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Any cypherpunk solutions to this problem?

	To the degree that he's correct, how can such problems be solved
while increasing privacy, security, etcetera? What sort of decentralized
replacements for the current DNS system can be used, preferably with prevention
of removal of DN for political reasons?

From:	IN%"[email protected]" 27-AUG-1996 06:03:35.07

[Maybe the next Internet myth to bust up is this stuff about the Internet
being decentralized.  "Designed to survive a nuclear attack", etc etc.
I'm afraid it doesn't work like that.  The net has little redundancy, the
backbones are in the hands of a small number of large companies, and all
of the detailed mechanics of getting your packets to their destination are
fragile and prone to propagating errors.  The high levels of service to
which we've grown accustomed are due to the hard work of specific people,
not to the intrinsic properties of the machinery.  The net works because
those people are able to do the right thing.  The conditions that *let*
them do the right thing may disappear next month, or the month after that.
So let's forget the technological determinism and lose our complacency
about the future, and instead have a little gratitude to the hackers who
make it work and a little political concern for the architectural choices
that are coming right up on the horizon.]

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Date: Mon, 26 Aug 1996 14:15:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: [email protected]

RISKS-LIST: Risks-Forum Digest  Monday 26 August 1996  Volume 18 : Issue 38


Date: Sat, 24 Aug 1996 08:53:31 -0700
From: [email protected] (Steven Weller)
Subject: DNS failure [from Matthew Dillon]

The following describes DNS meltdown at my ISP the other day: all DNS
services were unavailable, despite multiple servers being online. Lack of
DNS assured that other working services were unavailable to everyone who
didn't have IP addresses written down.

    Here is a technical explanation of the DNS failure, for those of you

    First, a synopsis of how DNS works... every site on the net serves their
    own DNS records.  Some sites serve other people's DNS records.  For
    example, BEST serves the DNS records for best.com, best.net, and most
    of our customer's custom domains.  No site serves more then a small
    fraction of the DNS records on the internet from their own database.

    The way DNS works is that when a domain name needs to be resolved, our
    DNS server (anyone's DNS server) first goes to the NIC to ask where to
    go to resolve the domain name.  The NIC itself cannot resolve domains,
    it can only tell our DNS server where to go to resolve a domain.

    Our DNS server then goes to the specified remote site to resolve the
    domain name belonging to that site. The remote site replies with the 
    answer which our DNS server (a) caches for future reference, and 
    (b) returns to the original requester.

    The caching is important, because otherwise a DNS server would have to
    re-query the remote DNS server every time someone wanted to resolve a 
    domain.  DNS records propagate through caches.  It is simply not possible
    to run a DNS system with caching turned off, it would create an impossible
    load on the internet.

    Around 4:00 a.m. yesterday, some unknown site's cache got corrupted.
    The corruption propagated to many (hundreds) of other sites on the internet
    and eventually propagated to us.  This corruption hit a bug in the DNS
    server program that wound up corrupting the program, causing DNS to
    loose major records.
    Restarting the server in this case does not solve the problem because, 
    due to the caching on remote sites, the corrupted record repropagates 
    almost instantly.  BEST was hit by this problem very hard due to the
    large number of custom domains we serve... so many DNS requests come into
    BEST and are made by BEST that our servers would hit the corruption out
    on the internet within 10 seconds of starting up.

    Worse, this particular corruption tended to destroy the root records
    (stored in memory), called SOA records, for the domains served locally. 
    This destroyed the mail system causing mail messages to bounce rather then
    to simply be delayed, because the DNS server was saying 'site X does
    not exist' rather then timing out.  It's worst possible corruption that 
    can occur in a DNS system.


    It turns out that the last two BIND releases contain a bug that,
    when a corrupted record of the type that started propagating at 4:00 a.m.
    is received, results in the destruction of other **unassociated** 
    records stored in memory.

    The particular release of BIND that we were using had been running
    perfectly for several *months* before this incident.  It was not something
    recently installed.

    There are two fixes to the problem:  (1) One can lock out those sites
    where the corrupted records come from, and (2) One can revert to an older
    release.  (1) is not a good solution because, due to the nature of DNS,
    corruption can propagate to many sites and it would be impossible to keep
    up to date and lock all of them out.  We wound up taking action #(2)
    and reverting to an older release of bind which, fortunately, did not
    have the bug that caused the problem.  We had to revert to BIND 4.9.3.
    Unfortunately, we did not think to do this for many hours because we were
    all convinced that the problem was external in nature and just didn't 
    think to try a reversion.  In hind sight, that is the first thing we
    should have tried since we had the friggin binary for the older version
    sitting in our source tree.

    As far as DNS goes... the DNS we run is not 'bsd' or 'sgi' .. it's the
    *official* world-wide BIND distribution run by Paul Vixie.  It is really
    not appropriate to run the older versions shipped with most operating 
    systems due to massive, massive security holes.  The corruption problem
    was unavoidable.  What *was* avoidable was the long period of time that
    elapsed before the problem got fixed, which I take full responsibility for.
    We spent most of that time trying to track down where the corruption was
    coming from... a near impossible task.  Around 6:00 p.m. scuttlebutt
    started propagating regarding a possible bug in the last two BIND releases 
    at which point we instantly reverted to an earlier version, which fixed 
    the problem, then started banging our heads against the wall for not trying
    it earlier.

    Matthew Dillon   Engineering, BEST Internet Communications, Inc.
                     <[email protected]>


Date: 15 Aug 1996 (LAST-MODIFIED)
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End of RISKS-FORUM Digest 18.38