Internet-Draft DDNS Updates of Delegation Information February 2024
Stenstam Expires 1 September 2024 [Page]
DNSOP Working Group
Intended Status:
Standards Track
J. Stenstam
The Swedish Internet Foundation

Automating DNS Delegation Management via DDNS


Delegation information (i.e. the NS RRset, possible glue, possible DS records) should always be kept in sync between child zone and parent zone. However, in practice that is not always the case.

When the delegation information is not in sync the child zone is usually working fine, but without the amount of redundancy that the zone owner likely expects to have. Hence, should any further problems ensue it could have catastropic consequences.

The DNS name space has lived with this problem for decades and it never goes away. Or, rather, it will never go away until a fully automated mechanism for how to keep the information in sync automatically is deployed.

This document proposes such a mechanism.

TO BE REMOVED: This document is being collaborated on in Github at: The most recent working version of the document, open issues, etc, should all be available there. The author (gratefully) accept pull requests.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 1 September 2024.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

For DNSSEC signed child zones with TLD registries as parents there is an emerging trend towards running so-called "CDS scanners" and "CSYNC scanners" by the parent.

These scanners detect publication of CDS records (the child signalling a desire for an update to the DS RRset in the parent) and/or a CSYNC record (the child signalling a desire for an update to the NS RRset or, possibly, in-bailiwick glue in the parent.

The scanners have a number of drawbacks, including being inefficient and slow. They are only applicable to DNSSEC-signed child zones and they add significant complexity to the parent operations. But given that, they do work.

I-D.ietf-dnsop-generalized-notify-01 proposes a method to alleviate the inefficiency and slowness of scanners. But the DNSSEC requirement and the complexity remain.

This document proposes an alternative mechanism to automate the updating of delegation information in the parent zone for a child zone based on DNS Dynamic Updates secured with SIG(0) signatures.

This alternative mechanism shares the property of being efficient and provide rapid convergence (similar to generalized notifications in conjuction with scanners). Furthermore, it has the advantages of not requiring any scanners in the parent at all and also not being dependent on the child (and parent) being DNSSEC-signed.

Knowledge of DNS NOTIFY [RFC1996] and DNS Dynamic Updates [RFC2136] and [RFC3007] is assumed. DNS SIG(0) transaction signatures are documented in [RFC2931]. In addition this Internet-Draft borrows heavily from the thoughts and problem statement from the Internet-Draft on Generalized DNS Notifications (work in progress).

1.1. Requirements Notation

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

2. Is there a Use Case?

Because of the drawbacks of CDS and CSYNC scanners they are unlikely to be able to fully automate the maintenance of delegation information in all parent zones. The primary reasons are the hard requirement on DNSSEC in the child zones and the complexity cost of operating the scanner infrastructure. In practice, scanners are likely mostly realistic for parent zones that are operated by well-resourced registries.

All the parts of the DNS name space where the parent is smaller and more resource constrained would be able to automate the delegation management via this mechanism without the requirement of operating scanners. Also all parts of the name space where there are child zones that are not DNSSEC-signed would be able to use this.

Obviously, also well-resourced parent zones with DNSSEC-signed child zones would be able to use this DNS UPDATE-based mechanism, but in those cases scanners plus generalized notifications would also work.


DNS NOTIFY and DNS UPDATE messages share several properties and are used to address similar issues.

3.1. Similarities between NOTIFY and UPDATE

Both NOTIFY and UPDATE are "push" rather than "pull" messages and therefore very efficient.

Both NOTIFY and UPDATE are messages, in DNS packet format. They are used by one party (the sender) to inform another party (the recipient) that some piece of DNS information has changed and that as a consequence of this change the recipient of the message may want to also make a change to its DNS data.

A NOTIFY (as per [RFC1996]) is only a hint and the recipient may ignore it. But if the recipient does listen to the NOTIFY it should make its own lookups to verify what has changed and whether that should trigger any changes in the DNS data provided by the recipient.

3.2. Differencies between NOTIFY and UPDATE

The difference between the UPDATE and the NOTIFY is that the UPDATE contains the exact change that should (in the opinion of the sender) be applied to the recipients DNS data. Furthermore, for secure Dynamic Updates, the message also contains proof why the update should be trusted (in the form of a digital signature by a key that the recipient trusts).

In this document the term "Dynamic Update" or "DNS UPDATE" implies secure dynamic update. Furthermore this document implies that the signature algorithms are always based on asymmetric crypto keys, using the same algorithms as are being used for DNSSEC. I.e. by using the right algorithm the resulting signatures will be as strong as DNSSEC-signatures.

DNS UPDATEs can be used to update any information in a zone (subject to the policy of the recipient). But in the special case where the data that is updated is the delegation information for a child zone and it is sent across a zone cut (i.e. the child sends it to the parent), it acts as a glorified generalized NOTIFY.

The DNS UPDATE in this case is essentially a message that says:

"the delegation information for this child zone has changed; here
is the exact change; here is the proof that the change is
authentic, please verify this signature"

4. Terminology


An assymmetric signing algorithm that allows the recipient to only need to know the public key to verify a signature created by the senders private key.

5. Updating Delegation Information via DNS UPDATEs.

This is not a new idea. There is lots of prior art and prior documents, including the expired I-D.andrews-dnsop-update-parent-zones-04.

The functionality to update delegation information in the parent zone via DNS UPDATE has been available for years in a least one DNS implementation (BIND9). However, while DNS UPDATE is used extensively inside organisations it has not seen much use across organisational boundaries. And zone cuts, almost by definition, usually cuts across such boundaries.

When sending a DNS UPDATE it is necessary to know where to send it. Inside an organisation this information is usually readily available. But outside the organisation it is not. And even if the sender would know where to send the update, it is not at all clear that the destination is reachable to the sender (the parent primary is likely to be protected by firewalls and other measures).

This constitutes a problem for using DNS UPDATES across zone cuts.

Another concern is that traditionally DNS UPDATEs are sent to a primary nameserver, and if the update signture verifies the update is automatically applied to the DNS zone. This is often not an acceptable mechanism. The recipient may, for good reason, require additional policy checks and likely an audit trail. Finally, the change should in many cases not be applied to the running zone but rather to some sort of provisioning system or a database.

This creates another problem for using DNS UPDATEs for managing delegation information.

Both problems are addressed by the proposed mechanism for locating the recipient of a generalized NOTIFY.

6. Locating the Target for a generalized NOTIFY and/or DNS UPDATE.

Section 3 of I-D.ietf-dnsop-generalized-notify-01 proposes a new RR type, tentatively with the mnemonic DSYNC that has the following format:

{qname}   IN  DSYNC  {RRtype} {scheme} {port} {target}

where {target} is the domain name of the recipient of the NOTIFY message. {RRtype} is typically "CDS" or "CSYNC" in the case where delegation information should be updated (there are also other uses of generalized notifications). Finally, {scheme} is a number to indicate the type of notification mechanism to use. Scheme=1 is defined as "send a generalized NOTIFY to {target} on port {port}".

This document proposes the definition of a new {scheme} for the same record that is used for generalized NOTIFY. Scheme=2 is here defined as "send a DNS UPDATE".

Apart from defining a new scheme to specify the mechanism "UPDATE" (rather than the mechanism "NOTIFY") this document does not say anything about what Qname to look up or what RR type. The UPDATE mechanism should use exactly the same method of locating the target of the UPDATE as is used for generalized NOTIFY.

This lookup addresses the first issue with using DNS UPDATE across organizational boundaries.

Example 1: a parent zone announces support for DNS UPDATE as a mechanism for delegation synchronization for all child zones:

_dsync.parent.  IN DSYNC ANY 2 5302 ddns-receiver.parent.

Example 2: a parent zone announces support different DNS UPDATE targets on a per-child basis

childA._dsync.parent.  IN DSYNC ANY 2 5302 ddns-receiver.registrar1.
childB._dsync.parent.  IN DSYNC ANY 2 5302 ddns-receiver.registrar3.
childC._dsync.parent.  IN DSYNC ANY 2 5302 ddns-receiver.registrar2.

The DSYNC RRset is looked up, typically by the child primary nameserver, at the time that the delegation information for the child zone changes in some way that would prompt an update in the parent zone. When the {scheme} is "2" (for DNS UPDATE) the interpretation is:

Send a DNS UPDATE to {target} on port 5302

7. Limitation of Scope for the Proposed Mechanism

DNS UPDATE is in wide use all over the world, for all sorts of purposes. It is not in wide use (if used at all) across organizational boundaries. This document only address the specific case of a child zone that makes a change in its DNS information that will require an update of the corresponding information in the parent zone. This includes:

Only for those specific cases is the descibed mechanism proposed.

8. The DNS UPDATE Receiver

While the simplest design is to send the DNS UPDATEs to the primary name server of the parent it will in most cases be more interesting to send them to a separate UPDATE Receiver.

8.1. Processing the UPDATE in the DNS UPDATE Receiver

The receiver of the DNS UPDATE messages should implement a suitably strict policy for what updates are accepted (typically only allowing updates to the NS RRset, glue and DS RRset).

Furthermore, it is strongly recommended that the policy is further tightened by only allowing updates to the delegation information of a child zone with the exact same name as the name of the SIG(0) key the signed the UPDATE request. I.e. an UPDATE request for the delegation information for the zone child.parent. should only be processed if it is signed by a SIG(0) key with the name child.parent. and the signature verifies correctly.

Once the UPDATE has been verified to be correctly signed by a known key with the correct name and also adhere to the update policy it should be subjected to the same set of correctness tests as CDS/CSYNC scanner would have performed. If these requirements are also fulfilled the change may be applied to the parent zone in whatever manner the parent zone is maintained (as a text file, data in a database, via and API, etc).

9. Interpretation of the response to the DNS UPDATE.

All DNS transactions are designed as a pair of messages and this is true also for DNS UPDATE. The interpretation of the different responses to DNS UPDATE are fully documented in [RFC2136], section 2.2.


A response with rcode=0 ("NOERROR") should be interpreted as a confirmation that the DNS UPDATE has been received and accepted. I.e. the change to the parent DNS data should be expected to be published in the parent zone at some future time.


A response with rcode=5 ("REFUSED") should be interpreted as a permanent signal that DNS UPDATEs are not supported by the receiver. This would indicate a parent misconfiguration, as the UPDATE should not be sent unless the parent has announced support for DNS UPDATE via publication of an appropriate target location record.


A response with rcode=17 ("BADKEY") should be interpreted as a definitive statement that the DNS UPDATE Receiver does not have access to the public SIG(0) key needed for signature verification. In this case the child should fall back to bootstrap of the SIG(0) public key into the DNS UPDATE Receiver, see below.

9.4. No response to a DNS UPDATE

The case of no response is more complex, as it is not possible to know whether the DNS UPDATE actually reached the reciever (or was lost in transit) or the response was not sent (or lost in transit).

For this reason it is suggested that a lack of response is left as implementation dependent. That way the implementation has sufficient freedom do chose a sensible approach. Eg. if the sender of the DNS UPDATE (like the primary nameserver of the child zone) only serves a single child, then resending the DNS UPDATE once or twice may be ok (to ensure that the lack of response is not due to packets being lost in transit). On the other hand, if the sender serves a large number of child zones below the same parent zone, then it may already know that the receiver for the DNS UPDATEs is not responding for any of the child zones, and then resending the update immediately is likely pointless.

10. Management of SIG(0) Public Keys

Only the child should have access to the SIG(0) private key. The corresponding SIG(0) public key can be published in DNS, but it doesn't have have to be. The SIG(0) public key only needs to be available to the parent DNS UPDATE Receiver. Keeping all the public SIG(0) keys for different child zones in some sort of database is perfectly fine.

10.1. Bootstrapping the SIG(0) Public Key Into the DNS UPDATE Receiver

Bootstrap is simpler if the child zone is signed. Therefore the signed and unsigned cases are described separately.

10.1.1. Child zone is DNSSEC-signed

If the child zone is DNSSEC-signed, then the preferred mechanism is to publish the public SIG(0) key as a KEY record at the child apex. This can then be looked up and validated by the DNS UPDATE Receiver.

child.parent. IN KEY ...
child.parent. IN RRSIG KEY ...

However, the receiver should have access to the key at the time of receiving the update, it should not have to do DNS lookups and DNSSEC validation in response to a DNS UPDATE message (that might open up for various types of attacks). Therefore the proposal is to trigger the parent reciver to lookup and validate the key by issuing a DNS UPDATE that only contains an addition (no delete) of the KEY record from the child zone:

ADD child.parent. {ttl} IN KEY ...

When receiving such a message the reciever SHOULD put that key into a queue for later look up of the corresponding KEY record and validation of the DNSSEC-signature. In case of validation failure (or absence of a DNSSEC signature) the SIG(0) SHOULD NOT be added to the set of keys that the receiver knows and trust. If the validation succeeds the key should be added to the set of keys stored locally at the receiver.

10.1.2. Child zone is unsigned

In the absence of a DNSSEC-based validation path some alternative mechanism will have ot be found. The primary audience for this DNS UPDATE based synchronization mechanism is "non-registries". In those cases there is by definition some mechanism in place to communicate information from the child to the parent, be it email, a web form, pieces of paper or something else. The same mechanism can be extended to also be used to communicate the initial SIG(0) public key from the child to the parent.

Should a "registry" parent want to support this mechanism (as a service to its unsigned children) then the most likely model is that the target of the DNS UPDATE is operated by the registrar (or possibly that the DNS UPDATE is forwarded to the registrar). The registrar performs its normal verifications of a change and then transforms the update into an EPP [RFC5730] transaction to communicate it to the registry.

10.2. Rolling the SIG(0) Key

Once the parent (or registrar) DNS UPDATE Receiver has the key, the child can update it via a DNS UPDATE just like updating the NS RRset, the DS RRset or the glue in the parent zone (assuming a suitable DNS UPDATE policy in the parent). I.e. only the initial bootstrapping of the key is an issue.

Note, however, that the alternative of re-bootstrapping (by whatever bootstrapping mechanism was used) in case of a key compromise may be a better alternative to the parent supporting key rollover for child SIG(0) keys. The decision of whether to allow key rollover via DNS UPDATE is left as parent-side policy.

11. Security Considerations.

Any fully automatic mechanism to update the contents of a DNS zone opens up a potential vulnerability should the mechanism not be implemented correctly.

In this case the definition of "correct" is a question for the receiver of the DNS UPDATE. The receiver should validate the authenticity of the DNS UPDATE and then do the same checks and verifications as a CDS or CSYNC scanner does. The difference from the scanner is only in the validation: single SIG(0) signature by a key that the receiver trusts vs DNSSEC signatures that chain back to a DNSSEC trust anchor that the validator trusts.

12. IANA Considerations.


13. Acknowledgements.

14. Normative References

Vixie, P., "A Mechanism for Prompt Notification of Zone Changes (DNS NOTIFY)", RFC 1996, DOI 10.17487/RFC1996, , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Vixie, P., Ed., Thomson, S., Rekhter, Y., and J. Bound, "Dynamic Updates in the Domain Name System (DNS UPDATE)", RFC 2136, DOI 10.17487/RFC2136, , <>.
Eastlake 3rd, D., "DNS Request and Transaction Signatures ( SIG(0)s )", RFC 2931, DOI 10.17487/RFC2931, , <>.
Wellington, B., "Secure Domain Name System (DNS) Dynamic Update", RFC 3007, DOI 10.17487/RFC3007, , <>.
Hollenbeck, S., "Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP)", STD 69, RFC 5730, DOI 10.17487/RFC5730, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.

Appendix A. Change History (to be removed before publication)

Author's Address

Johan Stenstam
The Swedish Internet Foundation