Internet-Draft dnssec-bootstrapping April 2022
Thomassen & Wisiol Expires 24 October 2022 [Page]
DNSOP Working Group
Intended Status:
Standards Track
P. Thomassen
deSEC, Secure Systems Engineering
N. Wisiol
deSEC, Technische Universität Berlin

Automatic DNSSEC Bootstrapping using Authenticated Signals from the Zone's Operator


This document introduces an in-band method for DNS operators to publish arbitrary information about the zones they are authoritative for, in an authenticated fashion and on a per-zone basis. The mechanism allows managed DNS operators to securely announce DNSSEC key parameters for zones under their management, including for zones that are not currently securely delegated.

Whenever DS records are absent for a zone's delegation, this signal enables the parent's registry or registrar to cryptographically validate the CDS/CDNSKEY records found at the child's apex. The parent can then provision DS records for the delegation without resorting to out-of-band validation or weaker types of cross-checks such as "Accept after Delay" ([RFC8078]).

This document updates [RFC8078] and replaces its Section 3 with Section 3.2 of this document.

[ Ed note: Text inside square brackets ([]) is additional background information, answers to frequently asked questions, general musings, etc. They will be removed before publication. This document is being collaborated on at The authors gratefully accept pull requests. ]

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 24 October 2022.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Securing a DNS delegation for the first time requires that the Child's DNSSEC parameters be conveyed to the Parent through some trusted channel. While the communication conceptually has to occur between the Parent registry and the DNSSEC key holder, what exactly that means and how the communication is coordinated traditionally depends on the relationship the Child has with the Parent:

A typical situation is that the key is held by the Child DNS Operator; the communication thus often involes this entity. In addition, depending on the circumstances, it may also involve the Registrar, possibly via the Registrant (for details, see [RFC7344], Appendix A).

As observed in [RFC7344], these dependencies result often result in a manual process that is susceptible to mistakes and/or errors. In addition, due to the annoyance factor of the process, involved parties may avoid the process of getting a DS record set published in the first place.

To alleviate these problems, automated provisioning of DS records has been specified in ([RFC8078]). It is based on the Parental Agent (registry or registrar) fetching DNSSEC key parameters in the form of CDS and CDNSKEY records ([RFC7344]) from the Child zone's apex, and validating them somehow. This validation can be done using DNSSEC itself if the objective is to update an existing DS record set (such as during key rollover). However, when bootstrapping a DNSSEC delegation, the Child zone has no existing DNSSEC validation path, and other means to ensure the CDS/CDNSKEY records' legitimacy must be found.

For lack of a comprehensive DNS-innate solution, either out-of-band methods have been used so far to complete the chain of trust, or cryptographic validation has been entirely dispensed with, in exchange for weaker types of cross-checks such as "Accept after Delay" ([RFC8078] Section 3.3). An in-band validation method for enabling DNSSEC has been missing.

This document aims to close this gap by introducing an in-band method for DNS Operators to publish arbitrary information about the zones they are authoritative for, in an authenticated manner and on a per-zone basis. The mechanism allows managed DNS Operators to securely announce DNSSEC key parameters for zones under their management. The Parent can then use this signal to cryptographically validate the CDS/CDNSKEY records found at an insecure Child zone's apex, and upon success secure the delegation.

While applicable to the vast majority of domains, the protocol does not support certain edge cases, such as excessively long Child zone names, or DNSSEC bootstrapping for in-bailiwick domains (see Section 3.4).

Readers are expected to be familiar with DNSSEC, including [RFC4033], [RFC4034], [RFC4035], [RFC6781], [RFC7344], and [RFC8078].

1.1. Terminology

This section defines the terminology used in this document.

This notation refers to CDS and/or CDNSKEY, i.e., one or both.
The entity on record that has the delegation of the domain from the Parent.
Child DNS Operator
The entity that maintains and publishes the zone information for the Child DNS.
The domain in which the Child in registered.
Parental Agent
The entity that has the authority to insert DS records into the Parent zone on behalf of the Child. (It could the the registry, registrar, a reseller, or some other authorized entity.)
Signaling Domain
A hostname from the Child's NS record set, prefixed with the label _dsauth. There are as many Signaling Domains as there are distinct NS targets.
Signaling Name
The labels that are prefixed to a Signaling Domain in order to identify a Child zone's name (see Section 2.2).
Signaling Record
A DNS record located at a Signaling Name under a Signaling Domain. Signaling Records are used by the Child DNS Operator to publish information about the Child.
Signaling Zone
The zone which is authoritative for a given Signaling Domain.

1.2. Requirements Notation

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

2. Signaling

When setting up initial trust, the Child zone's CDS/CDNSKEY RRsets need to be authenticated. This is achieved using an authentication signal from the Child DNS Operator that the Parent can discover and validate, thus transferring trust from the Child DNS Operator to the Child zone.

2.1. Chain of Trust

If a Child DNS Operator implements the protocol, each Signaling Zone MUST be signed and securely delegated, i.e. have a valid DNSSEC chain of trust.

For example, when performing DNSSEC bootstrapping for a Child zone with NS records and, the Child DNS Operator needs to ensure that a valid DNSSEC chain of trust exists for the zone(s) that are authoritative for the Signaling Domains and

2.2. Signaling Names

To publish a piece of information about the Child zone in an authenticated fashion, the Child DNS Operator MUST publish one or more Signaling Records at the Child's Signaling Name under each Signaling Domain.

Signaling Records MUST be accompanied by RRSIG records created with the corresponding Signaling Zone's key(s). The type and contents of these Signaling Records are detailed in Section 3.1.

The Signaling Name is identical to the Child name, with the final root label removed.

3. Bootstrapping a DNSSEC Delegation

Child DNS Operators and Parental Agents who wish to use CDS/CDNSKEY records for DNSSEC bootstrapping SHOULD support the protocol described in this section.

To confirm its willingness to act as the Child's delegated signer and authenticate the Child's CDS/CDNSKEY RRsets, the Child DNS Operator MUST co-publish them at the corresponding Signaling Name under each Signaling Domain as defined in Section 2.2.

Existing use of CDS/CDNSKEY records is specified at the Child apex only ([RFC7344], Section 4.1). This protocol extends the use of these record types to non-apex owner names for the purpose of DNSSEC bootstrapping. To exclude the possibility of semantic collision, there MUST NOT be a zone cut at a Signaling Name.

Unlike the CDS/CDNSKEY records at the Child's apex, Signaling Records MUST be signed with the corresponding Signaling Zone's key(s). Their contents MUST be identical to the corresponding records published at the Child's apex.

3.1.1. Example

For the purposes of bootstrapping the Child zone with NS records and, the required Signaling Domains are and

In the zones containing these domains, the Child DNS Operator authenticates the CDS/CDNSKEY records found at the Child's apex by co-publishing them at the names:

The records are accompanied by RRSIG records created using the key(s) of the respective Signaling Zone.

3.2. Validating CDS/CDNSKEY Records for DNSSEC Bootstrapping

This section replaces Section 3 of [RFC8078].

To validate a Child's CDS/CDNSKEY RRset for DNSSEC bootstrapping, the Parental Agent, knowing both the Child zone name and its NS hostnames, MUST execute the following steps:

  1. verify that the Child is not currently securely delegated;

  2. query the CDS/CDNSKEY records at the Child zone apex directly from each of the authoritative servers listed in the delegation's NS record set;

  3. query the CDS/CDNSKEY records located at the Signaling Name under each Signaling Domain using a trusted DNS resolver and enforce DNSSEC validation;

  4. check (separately by record type) that all record sets retrieved in Steps 2 and 3 have equal contents;

If the above steps succeed without error, the CDS/CDNSKEY records are successfully validated, and the Parental Agent can proceed with the publication of the DS record set under the precautions described in [RFC8078], Section 5.

If, however, an error condition occurs, in particular:

  • in Step 1: the Child is already securely delegated;

  • in Step 2: any failure during the retrieval of the CDS/CDNSKEY records located at the Child apex from any of the authoritative nameservers;

  • in Step 3: any failure to retrieve the CDS/CDNSKEY RRsets located at the Signaling Name under any Signaling Domain, including failure of DNSSEC validation, or unauthenticated data (AD bit not set);

  • in Step 4: inconsistent responses (for at least one of the types), including a record set that is empty in one of Steps 2 or 3, but non-empty in the other;

the Parental Agent MUST abort the procedure.

3.2.1. Example

To verify the CDS/CDNSKEY records for the Child, the Parental Agent (assuming that the Child delegation's NS records are and

  1. checks that the Child domain is not yet securely delegated;

  2. queries CDS/CDNSKEY records for directly from and;

  3. queries and validates the CDS/CDNSKEY records located at (see Section 2.2)
  1. checks that the CDS/CDNSKEY record sets retrieved in Steps 2 and 3 agree across responses.

If all these steps succeed, the Parental Agent can proceed to publish a DS record set as indicated by the validated CDS/CDNSKEY records.

3.3. Triggers

[ Clarity of this section needs to be improved. ]

Parental Agents SHOULD trigger the procedure described in Section 3.2 once one of the following conditions is fulfilled:

  • The Parental Agent receives a new or updated NS record set for a Child;

  • The Parental Agent encounters Signaling Records during a proactive, opportunistic scan (e.g. daily queries for the Signaling Records of some or all of its delegations);

  • The Parental Agent encounters Signaling Records for its Children during a scan (e.g. daily) of known Signaling Domains (derived from the NS records found in the Parent zone). The scan is completed by either

    • performing a targeted NSEC walk (starting with the Parent domain prepended to the Signaling Domain, such as, or by

    • performing a zone transfer of the zone containing (the relevant portion of) the Signaling Domain, if the Signaling Zone operator allows it, and iterating over its contents.

  • Any other condition as deemed appropriate by local policy.

One of the inputs of the bootstrapping algorithm in Section 3.2 is the NS record set of the Child's delegation. It is therefore necessary to establish knowledge of the delegation's NS record set before firing the trigger.

In some cases, the trigger context contains reliable information about the Child's delegation, such as when bootstrapping is triggered by the registrant changing their NS record set, or during a daily scan of existing delegations. In such cases, the delegation's NS RRset can be used as is.

In cases where the trigger context does not provide sufficient knowledge of the NS record set, the Parental Agent MUST fetch the delegation's NS record set and ensure that the proper NS record set is fed to the bootstrapping algorithm (Section 3.2).

In particular, when discovering Signaling Names by means of an NSEC walk or zone transfer, the Parental Agent MUST NOT assume that the nameserver(s) under whose Signaling Domain(s) a Signaling Name is discovered is in fact authoritative for the corresponding Child. Before firing the trigger for a particular candidate Child, the Parental Agent MUST ascertain that the Child's delegation actually contains the nameserver hostname under whose Signaling Domain the scan occurred.

3.4. Limitations

As a consequence of Step 3 in Section 3.2, DS bootstrapping does not work for in-bailiwick delegations, as no pre-existing chain of trust to the Child domain is available during bootstrapping.

The protocol is further restricted by the fact that the fully qualified Signaling Names fit within the general limits that apply to DNS names (such as their length and label count).

4. Operational Recommendations

4.1. Child DNS Operator

To keep the size of the Signaling Zones minimal and bulk processing efficient (such as via NSEC walks or zone transfers), Child DNS Operators SHOULD remove Signaling Records which are found to have been acted upon.

Signaling Domains SHOULD be delegated as zones of their own, so that the Signaling Zone's apex coincides with the Signaling Domain (such as While it is permissible for the Signaling Domain to be contained in a Signaling Zone of fewer labels (such as, a zone cut ensures that bootstrapping activities do not require modifications of the zone containing the nameserver hostname.

In addition, Signaling Zones SHOULD use NSEC to allow efficient discovery of pending bootstrapping operations by means of zone walking (see Section 3.3). This is especially useful for bulk processing after a Child DNS Operator has enabled the protocol.

4.2. Parental Agent

It is RECOMMENDED to perform queries within Signaling Domains (Section 3.2) with an (initially) cold resolver cache as to retrieve the most current information regardless of TTL. (When a batch job is used to attempt bootstrapping for a large number of delegations, the cache does not need to get cleared in between.)

[It is expected that Signaling Records have few consumers only, so that caching would not normally have a performance benefit. Perhaps it is thus better to RECOMMEND low TTLs instead?]

5. Implementation Status

Note to the RFC Editor: please remove this entire section before publication.

5.1. Child DNS Operator-side

  • Knot DNS supports manual creation of non-apex CDS/CDNSKEY records.

  • PowerDNS supports manual creation of non-apex CDS/CDNSKEY records.

  • Proof-of-concept Signaling Domains with several thousand Signaling Names exist at and

  • Another DNS operator has implemented the protocol (synthesizing Signaling Records for a significant number of domains).

  • The authors are planning to develop a tool for automatic generation of signaling records.

5.2. Parental Agent-side

  • A tool to retrieve and process Signaling Records for bootstrapping purposes, either directly or via zone walking, is available at The tool outputs the validated DS records which then can be added to the Parent zone.

  • Some registries/registrars (e.g. .cl, GoDaddy) are working on implementations of the protocol.

6. Security Considerations

The protocol adds authentication to the CDS/CDNSKEY-based bootstrapping concept of [RFC8078], while removing nothing. Its security level is therefore strictly higher than that of existing approaches described in that document (e.g. "Accept after Delay"). Apart from this general improvement, the same Security Considerations apply as in [RFC8078].

The level of rigor in Section 3.2 is needed to prevent publication of a half-baked DS RRset (authorized only under a subset of NS hostnames). This ensures, for example, that an operator in a multi-homed setup cannot enable DNSSEC unless all other operators agree. [ TODO In principle, this applies to any CDS update. Should we phrase it as a general update to [RFC8078]? ]

[ Thoughts on the Chain of Trust:

Actors in the chain(s) of trust of the Signaling Zone(s) (the DNS Operator themselves, plus entities further up in the chain) can undermine the protocol. However,


7. IANA Considerations

TODO: reserve _dsauth?

This document has no IANA actions.

8. Acknowledgements

Thanks to Brian Dickson, Ondřej Caletka, John R. Levine, Christian Elmerot, and Oli Schacher for reviewing draft proposals and offering comments and suggestions.

Thanks also to Steve Crocker, Hugo Salgado, and Ulrich Wisser for early-stage brainstorming.

9. Normative References

Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Arends, R., Austein, R., Larson, M., Massey, D., and S. Rose, "DNS Security Introduction and Requirements", RFC 4033, DOI 10.17487/RFC4033, , <>.
Arends, R., Austein, R., Larson, M., Massey, D., and S. Rose, "Resource Records for the DNS Security Extensions", RFC 4034, DOI 10.17487/RFC4034, , <>.
Arends, R., Austein, R., Larson, M., Massey, D., and S. Rose, "Protocol Modifications for the DNS Security Extensions", RFC 4035, DOI 10.17487/RFC4035, , <>.
Kolkman, O., Mekking, W., and R. Gieben, "DNSSEC Operational Practices, Version 2", RFC 6781, DOI 10.17487/RFC6781, , <>.
Kumari, W., Gudmundsson, O., and G. Barwood, "Automating DNSSEC Delegation Trust Maintenance", RFC 7344, DOI 10.17487/RFC7344, , <>.
Gudmundsson, O. and P. Wouters, "Managing DS Records from the Parent via CDS/CDNSKEY", RFC 8078, DOI 10.17487/RFC8078, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.

Appendix A. Change History (to be removed before publication)

Editorial changes.

Clarified importance of record cleanup by moving paragraph up.

Pointed out limitations.

Replace [RFC8078] Section 3 with our Section 3.2.

Changed _boot label to _dsauth.

Removed hashing of Child name components in Signaling Names.

Editorial changes.

Reframed as an authentication mechanism for RFC 8078.

Removed multi-signer use case (focus on RFC 8078 authentication).

Triggers need to fetch NS records (if not implicit from context).

Improved title.

Recognized that hash collisions are dealt with by Child apex check.

Add section on Triggers.

Clarified title.

Improved abstract.

Require CDS/CDNSKEY records at the Child.

Reworked Signaling Name scheme.

Recommend using cold cache for consumption.

Updated terminology (replace "Bootstrapping" by "Signaling").

Added NSEC recommendation for Bootstrapping Zones.

Added multi-signer use case.

Editorial changes.

Initial public draft.

Authors' Addresses

Peter Thomassen
deSEC, Secure Systems Engineering
Nils Wisiol
deSEC, Technische Universität Berlin