Australia has started down the long road to a safer internet, as the domain name regulator kicked off a plan today to secure online communications at their bedrock.
Next month, regulator auDA (the .au Domain Administration) and its wholesale domain name provider AusRegistry will phase in the Domain Name Security (DNSSEC) protocol across Australian domain names such as those ending in com.au and net.au.
The regulator said the five-stage process will gradually bring domain name owners into the fold as it tests systems over coming months, before rolling out the technology to the mass market.
DNSSEC helps computers on the internet determine if a communication is going to the right place, essential to thwart hackers who trick devices into sending data to compromised or unauthorised locations.
It was designed to work with the domain name system, the internet's phone book, which matches internet protocol numbers such as 192.168.1.1 with easily understood names such as www.mycomputer.com.
"When the internet was first developed, it was designed to be massively scalable, not inherently secure," said regulator chief executive officer Chris Disspain.
"DNSSEC can provide an extra level of security to help ensure that Australian Internet users will be directed to the website or service they expect when they enter a domain name into their browser."
Disspain warned that the security precaution was only as strong as its weakest link.
"It will be most effective once every element between the internet's core infrastructure and the end user is DNSSEC-enabled," he said.
Disspain said the final stage of the plan would require Australia's ISPs and domain name owners, many of whom are big businesses, to accept the scheme even though there were "no immediate commercial incentives" beyond the comfort of more secure online communications.
"It will be up to ISPs, registrars and corporate entities with a significant web presence to extend the reach of DNSSEC to the end user," he said.
The regulator looked to the Australian Government to "play an important role in helping to deliver the message about the importance of DNSSEC for the security of Australia's internet infrastructure", he said.