February 23, 2010, 1:34 PM — Comcast unveiled on Tuesday an aggressive plan to deploy new DNS security mechanisms that are designed to protect Web site operators and consumers from a specific type of hacking attack that involves hijacking Web traffic and redirecting it to bogus sites.
In a blog post, Comcast said it has deployed DNS Security Extensions -- dubbed DNSSEC -- throughout its nationwide network and will immediately make validating servers available to any of its customers that want to experiment with this emerging security technique.
In addition to this public trial of DNSSEC validation services, Comcast says it will digitally sign all of its own domain names -- more than 5,000 in total -- using DNSSEC by the first quarter of 2011.
By the end of 2011, Comcast says it will have production-quality DNSSEC resolution services available to all of its business and residential customers.
"There is often talk about a chicken-and-egg sort of problem with DNSSEC. People don't want to sign their own domains with DNSSEC until people are validating signatures," says Jason Livingood, Executive Director of Internet Systems Engineering at Comcast. "We want to explain how we as an ISP have a road map for validating signatures with DNSSEC."
DNSSEC is an Internet standard that prevents spoofing attacks by allowing Web sites to authenticate their domain names and corresponding IP addresses using digital signatures and public-key encryption. When DNSSEC is fully deployed, Internet users will be able to verify that the Web sites they visit are digitally signed.
Comcast is believed to be the first U.S. carrier to announce plans to support resolution of DNSSEC queries for its customers as well as to sign its own domain names using DNSSEC.
"There are no large U.S. ISPs that have been publicly resolving and signing using DNSSEC in a large trial. But there are lots of people doing small little tests of DNSSEC," says Paul Hoffman, Director of the VPN Consortium and an active participant in DNSSEC standards development work by the Internet Engineering Task Force.
Hoffman says until now no U.S. carrier has committed to DNSSEC resolution, which could be a stumbling block to DNSSEC deployment.
"Many people have been worried that there would be a lot of people signing their domain names, and no one checking for the resolution," Hoffman says. "A major ISP doing both halves of the equation with DNSSEC is a big deal."