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Internet reboot keys

Internet reboot keys are encrypted DNSSEC keys that can restore the Internet root zone in the event of an attack or natural catastrophe.

The Internet root zone is the top level of the domain name system (DNS) hierarchy. It lists the names and IP addresses for the 13 DNS servers that authorize all top-level domains, such as .gov, .org and .com.

If links between the servers break, appointed key holders will meet to restart the system and restore connections. The key holders, who are appointed by ICANN and called Trusted Community Representatives, have each been given a smart card sealed in a tamper-evident plastic bag. Each card contains part of an encrypted DNSSEC root zone key. The encrypted data from at least five out of the seven cards is required to restart the system.

The key program is a joint effort between ICANN, VeriSign and the United States Department of Commerce to deploy Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) to Internet root servers. DNSSEC adds digital signatures to DNS data to authenticate the data's origin and verify its integrity as it travels across the Internet. It is designed to protect the Internet from certain attacks such as DNS cache poisoning and man-in-the-middle spoofs.

The deployment of DNSSEC at the root zone is an important step towards building a new infrastructure of trust for the Internet. According to DNSSEC proponent Vint Cerf, who is best known for being the father of the Internet:

"An infrastructure has been created for a for a hierarchical security system which can be purposed and repurposed in a number of different ways…so I would predict that although we started out putting this together to assure that the domain name lookups return valid Internet addresses, in the long run this hierarchical structure of trust will be applied to a number of other functions that require strong authentication".

Learn more about DNSSEC root zone keys:

ICANN announces DNSSEC deployment to root Internet servers
Announced at this week's Black Hat Briefings, root servers and Internet domains have now been signed with DNSSEC.

Fed DNSSEC project going slowly
The process of implementing DNSSEC into government domain names has been a slow one, but is nevertheless gaining traction.

Federal agencies scrambling on DNSSEC implementation
Federal deployments of DNSSEC are lagging markedly. Learn more about what the governement is doing to catch up.

Office of Science and Technology Policy
The Whitehouse, issued a press release about the DNSSEC Signed Root Zone.

This was last updated in February 2012

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