What happens if you want to transfer a DNSSEC-signed domain from one DNS operator to another? Perhaps you are consolidating domains into one operator… or the new operator has better security… or is less expensive…
It turns out that there has not been an easy way to do this while ensuring that the DNSSEC “chain-of-trust” remains intact. If the old DNS operator (often referred to as the “losing operator” when talking about domain transfers) just stops serving DNS records, the new DNS operator (referred to as the “gaining operator“) can start serving DNS records – but there will be a time delay while a new DS record is recorded in the registry for the top-level domain (TLD) for whatever domain is being transferred. During that time, validation would fail because the DNSSEC records being served would not match the DS record contained in the TLD registry. This might only be a brief period of time… but as we start using DNSSEC more widely – and particularly for services like DANE that provide added integrity to SSL interactions – keeping the domain “always secure” will become increasingly important.
One solution that has been suggested – and successfully demonstrated! – is that of “EPP keyrelay” proposed by SIDN, the registry operator for .NL. Antoin Verschuren from SIDN Labs wrote up this solution in a document titled “EPP keyrelay: solving the last obstacle for DNSSEC deployment” (PDF). The mechanism has also been submitted as an Internet Draft to the IETF as: draft-gieben-epp-keyrelay.
Essentially, the mechanism introduces a new command into the Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP) used by DNS operators, registrars and registries and uses registry as a broker to transfer DNSSEC key information from the new DNS operator to the old DNS operator as part of the transfer process.
The document and Internet-Draft do indeed present an interesting solution to this challenge of domain transfer. Both are being discussed within the larger DNSSEC and DNS community – and I know that Antoin and the team at SIDN Labs would welcome further feedback – and implementation, of course! It’s great to have SIDN Labs providing a solution and we look forward to seeing how this work evolves – we definitely do need to ensure that domains can remain “always secure”, even when being transfered.