DNSSEC authenticated HTTPS in Chrome (16 Jun 2011)

Update: this has been removed from Chrome due to lack of use.

DNSSEC validation of HTTPS sites has been hanging around in Chrome for nearly a year now. But it's now enabled by default in the current canary and dev channels of Chrome and is on schedule to go stable with Chrome 14. If you're running a canary or dev channel (and you need today's dev channel release: 14.0.794.0) then you can go to and see a DNSSEC signed site in action.

DNSSEC stapled certificates (and the reason that I use that phrase will become clear in a minute) are aimed at sites that currently have, or would use, self-signed certificates and, possibly, larger organisations that are Chrome based and want certificates for internal sites without having to bother with installing a custom root CA on all the client devices. Suggesting that this heralds the end of the CA system would be utterly inaccurate. Given the deployed base of software, all non-trival sites will continue to use CA signed certificates for decades, at least. DNSSEC signing is just a gateway drug to better transport security.

I'm also going to see how it goes for a while. The most likely outcome is that nobody uses them and I pull the code out in another year's time. There are also some risks:

In theory, it should be hard to get a CA certificate for, say, (note the digit 1 in there). The CA should detect a phishing attempt and deny the certificate. With DNSSEC, there's no such filtering and a phisher could get a green padlock on any site that they can get a DNS name for. It's not clear whether this filtering is actually enforced by all public CAs, nor that phishing is more effective over HTTPS. Additionally, Chrome has anti-phishing warnings built in which is a better layer at which to handle this problem.

In the end, if you want a certificate that identifies a legal entity, rather than a domain name, then you want EV certificates. None the less, if DNSSEC stapled certificates end up being predominantly used for abuse then I'll probably kill them.

It's also possible that lots of sites will use these certificates, triggering warnings in other browsers thus further desensitising those users to such warnings. But that's one of those “good to have” problems and, in this very unlikely situation, there will have to be a push to add wider support.

For site operators

For site operators it's not just a question of dropping in a DNS record and forgetting about it (although nearly). The DNSSEC chain has to be embedded in the certificate and the certificate has to be refreshed, probably in a nightly cron job.

This is why I used the phrase “DNSSEC stapled certificate” above. These certificates are self-signed X.509 certificates with a DNSSEC chain embedded in an extension. The alternative would be to have the client perform a DNSSEC lookup itself. In the long term this may be the answer but, for now, client platforms don't support DNSSEC resolution and I'm in no rush to drop a DNSSEC resolving library into Chrome. We also have data that suggests that ~1% of Chrome (Linux) users can't resolve arbitary DNS record types (because of ‘hotel networks’, firewalls etc). Finally, having the client do a lookup is slower. Since DNSSEC data is signed it doesn't matter how you get it so having the server do the work and cache the result is simplier, faster and dependable.

The DNSSEC stapled data is embedded in an X.509 certificate (as opposed to extending TLS or using a different certificate format) because every HTTPS server will take an X.509 certificate as an opaque blob and it Just Works. All the other possiblilies introduce significant barriers to adoption.

You should also keep in mind that the format of the DNS record may change in the future. I've no current plans to change it but these things are still working themselves out.

Setting it up

First you need a zone that's DNSSEC signed. Setting that up is a little beyond the scope of this blog post but I use BIND with auto-signing as a server and DynDNS as a registra.

Second, you need to clone git://

$ openssl genrsa 1024 > privkey.pem
$ openssl rsa -pubout -in privkey.pem > pubkey.pem
$ python ./ pubkey.pem
EXAMPLE.COM. 60 IN TYPE257 \# 70 020461757468303e3039060a2b06010401d6790203010…

Take the DNS record that's printed out by, change the domain name (and possibly the TTL) and add it to your zone. If you need to do anything else to make the record accessable to the world, do that now. You should be able to see the record with dig -t type257

Now we get the DNSSEC chain and create a certificate with it embedded:

$ python ./ chain
$ gcc -o gencert gencert.c -Wall -lcrypto
$ ./gencert privkey.pem chain > cert.pem

You can check the certificate with openssl x509 -text < cert.pem | less.

CNAMES should work but I haven't implemented DNS wildcards. Also, that code was written to run easily (hence C and Python) rather than being nice code that's going to handle lots of edge cases well. is just shelling out to dig :)

You now have a key pair (privkey.pem and cert.pem) that can be used by any HTTPS server in the usual way. Keep in mind that DNSSEC signatures expire, often on the order of a week. So you'll need to setup a cron job to download the chain, rebuild the certificate and HUP the HTTPS server.