Technology

Commerce upgrades Internet’s security

The Department of Commerce has upgraded the security for the Domain
Name System, a critical component of the Internet infrastructure.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is the central directory for the Internet that assigns user-friendly domain names (www.TheHill.com) to numeric web addresses to make it easier for the public to navigate. The DNS was not designed with strong security mechanisms, enabling hackers to redirect users to malicious sites.

Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced Friday that they teamed up with the private sector entities that manage the DNS to deploy an internationally recognized security suite known as DNSSEC. The goal is to encourage adoption of the security standard at every level of the Internet infrastructure from ISPs to local network providers.

“Improving the trustworthiness, robustness and scaling of the Internet’s core infrastructure is an activity that lines up strongly with NIST’s mission, and we have been contributing to design, standardization and deployment of DNSSEC technology for several years,” said NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.

A senior government source said the new technology puts a tamper-proof seal on the DNS, making it extremely unlikely anyone will be able to corrupt the Internet’s main addressbook. DNSSEC is already being deployed on the .gov and .org domains, but Friday’s announcement means it’s likely to spread rapidly to the entire Internet.

Commerce took a year and a half to successfully deploy the new security program, but only after an extensive public comment period and six months of operational testing. Last year the department concluded a ten-year mission to privatize management of the DNS, which is now controlled by the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and VeriSign.

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