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Key Storage

Public Key Storage

The beauty of a public key cryptography system is that the public key portion can and should be distributed to as many people as possible. As the administrator, you may want to keep the public keys on an easily accessible file system for operational ease, but there is no need to securely store them, since both ZSK and KSK public keys are published in the zone data as DNSKEY resource records.

Additionally, a hash of the KSK public key is also uploaded to the parent zone (see the section called “Working with Parent Zone” for more details), and is published by the parent zone as DS records.

Private Key Storage

Ideally, private keys should be stored offline, in secure devices such as a smart card. Operationally, however, this creates certain challenges, since we need the private key to create RRSIG resource records, and it would be a hassle to bring the private key out of storage every time the zone file changes or when signatures expire.

A common approach to strike the balance between security and practicality is to have two sets of keys, a ZSK set, and a KSK set. ZSK private key is used to sign zone data, and can be kept online for ease of use; KSK private key is used to sign just the DNSKEY (the ZSK), it is used less frequently, and can be stored in a much more secure and restricted fashion.

For example, a KSK private key stored on a USB flash drive that is kept in a fireproof safe, only brought online once a year to sign a new pair of ZSK, combined with a ZSK private key stored on the network file-system available for routine use, maybe be a good balance between operational flexibility and security.

And if you need to change your keys, please see the section called “Key Rollovers”.

Hardware Security Modules (HSM)

A Hardware Security Module (HSM) comes in different shapes and sizes, but as the name indicates, it's a physical device or devices, usually with some or all of the following features:

  • Tamper-resistant key storage
  • Strong random number generation
  • Hardware for faster cryptographic operations

Most organizations do not incorporate HSMs into their security practices due to cost and the added operational complexity.

BIND supports PKCS #11 (Public Key Cryptography Standard #11) for communication with HSMs and other cryptographic support devices. For more information on how to configure BIND to work with HSMs, please refer to the BIND 9 Administrator Reference Manual.

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