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SAC123 - SSAC Report on the Evolution of Internet Name Resolution

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) , vol. ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) Reports and Advisories (2023), pp. 36


New technologies are changing how name resolution happens on the Internet. The DNS remains the prominent, or default, naming system for the Internet, but alternative naming systems are in use as well. This is nothing particularly new, as there have always been naming systems besides the DNS in use throughout the Internet’s history. These alternative naming systems use the same syntax as the DNS, dot-separated labels. There are many motivations for copying this syntax, but the primary reason is because designers of these alternative naming systems wish to benefit from the existence of software applications built to receive DNS names as input. This has the potential to create situations where the same name exists in DNS and in an alternative system, potentially causing name collisions. However, there is only one domain namespace and its referential integrity is important for Internet users and for the stability and security of Internet names. Thus, as alternative naming systems increase in popularity their use threatens to increase ambiguity in the shared single domain namespace. This increased ambiguity in Internet naming threatens to undermine the trust that users have in Internet identifiers and the services that rely on them. Additionally, names are becoming less visible to Internet end users, yet they remain vital to the security and stability of Internet infrastructure. Technologies such as QR codes and URL shorteners offer great utility to Internet users while also obscuring the underlying domain names used and creating new opportunities for malicious behavior. Meanwhile, QR codes and URL shorteners use domain names to access the Internet resource, even if the human user does not see it. These are the two main trends that the SSAC identifies in this report. The same name can resolve in different ways (ambiguous name resolution), and names of service endpoints are less visible (names are less conspicuous to end users). It is the combination of these two trends that fundamentally threatens to undermine confidence in services on the Internet.