In November 2022, eco’s topDNS Initiative invited about 30 experts, including representatives of three different Directorate Generals by the EU Commission, to a workshop in Brussels to work together on a secure future for the DNS (Domain Name System). The topDNS Initiative has now published its 28-page final report.
The report, which is now available for download, summarises the results of the “State of the DNS in 2022” workshop held on 8 and 9 November 2022. In order to better protect the Domain Name System (DNS) from abuse attempts today and in the future, the eco Association invited about 30 experts from different stakeholder groups to Brussels to ensure the most comprehensive discussion possible. The report summarises the measures that can be taken to combat abuse and illegal content on the Internet and to prosecute criminal offences.
“State of the DNS 2022” workshop
On 31 January 2022, the European Commission published the Study on Domain Name System (DNS) abuse conducted by independent experts. The study was extensively discussed within the domain name industry and beyond. The eco Association welcomed the Initiative of the European Commission and the authors to analyse the scope, impact and extent of DNS abuse with one of the most comprehensive works on this topic.
Against this background, the goal of the “State of the DNS 2022” workshop was to review the 27 recommendations from the study, potentially reframe the general ideas and suggestions and to agree on actions and operationalisable solutions.
Representatives from different sectors of the industry and the European Commission
To enable a robust discussion about the roles, responsibilities and capabilities along the infrastructure intermediaries’ value chain and who can do what by when, representatives from different sectors of the industry were present:
- Members of the European Commission (DG CONNECT, DG HOME, DG GROW)
- The authors of the Study on Domain Name System (DNS) abuse
- Subject Matter Experts of CENTR, DNS Abuse Institute, International Trademark Association and the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network
- gTLD & ccTLD Domain Name Registries
- Domain Name Registrars & Resellers
- DNS Service Providers
- Hosting & Email Service Providers
- Brand owners & experts on Intellectual Property
- Staff members of eco – Association of the Internet Industry
Thomas Rickert, eco Director Names & Numbers, comments: “We are very pleased that so many stakeholders – including the European Commission – accepted the invitation of topDNS Initiative and actively participated in the workshop. The results in the final report show that many initiatives and measures are already addressing the challenges posed by combating online abuse. However, we can still achieve significantly better results if we put even more market participants in a position to cooperate in the fight against abuse: Through education, training, supporting tools, sharing data & knowledge and establishing common best practices & standards. topDNS is looking forward to further exchange with all stakeholders.”
Eleven priority actions identified
The recommendations from the European Commission’s study were summarised and grouped into six segments to structure the discussions: Registration Data Issues, Exchange of Intelligence, Preventative Measures, Carrots & Sticks, Enhancing Security, Awareness Raising & Capacity Building.
For most of the recommendations, there are already solutions, tools and people addressing and working on them. The following eleven priority actions were identified by the workshop participants:
- Fast takedowns of malicious and compromised domain names are key. But DNS abuse cannot be tackled with a single solution. There must be a well-orchestrated approach with concrete actions that enable people to work together towards a common goal.
- There is often a chance to prevent abuse before it is reported. There is a need for a trusted space for collaboration and intelligence information sharing among all parties involved.
- Automation is indispensable in this context. The effort of fighting abuse online has to be as quick and efficient as possible and kept at a reasonable level from a cost perspective. Also, the industry has to keep up with the malicious actors.
- Building trust. Personal relationships between the actors involved is key. It’s a people business. topDNS and the eco Association will use their broad, cross-industry membership to bring together those who can make a difference by working together.
- Improving abuse handling by promoting adequate procedures for processing abuse reports.
- Automatic responses to abuse reports are the first step towards improving communication between actors and building trust.
- Developing training opportunities for all actors along the value chain. The topDNS Initiative will offer educational support to newcomers in dealing with abuse in 2023.
- Creating “Anti-Abuse Kits/Toolbox in a Box”. These training opportunities mentioned above will include recommendations of (non-)commercial tools for different intermediaries/target groups to guide through the first steps.
- There is a chance to initiate a cultural change, for example by implementing current technical standards. Abuse prevention/treatment/combating does not necessarily have to be a cost centre. In saturated markets, it is becoming increasingly interesting as a business model.
- Commercial incentives and reputation-based measures have proven to support and accelerate development in this direction. Targeted approaches should be considered in favour of regulatory measures.
- Building a schedule of roles and responsibilities on who does what for all actors along the value chain. The contents and format of such schedule of responsibilities or agreements require further dialogue.
The eco initiative topDNS has published an Abuse Table to provide guidance on which cyber threats are considered to be abuse of the Domain Name System – and which parties should be contacted first.
A follow-up workshop will be held in Q4 2023 to take stock again and assess progress in the industry.
If you want to learn more about the topDNS Initiative and are interested in actively supporting the fight against DNS abuse, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download: Final report on the status of DNS
Download: Workshop slides: topDNS State of the DNS Workshop
Download: topDNS Abuse Table