DNS Operations T. Finch
Internet-Draft University of Cambridge
Updates: 8624 (if approved) March 9, 2020
Intended status: Standards Track
Expires: September 10, 2020

Hardening DNSSEC against collision weaknesses in SHA-1 and other cryptographic hash algorithms


DNSSEC deployments have often used the SHA-1 cryptographic hash algorithm to provide authentication of DNS data. This document explains why SHA-1 is no longer secure for this purpose, and deprecates its use in DNSSEC signatures. This document updates RFC 8624.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Since 2005, SHA-1 has been known to be much weaker than it was designed to be. Over the last 5 years there has been a series of increasingly powerful demonstrations that SHA-1's weaknesses can be exploited in practice. In January 2020, Gaëtan Leurent and Thomas Peyrin announced a chosen-prefix collision for SHA-1 [SHA-mbles]. This was the first practical break of SHA-1 as used in cryptographic signatures.

DNSSEC uses cryptographic signatures to authenticate DNS data. Its signature algorithms [DNSKEY-IANA] include RSASHA1 (5) and RSASHA1-NSEC3-SHA1 (7) which are vulnerable to chosen-prefix collisions in SHA-1, as described in Section 3. This document deprecates these vulnerable algorithms (Section 2).

SHA-1 has been deprecated in other situations for several years (see Appendix B). This document's timetable for deprecating SHA-1 in DNSSEC (Section 2) is based on those examples, adapted for the particulars of the DNS. Section 7 discusses the trade-offs between speedy deprecation and security.

A collision attack can be used against DNSSEC in a number of ways, some of which are explored in Section 5. Certain weaknesses in the way DNSSEC is sometimes deployed can make collision attacks easier to carry out, or make their consequences more severe. Although the only sure way to protect against collision attacks is to use a secure algorithm (Section 2), Section 4 and Section 5 outline some partial mitigations.

The DNS uses SHA-1 for a number of other less vulnerable purposes, as outlined in section Section 6.

1.1. Terminology

The key words MUST, MUST NOT, REQUIRED, SHALL, SHALL NOT, SHOULD, SHOULD NOT, RECOMMENDED, MAY, and OPTIONAL in this document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

2. Deprecating SHA-1 in DNSSEC

The following table lists the implementation recommendations for DNSKEY algorithms [DNSKEY-IANA]. The change from [RFC8624] section 3.1 is to deprecate algorithms 5 and 7.

No. Mnemonic DNSSEC Signing DNSSEC Validation

The following subsections have recommended timelines for deprecating algorithms 5 and 7 in specific situations.

2.1. DNSSEC signing software

DNSSEC key management and zone signing software MUST remove support for algorithms 5 and 7 in their next feature release.

2.2. DNS hosting services

Authoritative DNS hosting services that include DNSSEC signing as part of the service SHOULD NOT generate a new key with algorithms 5 or 7 for a zone that does not already have a key with the same algorithm. They MUST NOT do so after the end of 2020.

Zones signed with algorithms 5 or 7 SHOULD be rolled over to a mandatory algorithm (13 or 8) as soon as possible. The rollovers MUST be complete before the end of 2021.

2.3. DNSSEC validating software

Validating resolvers SHOULD have a build-time or run-time option to disable selected DNSKEY algorithms, that is, to treat them as unknown or insecure.

Algorithms 5 and 7 MUST be disabled in 2022 at the latest. If SHA-1 becomes significantly weaker before then, Algorithms 5 and 7 MUST be disabled in a security patch release.

2.4. DNS resolver services

Validating resolvers MUST treat algorithms 5 and 7 as unknown or insecure after the start of 2022, or earlier if SHA-1 becomes significantly weaker before then.

3. Collision attacks against DNSSEC

This section explains how collisions in cryptographic functions (such as SHA-1) can be used to break DNSSEC data authentication. Section 5 has some more specific examples of how this break can be used to mount attacks.

3.1. Chosen-prefix collisions

With hash functions like SHA-1, a chosen-prefix collision attack uses two messages that have a structure like this:

message-1:  | prefix-1 | collide-1 | suffix |

message-2:  | prefix-2 | collide-2 | suffix |

The two prefixes are entirely under the attacker's control.

The collision blocks are calculated to make the hashes collide. They look like binary junk and cannot be made to conform to any particular syntax. The collision blocks are 588 bytes long in the best attack on SHA-1 at the time of writing [SHA-mbles].

The messages may need a suffix so that they are syntactically valid, but this must be the same in both messages.

3.2. Collision attacks and signatures

A signature algorithm like RSASHA1 takes a cryptographic hash of the message (using SHA-1 in this case) and uses an asymmetric algorithm (RSA in this case) to turn the hash into a signature.

If the hash function is vulnerable, like SHA-1, then an attacker can:

The copied signature works on both the innocuous and malicious messages because their hashes match.

It is usually less easy than this, because in most protocols part of the innocuous message is chosen by the signer, so the attacker needs to predict how the signer will work.

3.3. Breaking DNSSEC

To use a collision attack against DNSSEC, the innoccuous and malicious messages are DNS RRsets.

DNSSEC provides strong authentication for DNS data. Within the DNS, it prevents spoofing attacks and cache poisoning attacks. For applications that use the DNS, DNSSEC can provide strong authentication for application identifiers, such as a host name and associated public key or challenge/response. Breaking DNSSEC means subverting this authentication.

If an attacker has even very limited access to update a DNS zone that uses SHA-1 (algorithm 5 or 7), the attacker can use a collision attack to gain control over other names in the same zone.

Our attacker is able to update the DNS for certain innoccuous records. The zone owner signs the updated innoccuous records and publishes the new records and RRSIG in the zone. The attacker can then make a DNS query for the updated records, and copy the signature field from the innoccuous RRSIG into the signature field of the attacker's malicious RRSIG. The attacker can use the signed malicious RRset as part of a DNS spoofing or cache poisoning attack. Section 5 has some examples.

3.4. Collision attacks and RRSIG records

When the attacker calculates the collision blocks, there is a bit more to the innoccuous and malicious messages than just the RRsets. They need to be in the format used for constructing RRSIG records specified in [RFC4034] section and sketched in the diagram below:

| RRSIG RDATA                        |
| ... more records ...               |
|                 collision blocks ) |

The RRSIG RDATA is controlled by the signer, and must be predicted by the attacker. Section 4 discusses how easy it is to predict the RRSIG RDATA fields.

The DNS records are under the attacker's control, with some limitations:

4. Hardening RRSIG records

To perform a collision attack against DNSSEC, the attacker needs to know the RRSIG RDATA fields that the zone owner will use when signing the attacker's innoccuous records.

The RRSIG RDATA fields are specified in [RFC4034] section 3.1. They are:

We can see that all of these fields are known to the attacker, apart from the inception and expiration times.

4.1. Predicting inception and expiration times

There are a number of common ways for DNSSEC signers to set signature inception and expiration times:

So in many cases an attacker can predict all the RRSIG RDATA fields with little difficulty.

4.2. Unpredictable X.509 certificates

(A brief diversion to provide some rationale for the next sub-section.)

In 2008 a chosen-prefix collision attack against MD5 was used to obtain an illegitimate CA certificate signed by a commercial CA [ROGUE-CA]. A key part of this attack was to predict the serial number and validity period assigned by the commercial CA to the innocuous certificate so that its MD5 hash would collide with the malicious rogue CA certificate.

Following this attack, certificate authorities started using random serial numbers instead of sequential numbers. In 2016 the CA/Browser forum baseline requirements were amended to increase the amount of randomness required from 20 bits to 64 bits [CABforum2016]. This extra hardening was in addition to deprecating SHA-1 [CABforum2014].

4.3. Less predictable RRSIG records

In addition to upgrading to a secure algorithm (Section 2), DNSSEC signers can provide extra protection against possible collision attacks by adding entropy to make RRSIG inception and expiration times less predictable.

The inception time SHOULD include at least 12 bits of output from a CSPRNG. (2^12 seconds is slightly more than an hour.) For example, set the inception time to the signing time minus an hour minus the entropy.

The expiration time SHOULD include output from a CSPRNG equivalent to about 25% of the nominal validity period. For instance, 19 bits (6 days) if the validity period is 1 month, or 17 bits (1.5 days) if the validity period is 1 week. For example, set the expiration time to the signing time plus 75% of the validity period plus the entropy.

A signer SHOULD change its signature validity times frequently, for example, different times for each RRset, or different times each second. This is so that an attacker cannot observe the signer's current validity period and perform a collision attack before the period changes.

5. Collision attacks and other DNS record types

This section discusses how a SHA-1 collision attack can be used with various DNS record types. For an RRtype to be suitable it needs to have a large RDATA with basically no internal structure, to accommodate the collision blocks, which are 588 bytes long in the best attack on SHA-1 at the time of writing [SHA-mbles].

There are a number of weaknesses that make a collision attack easier to carry out, or which make the consequences of an attack more severe. This section describes some mitigations for these weaknesses, but note that these mitigations do not prevent collision attacks. The main defence is to upgrade zones to a secure algorithm (Section 2) and in many cases that will be easier than the additional mitigations outlined below.

5.1. TXT records

TXT records are an attractive vehicle for a collision attack.

Access to update TXT records might be granted to support things like ACME dns-01 challenges [RFC8555], so they can be useful as an attacker's innoccuous records.

As the target of an attacker's malicious records, TXT records have several interesting functions that might be useful to an attacker, including ACME [RFC8555], DKIM [RFC6376], SPF [RFC7208], authorization to provision cloud services, etc.

5.1.1. Syntax of TXT records

A TXT record's RDATA contains a sequence of strings, each of which is a length octet followed by up to 255 octets of data. A single string is too small to accommodate SHA-1 collision blocks.

An attacker can cope with this difficulty by not worrying about how the string lengths end up inside a collision block. At the end of the block there will be some unpredictable length of string that needs to be filled; the attacker can append 255 zero bytes, which will fill the remainder of the unknown string. The excess zero bytes will parse as a sequence of zero-length strings. Although the unfilled string lengths may be different in the inoccuous and malicious records, they are both fixed by an identical suffix of 255 zeroes.

5.1.2. Mitigating TXT record attacks

Some attacks might be prevented by imposing stricter requirements on TXT records, since most practical uses do not put un-encoded binary data in TXT records.

An authoritative server MAY reject TXT records in DNS UPDATEs and zone files if the strings contain ASCII control characters or invalid UTF-8. This strict checking SHOULD be configurable so that zone owners can use unrestricted binary in TXT records if they wish.

5.2. CAA records

An attacker might want to spoof certificate authority authorization records [RFC8659] in order to obtain an illegitimate X.509 certificate.

A CAA record contains tag and value strings. The length of the value is unrestricted, which makes it easy to accommodate collision blocks.

To mitigate collision attacks on CAA records, the specifications for CAA record syntax and how CAA records are processed by certificate authorities could be tightened up to reject a CAA RRset unless it is all printable ASCII.

5.3. SSHFP records

An SSHFP record contains a fingerprint of a server public key [RFC4255]. They are attractive as the target of a spoofing attack.

Access to update SSHFP records might be granted so that servers can register themselves in the DNS, so SSHFP records can be useful as an attacker's innoccuous records.

The length of an SSHFP record is implied by its fingerprint type field, but they can be used in collision attacks if the length is not strictly checked, or if unknown fingerprint types are allowed.

Authoritative DNS servers MAY reject SSHFP records with unknown fingerprint types or mismatched lengths in DNS UPDATEs and zone files. SSH clients MAY reject an entire SSHFP RRset if any record has a fingerprint longer than 64 bytes. (Assuming that fingerprints longer than 512 bits do not make sense.)

5.4. DNSKEY records

There are a couple of DNSSEC key management models that can make the consequences of a collision attack worse.

5.4.1. Shared keys

Normally each zone has its own DNSSEC keys, so a collision attack only works when the attacker's inoccuous and malicious records are in the same zone.

Some DNSSEC deployments share the same keys across multiple zones. This allows an attacker to target names in any zone that uses the same key. For example, if this is a multi-tenant hosting environment, the attacker could sign up with their own domain and use that to perform collision attacks against other customers on the same platform.

DNS hosting services and DNSSEC signing software SHOULD NOT allow keys to be shared between multiple zones.

5.4.2. Combined signing keys

The traditional DNSSEC setup has two keys for a zone: a key-signing key (KSK) that is only used to sign the zone's DNSKEY RRset; and a zone-signing key (ZSK) which signs the other records in the zone.

There is a simpler setup in which a zone has only one key: a combined signing key (CSK) which signs all the records in the zone.

The DNSKEY RRset is a huge target in a zone that is vulnerable to collision attacks: if the attacker can get their own public key into a signed DNSKEY RRset then one successful collision attack can be used to spoof any record in the zone.

In a zone with split ZSK/KSK, the DNSKEY RRset is only trusted if it is signed by the KSK, but collision attacks can only obtain a RRset signed by the ZSK.

In a zone with a CSK the attacker can obtain a malicious trusted DNSKEY RRset using a collision attack.

DNS hosting services and DNSSEC signing software SHOULD encourage split ZSK/KSK configurations.

5.5. DS records

Top-level domains are the most prominent example of zones that can be updated by many different clients from mutually antagonistic organizations.

TLDs are typically updated via EPP [RFC5730]. The only delegation RRtype it might be possible to use for collision attacks are DS records. (The other delegation records, NS and glue addresses, are not signed and their syntax is too constrained.)

Collision attacks using DS records SHOULD be prevented as follows:

6. Other uses of SHA-1 in the DNS

6.1. DS and CDS records

A DS or CDS record securely identifies a DNSKEY record using a cryptographic digest ([RFC4034] section 5). One of the digest types is SHA-1. It is deprecated by [RFC8624].

For this purpose, the digest needs preimage security, which SHA-1 still has, and collision attacks do not affect it.

6.2. NSEC3 records

NSEC3 is an alternative mechanism for authenticated denial of existence in DNSSEC. It is based on SHA-1 hashes of domain names. The NSEC3 specification [RFC5155] discusses collisions in some detail.

NSEC3 can be attacked with an identical-prefix collision, which is simpler than the chosen-prefix collisions that are the main subject of this document. The best collision known at the time of writing [SHAttered] uses two SHA-1 input blocks (128 bytes) so a collision could in principle be made to fit into a domain name for an attack on NSEC3. However it will be difficult to make the colliding domain names conform to host name syntax, and the attack will be futile because the signer can defeat it by changing its NSEC3 salt ([RFC5155] section C.2.1).

6.3. SSHFP records

An SSHFP record securely identifies an SSH server public key using a cryptographic digest [RFC4255]. Although SSHFP SHA-1 digests have not yet been deprecated, SHA-256 is preferred [RFC6594].

For SSHFP records the digest needs preimage security, which SHA-1 still has, and collision attacks do not affect it.

6.4. TSIG authentication

TSIG is a DNS extension for secret-key transaction authentication [I-D.ietf-dnsop-rfc2845bis]. Its hmac-sha1 algorithm is deprecated. Collision attacks do not affect HMAC SHA-1.

7. Security considerations

We find ourselves in an awkward and embarrassing situation. As Appendix B shows, there has been plenty of warning about the weakness of SHA-1. Other parts of the industry started making efforts to deprecate it years ago. But DNSSEC has been complacent.

At the time of writing, there are 1516 top-level domains, of which 1102 use secure DNSSEC algorithms, 274 use algorithms 5 or 7 (RSA SHA-1), and 140 are insecure. In the reverse DNS, 3 RIRs use secure DNSSEC algorithms, 2 RIRs use algorithm 5, and many of the non-RIR legacy delegations are insecure.

7.1. Staying secure

There are still many domains that depend on SHA-1 to secure applications that use DNSSEC, such as issuing TLS certificates [RFC8659] [RFC8555], sending inter-domain email [RFC7672], and authenticating SSH servers [RFC4255].

Some applications use the "authenticated data" (AD bit) signal from DNSSEC to make security decisions, and will fail if it unexpectedly switches off. Other applications use DNSSEC passively and will silently go insecure. In either case we would prefer them to continue working as if secure, as long as SHA-1 is still significantly better than insecure DNS.

7.2. When to declare SHA-1 insecure

At the time of writing, a SHA-1 chosen-prefix collision costs less than US$100,000 in computer time, takes about a month, and requires the attention of expert cryptanalysts. Attacks seem to be getting better by a factor of 3 or 4 per year.

There is not much time before collisions become affordable, and possible for non-experts to calculate. Section 2 hopes this will not happen within the next 2 years.

This 2 year guess is likely to be too optimistic, so DNSSEC validators need to be prepared to disable support for SHA-1 by configuration change or security patch as soon as a significantly improved attack on SHA-1 is announced.

7.3. Avoiding unwanted insecurity

The reason for not deprecating SHA-1 immediately is to allow time to perform algorithm rollovers, so that zones will continue to be secure.

Abruptly forcing SHA-1 zones to be treated as insecure may encourage their operators to leave them insecure, instead of encouraging them to upgrade to a secure algorithm.

8. IANA considerations

This document has no IANA actions.

9. References

9.1. Normative References

[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997.
[RFC4034] Arends, R., Austein, R., Larson, M., Massey, D. and S. Rose, "Resource Records for the DNS Security Extensions", RFC 4034, DOI 10.17487/RFC4034, March 2005.
[RFC8624] Wouters, P. and O. Sury, "Algorithm Implementation Requirements and Usage Guidance for DNSSEC", RFC 8624, DOI 10.17487/RFC8624, June 2019.

9.2. Informative References

[CABforum2014] CA/Browser Forum, "Ballot 118 - SHA-1 Sunset", October 2014.
[CABforum2016] CA/Browser Forum, "Ballot 164 - Certificate Serial Number Entropy", September 2016.
[Cochran2007] Cochran, M., "Notes on the Wang et al. 2^63 SHA-1 Differential Path", 2007.
[DNSKEY-IANA] IANA, "Domain Name System Security (DNSSEC) Algorithm Numbers", 2017.
[I-D.ietf-dnsop-rfc2845bis] Dupont, F., Morris, S., Vixie, P., Eastlake, D., Gudmundsson, O. and B. Wellington, "Secret Key Transaction Authentication for DNS (TSIG)", Internet-Draft draft-ietf-dnsop-rfc2845bis-07, February 2020.
[NIST-SP800-131A] National Institute of Standards and Technology, "Recommendation for Transitioning the Use of CryptographicAlgorithms and Key Lengths", January 2011.
[NIST2006] National Institute of Standards and Technology, "NIST Comments on Cryptanalytic Attacks on SHA-1", 2006.
[RFC4255] Schlyter, J. and W. Griffin, "Using DNS to Securely Publish Secure Shell (SSH) Key Fingerprints", RFC 4255, DOI 10.17487/RFC4255, January 2006.
[RFC5155] Laurie, B., Sisson, G., Arends, R. and D. Blacka, "DNS Security (DNSSEC) Hashed Authenticated Denial of Existence", RFC 5155, DOI 10.17487/RFC5155, March 2008.
[RFC5730] Hollenbeck, S., "Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP)", STD 69, RFC 5730, DOI 10.17487/RFC5730, August 2009.
[RFC6376] Crocker, D., Hansen, T. and M. Kucherawy, "DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) Signatures", STD 76, RFC 6376, DOI 10.17487/RFC6376, September 2011.
[RFC6594] Sury, O., "Use of the SHA-256 Algorithm with RSA, Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA), and Elliptic Curve DSA (ECDSA) in SSHFP Resource Records", RFC 6594, DOI 10.17487/RFC6594, April 2012.
[RFC6944] Rose, S., "Applicability Statement: DNS Security (DNSSEC) DNSKEY Algorithm Implementation Status", RFC 6944, DOI 10.17487/RFC6944, April 2013.
[RFC7208] Kitterman, S., "Sender Policy Framework (SPF) for Authorizing Use of Domains in Email, Version 1", RFC 7208, DOI 10.17487/RFC7208, April 2014.
[RFC7672] Dukhovni, V. and W. Hardaker, "SMTP Security via Opportunistic DNS-Based Authentication of Named Entities (DANE) Transport Layer Security (TLS)", RFC 7672, DOI 10.17487/RFC7672, October 2015.
[RFC8555] Barnes, R., Hoffman-Andrews, J., McCarney, D. and J. Kasten, "Automatic Certificate Management Environment (ACME)", RFC 8555, DOI 10.17487/RFC8555, March 2019.
[RFC8659] Hallam-Baker, P., Stradling, R. and J. Hoffman-Andrews, "DNS Certification Authority Authorization (CAA) Resource Record", RFC 8659, DOI 10.17487/RFC8659, November 2019.
[ROGUE-CA] Sotirov, A., Stevens, M., Appelbaum, J., Lenstra, A., Molnar, D., Osvik, D. and B. de Weger, "Creating a rogue CA certificate", December 2008.
[ROOT-DNSSEC] Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers and VeriSign, Inc., "Information about DNSSEC for the Root Zone", 2010.
[SHA-mbles] Leurent, G. and T. Peyrin, "SHA-1 is a Shambles: First Chosen-Prefix Collision on SHA-1 and Application to the PGP Web of Trust", January 2020.
[SHAppening] Stevens, M., Karpman, P. and T. Peyrin, "Freestart collision for full SHA-1", October 2015.
[SHAttered] Stevens, M., Bursztein, E., Karpman, P., Albertini, A. and Y. Markov, "The first collision for full SHA-1", February 2017.
[Wang2005] Wang, X., Yin, Y. and H. Yu, "Finding Collisions in the Full SHA-1", 2005.

Appendix A. Acknowledgments

Thanks to Viktor Dukhovni for helpful discussions about the implications of the SHA-1 chosen-prefix collision.

Appendix B. Timeline

Author's Address

Tony Finch University of Cambridge University Information Services Roger Needham Building 7 JJ Thomson Avenue Cambridge, CB3 0RB England EMail: dot@dotat.at