Workshop on DNS Privacy (#NoMoreCowbell) 


DNS Privacy has been a growing concern of the IETF and others in the Internet engineering community for the last few years.  Almost every activity on the Internet starts with a DNS query (and often several).

  • Those queries can reveal not only what websites an individual visits but also metadata about other services such as the domains of email contacts or chat services.
  • Whilst the data in the DNS is public, individual DNS transactions made by an end user should not be public.
  • Today, however DNS queries are sent in clear text (using UDP or TCP) which means passive eavesdroppers can observe all the DNS lookups performed.
  • The DNS is a globally distributed system that crosses international boundaries and often uses servers in many different countries in order to provide resilience.
  • It is well known that the NSA used the MORECOWBELL tool to perform mass surveillance of DNS traffic, and other surveillance techniques involving DNS almost certainly are in play today.
  • Some ISPs embed user information (e.g. a user ID or MAC address) within DNS queries that go to the ISP’s resolver in order to provide services such as Parental Filtering. This allows for fingerprinting of individual users.
  • Some CDNs embed user information (e.g. client subnets) in queries from resolvers to authoritative servers (to geo-locate end users). This allows for correlation of queries to particular subnets.
  • Some ISPs log DNS queries at the resolver and share this information with third-parties in ways not known or obvious to end users.

The IETF’s DPRIVE (DNS PRIVate Exchange) Working Group has taken initial protocol steps to address these concerns (with much of the early work focussing on the stub to resolver problem), publishing DNS Privacy Considerations (RFC 7626), Specification for DNS over Transport Layer Security (RFC 7858), and The EDNS(0) Padding Option (RFC 7830), and DNS Query Name Minimisation to Improve Privacy (RFC 7816). However because of the great diversity of the DNS ecosystem, and the pervasive role of DNS and domain names in Internet applications and security, much is not fully understood or resolved.

The goal of this workshop is to bring together privacy and Internet researchers with a diversity of backgrounds and views, to identify promising long-term mitigations of the broad space of DNS privacy risks.

Call for Submissions

We welcome submissions in the form of research papers, short papers, or draft presentations, concerning all aspects of the threats, the protocols, and future design spaces, of DNS privacy or the privacy of adjacent protocols.  Measurement and analytical evaluations are particularly encouraged.  Research papers may also cover the equivalent privacy topics concerning domain name metadata of other infrastructure protocols such as WebPKI, DHCP, DIAMETER, etc. where the authors are willing to discuss the interrelation of these other protocols with DNS in the infrastructure. ‘Privacy in depth’ will be a guiding principle, with multiple layers addressing the risk to individuals in a synergistic but modular whole.

Potential topics (as food for thought):

  • Novel privacy vulnerabilities of DNS.
  • Evaluation/analysis of authentication profiles for DNS privacy.
Evaluation/analysis of DNS encryption of queries/responses with authoritative servers.
Evaluation/analysis of encrypted DNS traffic patterns to inform padding policies and other mitigation techniques.
  • Potential application of oblivious transfer (OT) or other emerging cryptographic techniques.
  • DNS privacy and Tor, OTR, or other anonymity tools.
  • Privacy issues of domain names in PKI.
  • Design of web infrastructure that hides metadata.
  • De-identification techniques for ISPs and providers of privacy-oriented DNS service.
Potential application of differential privacy for consumers of DNS data.
  • DNS privacy policies and responses to regulatory considerations.
  • Considerations on usability of DNS privacy.

Papers already published elsewhere are welcome submissions.  The workshop will not have a formal proceedings, but we expect speakers to allow us to make their presentations available for free on the workshop website during and after the workshop.  Authors of accepted submissions are also strongly encouraged to make their papers available to the community as preprints through the usual channels.   We also welcome position papers (whose titles should start with the words “Position Paper”) for particularly forward-looking areas and for submissions that address the intersection of DNS privacy with policy or economics, and short papers (whose titles should start with the words “Short Paper”) for sharing work-in-progress or more speculative ideas.

Submissions should be non-anonymous, and consist of a main body and well-marked appendices. For papers that have already been published, submission should include a cover letter (at most 2 pages) commenting on what the workshop presentation would contain, appended with the published paper.  For papers not already formally published, the main body should be about 12 pages in length with reasonable margins and fonts.  Appendices are unlimited in length; however, Workshop Technical Program Committee members may base their decisions solely on the contents of the main bodies of submissions.  For Position Papers and Short Papers, all of the above applies, but the papers should be about 6 pages in length. Draft presentations should be about 20 – 30 pages.  We expect to be flexible on lenth and format given relevant submissions.

Location and Important Dates

Workshop Location: San Diego, CA, USA

Workshop date: 2017-02-26 (co-located with NDSS 2017)

Final submissions (EXTENDED): 2017-01-18 anywhere-on-earth

Final date for notifications and invitations to present at the workshop: 2017-02-03

Technical Programme Committee

Confirmed Members:

  • Stéphane Bortzmeyer, AFNIC
  • Sara Dickinson, Sinodun (TPC Co-Chair)
  • Stephen Farrell, Trinity College Dublin
  • John Heidemann, USC/ISI
  • Christian Huitema, Private Octopus Inc.
  • Aaron Johnson, US Naval Research Lab
  • Daniel Kahn-Gillmor, ACLU
  • Allison Mankin, Salesforce (TPC Co-Chair)
  • Benno Overeinder, NLnet Labs
  • Roland van Rijswijk, UTwente and SURFnet
  • Melinda Shore, Fastly
  • Tara Whalen, Google

If you have any questions about topics or otherwise, send email to Sara Dickinson <[email protected]> and Allison Mankin <[email protected]>