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Re: bind9 shipping outdated root hint file (etc.)

Chris Lamb wrote:
> It was just mentioned "en passant" in a conversation at DebConf that
> bind9 is shipping a root hint file from 2003.

No, this is just wrong. The hints file shipped in the bind9 package in
stretch is from 2016:

    ;       This file holds the information on root name servers needed to
    ;       initialize cache of Internet domain name servers
    ;       (e.g. reference this file in the "cache  .  <file>"
    ;       configuration file of BIND domain name servers).
    ;       This file is made available by InterNIC 
    ;       under anonymous FTP as
    ;           file                /domain/named.cache
    ;           on server           FTP.INTERNIC.NET
    ;       -OR-                    RS.INTERNIC.NET
    ;       last update:    February 17, 2016
    ;       related version of root zone:   2016021701

There are now 26 root server addresses, and root servers are renumbered
slowly enough that the normal Debian release process is more than
adequate for keeping up with those renumbering events. Over the past
decade or more the DNS root server network has added IPv6 addresses, and
has renumbered out of network prefixes used by larger networks into
network prefixes dedicated solely to root DNS service. So my guess is
that renumbering events will become even more rare over time.

The consequences for having an out-of-date root hints file are fairly
minimal. All modern recursive DNS servers employ a "priming" technique
where the initial hints list is used to obtain the latest set of root
server addresses at server startup. See RFC 8109, "Initializing a DNS
Resolver with Priming Queries".

An up-to-date set of root hints is shipped in the dns-root-data package,
but I believe only a few DNS software packages have been updated to take
advantage of it. Some DNS servers also embed a copy of root server
addresses in compiled binaries as a hedge against missing or obsolete
hints files, and this practice is fine as long as the upstream
developers keep that list up-to-date and make regular releases. Priming
will ensure that those binaries obtain an up-to-date set of addresses at

The only package in the archive that I know of that has a seriously
deficient set of root hints is djbdns; it has 11/13 of the current set
of IPv4 root server addresses, and 0/13 IPv6 root server addresses.
(However, I don't believe the 'djbdns' binary package ships with the
IPv6 patch applied.)

> I had a quick glance at the bug list and saw it was a little larger
> than I would have liked for what is clearly a critical piece and
> infrastructure. :)

It may have been true in 2003 that bind9 was a critical piece of DNS
infrastructure for Linux distributions, but it has become much less true
over time: there are multiple, modern implementations of authoritative
and recursive DNS servers in the Debian archive today. On the recursive
side: PowerDNS Recursor, Knot Resolver, and Unbound. On the
authoritative side: Power DNS Authoritative, Knot DNS, and NSD.

Robert Edmonds

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