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Since the conceptualization of the internet, DNS security has been low on the totem pole of priorities. The researchers and developers who created the Internet never realized the global scale of adoption it would undergo. As a result, they kept the DNS simple and lacking in security protocols. Thus it is easy for skilled hackers to gain control. Sometimes use of DNS software can mitigate these attacks, but not a complete success is never guaranteed.
What is BIND? BIND or “Berkley Internet Name Domain” is an open source software that helps network devices connect to the internet by configuring their DNS (Domain Name Server). Maintained by the ISC (Internet Software Consortium), it is the most widely used DNS software in the market.
BIND provides a robust and stable platform that allows organizations to build distributed networks while following standard DNS protocols. It is flexible and supports numerous features making it handy to use. However, like all things on the internet, this software too has its share of problems.
Critical vulnerabilities in BIND were exposed when an extensive attack took down the network causing Internet to become unavailable for many users. The flaw, which affects all versions of BIND from 9.1.0 to 9.10.2-P2, was exploited by hackers to crash DNS servers that are powered by the software.
This is a significant threat because even a single packet can corrupt both authoritative and recursive DNS servers. Authoritative servers are those that keep track of records for one or more domain names. Recursive DNS servers, on the other hand, connect devices to a network by searching through the DNS hierarchy till it reaches an authoritative DNS server that will satisfy the query. The information is then retrieved and relayed to the resource that requested it. Most computers and routers use the recursive DNS server.Thus, if the servers crash, the entire network will not be able to access the Internet.
To combat this flaw, ISC released a patch that must be added to the software. Since it is impossible to train the system to recognize a packet a packet with malicious intent, there is no configuration or work around the hole. Patching remains the only option.
ISC engineer Michael McNally has predicted that the attack code will soon become available to the general public since it is not difficult to reverse engineer it from the patch provided thereby exposing the flaw to the public. In fact, a security expert had already developed an attack kit, he claimed, and it wouldn’t be long before others with more nefarious intentions followed.
What this means
This is not the first time that BIND has been the subject of a security controversy. Earlier versions like BIND 4 and BIND 8 were riddled with fatal problems. ISC has maintained a list of all bugs and issues discovered in its releases and it is by no means a short one. Some say this should be the final nail in BIND’s coffin.
Robert Graham, CEO of Errata Security, has opined that the issue lies not with individual holes but at the design level. He claims that the increasing number of features present in BIND makes it too unwieldy and prone to security hazards. If he so desired, he could crash all of BIND’s servers in an hour with a tool called masscan. Until BIND scraps the lesser used features, like the TKEY one which was the source of this bug, the software will never be safe to use.
Despite the CEO’s staunch opposition, BIND remains one of the most popular DNS software to date. It is the one most engineers are familiar with and thus reluctant to replace. Thus, unless a complete system overhaul is undertaken, it is imperative that you invest in additional DNS security software.