Registries, registrars and hosting providers joined forces in the topDNS initiative at the beginning of 2022. Since then, the stable, reliable and secure operation of the DNS (Domain Name System) has been their common goal. It has been about half a year, so the eco Association as initiator and the initiative members are taking a moment to review what has happened in the first few months.
The DNS is a core function of the Internet because it converts human-readable domain names into IP addresses. In the topDNS initiative, leading companies in the industry have been working since the beginning of 2022 to protect this „telephone book of the Internet” from attempts at misuse, so-called DNS abuse. The initiative includes VeriSign, CentralNic, Public Interest Registry, IQ Global AS, Leaseweb, CleanDNS, .ORG and Realtime Register.
“The members of the initiative have agreed on a bundle of activities to prevent so-called DNS abuse and to educate about which measures are effective and appropriate to combatting it,” says Thomas Rickert, Director Names & Numbers at eco – Association of the Internet Industry, who helped to launch the initiative.
At Cloudfest: joint commitment to DNS security
topDNS delivered its first public presentation at Cloudfest in March 2022. To sensitise the approximately 7,000 visitors directly on site, topDNS contributed a panel discussion to the conference programme. In his keynote speech, Keith Drazek from VeriSign emphasised the need to work together continuously and across industries to mitigate DNS security threats. In doing so, blocking should always be the last resort to combatting illegal content. Afterwards, Hans Seeuws (EURid), Carsten Sjoerup (CentralNic) and Jörg Pernfuß (IONOS) engaged in a discussion chaired by Thomas Rickert.
topDNS was also present as a partner at the Nordic Domain Days on 9 and 10 May 2022. Representatives from all parts of the domain industry met in Stockholm. The initiative was represented in the programme with a lecture and a half-day DNS Abuse Workshop in cooperation with iQ Global. Throughout the afternoon, the workshop provided all participants with practical insights to improve their own engagement with and mitigation of DNS abuse. The results will soon be made available to all interested parties as the “Stockholm Recommendations”. The keynote speech by Keith Drazek (Verisign) was followed throughout the day by a series of keynote speeches by Graeme Bunton (DNS Abuse Insititute), Prudence Malinki (MarkMonitor/Clarivate), Volker Greimann (CentralNic), Carel Bitter (Spamhaus), Jorij Abrahms, (Global Anti-Scam Alliance), Hans Seeuws (EURid), Michael B Halvorsen (iQ Global) and Atro Tossavainen (Koli-Lõks) , which all gave impetus to the lively ongoing discussion.
Well-attended online conferences and workshops
topDNS was also represented on virtual panels, for example at the Middle East DNS Forum to discuss DNS security threats or at the CENTR Jamboree, where various initiatives on the topic of DNS abuse presented themselves to the audience. ICANN presented its “Technical Mission” in an online training session to provide background knowledge. David Huberman, Technical Engagement Manager at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) shared engaging behind-the-scenes insights into the core functions of the Internet.
topDNS and ICANN invited participants to another online training entitled “OSINT – Fighting DNS Abuse” on 28 April 2022. Carlos Alvarez, Director of Trust and Public Safety Engagement at ICANN, presented best practices in dealing with DNS abuse. He showed different tools to detect and combat abuse attacks. The close cooperation with ICANN and the ICANN community continuously drives topDNS forward. For example, Thomas Rickert is a member of the GNSO Council Small Team on DNS Abuse at ICANN.
On 25 May, Graeme Bunton from the DNS Abuse Institute presented the new netbeacon system to the eco community in another webinar. This should make it easier to create and standardise abuse reports in order to combat DNS abuse more effectively.
DNS Abuse Study of the EU Commission: topDNS is critical of recommendations
topDNS is also politically active. For instance, eco recently published a comprehensive statement on a study by the European Commission on DNS abuse. Concurrently, topDNS published the first of a series of short interviews with leading figures of the initiative. Graeme Bunton, Executive Director of the DNS Abuse Institute, talks about what he expects from the cooperation in the topDNS initiative. More interviews will follow shortly.
Working together for better DNS Abuse reports
The list of planned actions of the topDNS initiative is long: In order to further improve the DNS Abuse Reports, topDNS will ask its members for help within the scope of a survey in the next weeks: How do companies deal with Abuse Reports on the part of senders and receivers, what types of abuse – if any – are defined as “DNS Abuse”, what is the economic impact of Abuse and did the Covid pandemic have an impact on the volume of DNS security threats. Another webinar is planned with EuroISPA on 6 September. The members of the topDNS initiative are also working on a paper with best practices on DNS security. A workshop is also planned in Brussels, where concrete measures already taken and planned by the industry will be discussed with high-profile speakers. In addition, trainings for relevant target groups will be developed to promote faster and more efficient handling of DNS abuse.
“Already in its founding year, topDNS has done a lot to raise awareness of DNS security and improve cooperation against DNS abuse by sharing best practices, standardising abuse reports, contributing to the development of a Trusted Notifier Framework, and conducting awareness campaigns towards policy makers, decision makers and expert groups,” says Thomas Rickert. “But reducing DNS abuse in a sustainable way is a long-term task. The initiative would therefore be very happy if more companies would like to work towards this goal or support it.”