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  • Ensuring Security and Trust with NetScaler’s Automated DNSSEC Signature Rollover

    Nagaraj Harikar
    • Validation Status: Validated
      Summary: The article explores the crucial aspect of security and trust in the context of DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions) through the implementation of an automated DNSSEC Signature Rollover process.
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    Authors: Nagaraj Harikar, Dinesh Bansal

    In the realm of the internet infrastructure, DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions) plays a crucial role in safeguarding domain names and the associated data they point to. It employs cryptographic signatures to verify the authenticity and integrity of DNS records, preventing unauthorized modifications and protecting against DNS spoofing attacks. However, maintaining the effectiveness of DNSSEC requires regular key rollovers to ensure the continued validity of these signatures.

    Traditional key rollovers, often performed manually, can be a time-consuming and error-prone process. Automated DNSSEC signature rollover has emerged as a powerful and efficient solution to streamline this essential task.

    Understanding DNSSEC Key Rollover

    DNSSEC keys are employed to generate digital signatures that authenticate DNS records. These keys have a defined lifespan, and their timely renewal is essential for maintaining the integrity of DNSSEC protection. Key rollovers involve replacing the existing keys with new ones, ensuring that the cryptographic signatures remain valid and effective.

    Manual vs. Automated Key Rollover

    Manual key rollovers, while effective, can be cumbersome and prone to human error. As shown in the steps below, the process involves generating new keys, updating the DNS zone, and propagating the changes across the DNS hierarchy. This manual intervention can be time-consuming and increases the risk of errors, potentially leading to disruptions in DNS resolution.

    Figure 1: DNSSEC Key rollover steps

    Steps involved in creating a new key:

    1. The first step involves creating a new cryptographic key on NetScaler. This key can be either a Zone Signing Key (ZSK) or a Key Signing Key (KSK) (create DNS key). 
    2. In the second step, the newly created key is published. However, it cannot be used to sign any records (add DNS key).
    3. The published key is now active for use and is added to the zone to sign the zone (sign DNS zone).
    4. In the final step, the old key is deactivated and no longer used to sign any records (unsign DNS zone). Once the new signatures have been propagated and the old signatures are no longer needed, the old key is removed (remove DNS key).

    The entire process from step A to step D needs to be repeated in order to create a new ZSK or KSK.

    In the automated key rollover process, the steps from A to D are automated using the DNSSEC key rollover feature on NetScaler, which simplifies the key management and rollover tasks. For more information, refer to the Zone Maintenance documentation.

    Automatic Distribution of DNSSEC Keys in GSLB Deployments

    Earlier, if a global server load balancing (GSLB) domain was signed by a DNSSEC key that required a rollover, you had to create the keys on one of the GSLB site nodes and manually transfer these to other GSLB sites using scp or some other tool before they could be used. Now, this entire process can be automated by enabling the DNS zone transfer parameter and ensuring the AutomaticConfigSync option is enabled. For more information, refer to the Zone Maintenance for GSLB deployments.

    Benefits of Automated DNSSEC Signature Rollover

    Automated DNSSEC signature rollover offers several compelling advantages:

    1. Reduced Operational Overhead: Automation eliminates the need for manual intervention, freeing up IT staff to focus on other critical tasks.
    2. Enhanced Security: NetScaler can perform rollovers more consistently and accurately, minimizing the risk of human error and any potential security vulnerabilities.
    3. Improved Efficiency: Automation streamlines the rollover process, reducing the time and resources required to maintain DNSSEC protection.
    4. Reduced Disruptions: NetScaler can perform rollovers without disrupting DNS resolution, ensuring consistent service availability.

    Implementing Automated DNSSEC Signature Rollover


    As mentioned above, there are two types of keys used by DNSSEC: Zone Signing Key (ZSK) and Key Signing Key (KSK). ZSK-type key is used to sign DNS resource records of various types such as A, AAAA, NS, SOA, etc. KSK-type key is used to sign DNSKEY records. Usually, the KSK-type key is created with a stronger algorithm and a bigger key size. 

    Figure 2: Automatic DNSSEC key rollover with NetScaler

    In the following example, we use the ‘create DNS key’ command to generate a DNSSEC key (example.ksk) of type KSK in zone example.com with key size 1024 using algorithm RSASHA256. Then we publish this key in the zone ‘add DNS key’ command with auto-rollover enabled.The key has an expiry period of ten days and needs to roll over five days before the expiry determined by the notification period. Then use the ‘sign DNS zone’ command to use this key to sign the records under DNS Zone ‘example.com.’ All these steps will be performed automatically at the time of rollover of the successor key since auto-rollover is enabled on the key. This process with a rollover period R is shown in Figure 2 above.

    Figure 3: Example of configuring auto-rollover of DNSSEC key


    The Automated DNSSEC Signature Rollover feature will be critical for maintaining the effectiveness of DNSSEC protection. Streamlining the key rollover process, it reduces administrative burden, enhances security, and ensures the integrity of DNS records. As the demand for secure and reliable DNS services grows, automated DNSSEC signature rollover will play an increasingly important role in safeguarding the internet infrastructure.
    NetScaler also supports DNS over TLS, which encrypts DNS queries, enhancing privacy and security by safeguarding against potential eavesdropping and manipulation of domain name resolution, ensuring a safer online experience.


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