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Disadvantages of DNSSEC

DNSSEC, like many things in this world, is not without its own problems. Below are a few challenges and disadvantages that DNSSEC faces.

  1. Increased, well, everything: With DNSSEC, signed zones are larger, thus taking up more disk space; for DNSSEC-aware servers, the additional cryptographic computation usually results in increased system load; and the network packets are bigger, possibly putting more strains on the network infrastructure.
  2. Different security considerations: DNSSEC addresses many security concerns, most notably cache poisoning. But at the same time, it may introduce a set of different security considerations, such as amplification attack and zone enumeration through NSEC. These new concerns are still being identified and addressed by the Internet community.
  3. More complexity: If you have read this far, you probably already concluded this yourself. With additional resource records, keys, signatures, rotations, DNSSEC adds a lot more moving pieces on top of the existing DNS machine. The job of the DNS administrator changes, as DNS becomes the new secure repository of everything from spam avoidance to encryption keys, and the amount of work involved to troubleshoot a DNS-related issue becomes more challenging.
  4. Increased fragility: The increased complexity means more opportunities for things to go wrong. In the absence of DNSSEC, DNS was essentially "add something to the zone and forget". With DNSSEC, each new component - re-signing, key rollover, interaction with parent zone, key management - adds more scope for error. It is entirely possible that the failure to validate a name is down to errors on the part of one or more zone operators rather than the result of a deliberate attack on the DNS.
  5. New maintenance tasks: Even if your new secure DNS infrastructure runs without any hiccups or security breaches, it still requires regular attention, from re-signing to key rollovers. While most of these can be automated, some of the tasks, such as KSK rollover, remain manual for the time being.
  6. Not enough people are using it today: while it's estimated as of late 2016, that roughly 28% of the global Internet DNS traffic is validating [5] , that doesn't mean that many of the DNS zones are actually signed. What this means is, if you signed your company's zone today, only less than 30% of the Internet users are taking advantage of this extra security. It gets worse: with less than 1% of the .com domains signed, if you enabled DNSSEC validation today, it's not likely to buy you or your users a whole lot more protection until these popular domains names decide to sign their zones.

The last point may have more impact than you realize. Consider this: HTTP and HTTPS traffic make up majority of the web. While you may have secured your DNS infrastructure through DNSSEC, if your web hosting is outsourced to a third party that does not yet support DNSSEC in their own domain, or if your web page loads contents and components from insecure domains, the end users may experience validation problems when trying to access your web page. For example, although I may have signed the zone isc.org, but my web address www.isc.org is actually a CNAME to 96d719dc5612761de516fc.random-cloud-provider.com. As long as random-cloud-provider.com remains an insecure DNS zone, users cannot fully validate everything when they visit my web page and could be redirected elsewhere by a cache poisoning attack.

[5] based on APNIC statistics at http://stats.labs.apnic.net/dnssec/XA

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