacka for their careful review of the document. 7. Normative References [1] Arends, R., Austein, R., Larson, M., Massey, D., and S. Rose, "DNS Security Introduction and Requirements", RFC 4033, March 2005. [2] Arends, R., Austein, R., Larson, M., Massey, D., and S. Rose, "Resource Records for the DNS Security Extensions", RFC 4034, March 2005. [3] Arends, R., Austein, R., Larson, M., Massey, D., and S. Rose, "Protocol Modifications for the DNS Security Extensions", RFC 4035, March 2005. [4] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997. Authors' Addresses Samuel Weiler SPARTA, Inc. 7075 Samuel Morse Drive Columbia, Maryland 21046 US EMail: Johan Ihren Autonomica AB Bellmansgatan 30 Stockholm SE-118 47 Sweden EMail: Full Copyright Statement Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006). This document is subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions contained in BCP 78, and except as set forth therein, the authors retain all their rights. This document and the information contained herein are provided on an "AS IS" basis and THE CONTRIBUTOR, THE ORGANIZATION HE/SHE REPRESENTS OR IS SPONSORED BY (IF ANY), THE INTERNET SOCIETY AND THE INTERNET ENGINEERING TASK FORCE DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY WARRANTY THAT THE USE OF THE INFORMATION HEREIN WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY RIGHTS OR ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. Intellectual Property The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in this document or the extent to which any license under such rights might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has made any independent effort to identify any such rights. Information on the procedures with respect to rights in RFC documents can be found in BCP 78 and BCP 79. Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use of such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this specification can be obtained from the IETF on-line IPR repository at The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any copyrights, patents or patent applications, or other proprietary rights that may cover technology that may be required to implement this standard. Please address the information to the IETF at Acknowledgement Funding for the RFC Editor function is provided by the IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA).