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InfoQ Homepage News DNSSEC Root KSK Ceremony 41 Taking Place on Thursday

DNSSEC Root KSK Ceremony 41 Taking Place on Thursday

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The DNSSEC Root Key Signing Key ceremony 41 will take place between 17:00-19:30 UTC on Thursday 23 April. However, unlike previous years, the keyholders will not be physically present, as reported last month by InfoQ. The ceremony's process has been adapted after discussions with the keyholders and community, in light of the fact none of the keyholders can physically assemble at the key location in Virginia.

DNSSEC works by having a signed root-of-trust to the root keyservers, whose keys are signed by the root signing key, in a similar way that browsers use root Certificate Authorities. The DNSSEC root keys have a much higher blast radius, since they apply to all DNSSEC signed DNS zones; and so great care is taken in the root key signing ceremonies and the production of the root key material.

Every three months over the last decade, DNSSEC Root Key Signing Key ceremonies have taken place, hosted in securely held locations with members from around the globe coming to witness and participate in the ceremony. The event is recorded on video, and Root KSK Ceremony 41 will be available as a public stream on YouTube for those who want to observe and ask questions.

The normal process works by individual keyholders unlocking their own smartcard from a locked, on-site security deposit box. A hardware security module uses a quorum of those smartcards to generate the root key signing key. Because of travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, none of the keyholders will be physically present and so the ceremony has been adapted. There is a FAQ available specifically for this ceremony.

The physical safety deposit keys for those who cannot be present have been double packaged inside tamper evident casing and have physically been received by a number of individual "Trusted Community Representative" ICANN staff who are standing in as proxies for the keyholders who cannot be present. The tamper proof packages remain sealed, and will be vetted by each original keyholder over the video link to verify that the tamper seals are still intact, before authorising the unpacking of the contents. Once the tamper proof seals have been broken, the secondary containing package will be opened to reveal the safety deposit box key (though for security reasons, the physical key will not be visible on the video stream to avoid cloning attempts) to remove the hardware security module smartcard.

Once all the smartcards have been released from the security deposit boxes, and the root key signing keys generated, then the smartcards will be returned to the safety deposit boxes, relocked, and then the physical security box keys will be securely packaged inside a separate tamper evident box for their return to the keyholders.

To minimise travel and impact on the ICANN staff, a minimum of people will be physically present. In addition, the signing ceremony will take place in Los Angeles rather than the usual Virginia to minimise travel for those staff who are present to facilitate the ceremony and the signing steps.

To further minimise the impact of COVID-19 on future ceremonies, a full 9 months' worth of root zone signatures are being generated at this ceremony. It is anticipated that this amount of breathing time will give normality a chance to resume before the next signing ceremony needs to take place; but since predicting the future is impossible, a future virtual signing ceremony may take place. If longer term impacts to global travel result, it may be that the ceremony needs to be adapted further, and discussions on that will take place towards the end of this year or next if needed.

To be (virtually) part of this unique DNSSEC signing ceremony, and to witness how secure key management protocols are enacted, watch the public YouTube stream on Thursday at 17:00 UTC.

Update: the ceremony has taken place, along with having to wipe the smartcards to get them to work, and including when the keys on a USB stick are made in step 26 of the ceremony script – including the confirmation that while the next 9 months of keys have been generated, only the immediately next key will be disclosed to Verisign for use with the root DNS servers; the next two keys will remain at ICANN and disclosed at the proper time. You can watch the full recording of the stream on YouTube; you might like to follow along with the ceremony script at the same time.

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