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Domain Verification Techniques using DNS

Document Type Active Internet-Draft (dnsop WG)
Authors Shivan Kaul Sahib , Shumon Huque , Paul Wouters
Last updated 2023-02-16
Replaces draft-sahib-domain-verification-techniques
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state In WG Last Call
Document shepherd Tim Wicinski
IESG IESG state I-D Exists
Consensus boilerplate Yes
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Network Working Group                                           S. Sahib
Internet-Draft                                            Brave Software
Intended status: Best Current Practice                          S. Huque
Expires: 20 August 2023                                       Salesforce
                                                              P. Wouters
                                                        16 February 2023

                Domain Verification Techniques using DNS


   Many services on the Internet need to verify ownership or control of
   a domain in the Domain Name System (DNS).  This verification is often
   done by requesting a specific DNS record to be visible in the domain.
   There are a variety of techniques in use today, with different pros
   and cons.  This document proposes some practices to avoid known

Discussion Venues

   This note is to be removed before publishing as an RFC.

   Source for this draft and an issue tracker can be found at

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 20 August 2023.

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2023 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Revised BSD License text as
   described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Conventions and Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     3.1.  TXT Record  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     3.2.  CNAME Record  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   4.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   6.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     6.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     6.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   Appendix A.  Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     A.1.  Survey of Verification Techniques . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
       A.1.1.  TXT based . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
       A.1.2.  CNAME based . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       A.1.3.  DNAME . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       A.1.4.  Time-bound checking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11

1.  Introduction

   Many providers of internet services need domain owners to prove that
   they control a particular domain before they can operate a services
   or grant some privilege to the associated domain.  For instance,
   certificate authorities (CAs) ask requesters of TLS certificates to
   prove that they operate the domain they are requesting the
   certificate for.  Providers generally allow for several different
   ways of proving domain control.  In practice, DNS-based verification
   takes the form of the provider generating a random value visible only
   to the requester, and then asking the requester to create a DNS
   record containing this random value and placing it at a location
   within the domain that the provider can query for.  Generally only
   one temporary DNS record is sufficient for proving domain ownership,

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   although sometimes the DNS record must be kept in the zone to prove
   continued ownership of the domain.

   This document describes common practices and pitfalls associated with
   using DNS-based techniques for domain verification in the Appendix A,
   and recommends using TXT-based domain verification which is time-
   bound and targeted to the service.  Other techniques such as email or
   HTTP(S) based verification are out-of-scope.

2.  Conventions and Definitions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

   Provider: an internet-based provider of a service, for e.g., a
   Certificate Authority or a service that allows for user-controlled
   websites.  These services often require a user to verify that they
   control a domain.

   APEX: the 'top' of the domain name.  From the user perspective, the
   highest level of "their" domain name.

   # this record is at the APEX of the domain   IN   NS
   # this record is NOT at the APEX of the domain   IN   A

   Random Token: a random value that uniquely identifies the DNS domain
   verification challenge.

3.  Recommendations

3.1.  TXT Record

   DNS TXT records are the RECOMMENDED method of doing DNS-based domain
   verification.  The provider constructs the validation domain name by
   prepending a provider-relevant prefix followed by "-challenge" to the
   domain name being validated (e.g. "").

   The RDATA of the TXT resource record MUST contain a unique token
   identifying the challenge constructed as the output of the following:

   1.  Generate a Random Token with at least 128 bits of entropy.

   2.  Take the SHA-256 digest output [SHA256] of it.

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   3.  base64url encode it.

   See [RFC4086] for additional information on randomness requirements.

   Providers MUST provide clear instructions on when a verifying record
   can be removed.  The user SHOULD de-provision the resource record
   provisioned for a DNS-based domain verification challenge once the
   one-time challenge is complete.  These instructions SHOULD be encoded
   in the RDATA via comma-separated ASCII key-value pairs [RFC1464]
   using the key expiry.  If this is done, the token should have a key
   token.  For example:  IN   TXT  "token=3419...3d206c4,expiry=2023-02-08T02:03:19+00:00"

   Alternatively, if the record should never expire (i.e. if the same
   challenge is used repeatedly), the expiry can set to be never.  IN   TXT  "token=3419...3d206c4,expiry=never"

   If metadata is not used, then the unique token generated as-above can
   be placed as the only contents of the RDATA.

   For example:  IN   TXT  "3419...3d206c4"

   If a provider has an application-specific need to have multiple
   verifications for the same label, multiple prefixes can be used:  IN   TXT  "3419...3d206c4"

   This again allows the provider to query only for application-specific
   records it needs, while giving flexibility to the user adding the DNS
   verification record (i.e. they can be given permission to only add
   records under a specific prefix by the DNS administrator).  Whether
   or not multiple verifying records can exist for the same domain is up
   to the implementation.

   Consumers of the provider services need to relay information from a
   provider's website to their local DNS administrators.  The exact DNS
   record type, content and location is often not clear when the DNS
   administrator receives the information, especially to consumers who
   are not DNS experts.  Providers SHOULD offer detailed help pages,
   that are accessible without needing a login on the provider website,
   as the DNS adminstrator often has no login account on the provider
   service website.  Similarly, for clarity, the exact and full DNS
   record (including a Fully Qualified Domain Name) to be added SHOULD
   be provided along with help instructions.

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3.2.  CNAME Record

   CNAME records cannot co-exist with any other data; what happens when
   both a CNAME and other records exist depends on the DNS
   implementation, and might break in unexpected ways.  If a CNAME is
   added for continuous authorization, and for another service a TXT
   record is added, the TXT record might work but the CNAME record might
   break.  Another issue with CNAME records is that they must not point
   to another CNAME.  But while this might be true in an initial
   deployment, if the target that the CNAME points to is changed from a
   non-CNAME record to a CNAME record, some DNS software might no longer
   resolve this as expected.  However, when using a properly named
   prefix, existing CNAME records should never conflict with regular
   CNAME records.

   It is therefore NOT RECOMMENDED to use CNAMEs for DNS domain

4.  Security Considerations

   Both the provider and the service being authenticated and authorized
   should be obvious from the TXT content to prevent malicious services
   from misleading the domain owner into certifying a different provider
   or service.

   DNSSEC [I-D.ietf-dnsop-dnssec-bcp] SHOULD be employed by the domain
   owner to protect their domain verification records against DNS
   spoofing attacks.

   DNSSEC validation MUST be enabled by service providers that verify
   domain verification records they have issued and when no DNSSEC
   support is detected for the domain owner zone, SHOULD attempt to
   query and confirm by matching the validation record using multiple
   DNS validators on (preferably) unpredictable geographically diverse
   IP addressses to reduce an attacker's ability to spoof DNS.
   Alternatively, service providers MAY perform multiple queries spread
   out over a longer time period to reduce the chance of receiving
   spoofed DNS answers.

5.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

6.  References

6.1.  Normative References

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              Fujiwara, K. and P. A. Vixie, "Fragmentation Avoidance in
              DNS", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-dnsop-
              avoid-fragmentation-11, 19 January 2023,

              Hoffman, P. E., "DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC)", Work
              in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-dnsop-dnssec-bcp-
              06, 24 October 2022,

   [RFC1034]  Mockapetris, P., "Domain names - concepts and facilities",
              STD 13, RFC 1034, DOI 10.17487/RFC1034, November 1987,

   [RFC1464]  Rosenbaum, R., "Using the Domain Name System To Store
              Arbitrary String Attributes", RFC 1464,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC1464, May 1993,

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

   [SHA256]   National Institute of Standards and Technology, "Secure
              Hash Standard (SHS), NIST FIPS 180-4", 2015,

6.2.  Informative References

              AWS, "Option 1: DNS Validation", n.d.,

              Atlassian, "Verify over DNS", n.d.,

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              GitHub, "Verifying your organization's domain", n.d.,

              Google, "CNAME record values", n.d.,

              Google, "TXT record values", n.d.,

              Let's Encrypt, "Challenge Types: DNS-01 challenge", 2020,

   [RFC4086]  Eastlake 3rd, D., Schiller, J., and S. Crocker,
              "Randomness Requirements for Security", BCP 106, RFC 4086,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4086, June 2005,

   [RFC6672]  Rose, S. and W. Wijngaards, "DNAME Redirection in the
              DNS", RFC 6672, DOI 10.17487/RFC6672, June 2012,

   [RFC8555]  Barnes, R., Hoffman-Andrews, J., McCarney, D., and J.
              Kasten, "Automatic Certificate Management Environment
              (ACME)", RFC 8555, DOI 10.17487/RFC8555, March 2019,

   [RFC9210]  Kristoff, J. and D. Wessels, "DNS Transport over TCP -
              Operational Requirements", BCP 235, RFC 9210,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9210, March 2022,

Appendix A.  Appendix

   The survey done in this document found several varying methods for
   DNS domain verification techniques across providers.  This
   Appendix lists them, for completeness.

A.1.  Survey of Verification Techniques

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A.1.1.  TXT based

   TXT record-based DNS domain verification is usually the default
   option for DNS verification.  The service provider asks the user to
   add a DNS TXT record (perhaps through their domain host or DNS
   provider) at the domain with a certain value.  Then the service
   provider does a DNS TXT query for the domain being verified and
   checks that the value exists.  For example, this is what a DNS TXT
   verification record could look like for a provider Foo:   IN   TXT   "237943648324687364"

   Here, the value "237943648324687364" serves as the randomly-generated
   TXT value being added to prove ownership of the domain to Foo
   provider.  Note that in this construction provider Foo would have to
   query for all TXT records at "" to get the validating
   record.  Although the original DNS protocol specifications did not
   associate any semantics with the DNS TXT record, [RFC1464] describes
   how to use them to store attributes in the form of ASCII text key-
   value pairs for a particular domain.  In practice, there is wide
   variation in the content of DNS TXT records used for domain
   verification, and they often do not follow the key-value pair model.
   Even so, the RDATA [RFC1034] portion of the DNS TXT record has to
   contain the value being used to verify the domain.  The value is
   usually a Random Token in order to guarantee that the entity who
   requested that the domain be verified (i.e. the person managing the
   account at Foo provider) is the one who has (direct or delegated)
   access to DNS records for the domain.  After a TXT record has been
   added, the service provider will usually take some time to verify
   that the DNS TXT record with the expected token exists for the
   domain.  The generated token typically expires in a few days.  See
   Appendix A for a survey of different implementations.

   Some providers use a suffix of _PROVIDER_NAME-challenge in the Name
   field of the TXT record challenge.  For ACME, the full Host is _acme-
   challenge.<YOUR_DOMAIN>.  Such patterns are useful for doing targeted
   domain verification.  The ACME protocol [RFC8555] has a challenge
   type DNS-01 that lets a user prove domain ownership.  In this
   challenge, an implementing CA asks you to create a TXT record with a
   randomly-generated token at _acme-challenge.<YOUR_DOMAIN>:  IN  TXT "cE3A8qQpEzAIYq-T9DWNdLJ1_YRXamdxcjGTbzrOH5L"

   [RFC8555] (section 8.4) places requirements on the Random Token.

   An operational issue arises from the DNS protocol only being able to
   query for "all TXT records" at a single location: if multiple
   services all require TXT records, this can cause the DNS answer for

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   TXT records to become very large.  It has been observed that some
   well known domains had so many services deployed that their DNS TXT
   answer did not fit in a single UDP DNS packet.  This results in
   fragmentation which is known to be vulnerable to various attacks
   ([AVOID-FRAGMENTATION]).  It can also lead to UDP packet truncation,
   causing a retry over TCP.  Not all networks properly transport DNS
   over TCP and some DNS software mistakenly believe TCP support is
   optional ([RFC9210]).

   A malicious service that promises to deliver something after domain
   verification could surreptitiously ask another service provider to
   start processing or sending mail for the target domain and then
   present the victim domain administrator with this DNS TXT record
   pretending to be for their service.  Once the administrator has added
   the DNS TXT record, instead of getting their service, their domain is
   now certifying another service of which they are not aware they are
   now a consumer.  If services use a clear description and name
   attribution in the required DNS TXT record, this can be avoided.  For
   example, by requiring a DNS TXT record at
   instead of at, a malicious service could no longer replay
   this without the DNS administrator noticing this.

A.1.1.1.  Let's Encrypt

   The ACME example in Appendix A.1.1 is implemented by Let's Encrypt

A.1.1.2.  Google Workspace

   [GOOGLE-WORKSPACE-TXT] asks the user to sign in with their
   administrative account and obtain their verification token as part of
   the setup process for Google Workspace.  The verification token is a
   68-character string that begins with "google-site-verification=",
   followed by 43 characters.  Google recommends a TTL of 3600 seconds.
   The owner name of the TXT record is the domain or subdomain neme
   being verified.

   [GOOGLE-WORKSPACE-CNAME] lets you specify a CNAME record for
   verifying domain ownership.  The user gets a unique 12-character
   string that is added as "Host", with TTL 3600 (or default) and
   Destination an 86-character string beginning with "gv-" and ending
   with "".

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A.1.1.3.  GitHub

   GitHub asks you to create a DNS TXT record under _github-challenge-
   organization name [GITHUB-TXT].  The code is a numeric code that
   expires in 7 days.

A.1.2.  CNAME based

   Less commonly than TXT record verification, service providers also
   provide the ability to verify domain ownership via CNAME records.
   One reason for using CNAME is for the case where the user cannot
   create TXT records; for example, when the domain name may already
   have a CNAME record that aliases it to a 3rd-party target domain.
   CNAMEs have a technical restriction that no other record types can be
   placed along side them at the same domain name Section 3.6.2 of
   [RFC1034].  The CNAME based domain verification method typically uses
   a randomized label prepended to the domain name being verified.  For
   example:   IN   CNAME`

   When a third-party validation provider is used, both the client and
   the service provider need to give the validation provider a random
   token, so that the validation provider can confirm the client request
   is unique and bound to the service provider's request.

A.1.2.1.  Google Workspace

   [GOOGLE-WORKSPACE-CNAME] lets you specify a CNAME record for
   verifying domain ownership.  The user gets a unique 12-character
   string that is added as "Host", with TTL 3600 (or default) and
   Destination an 86-character string beginning with "gv-" and ending
   with "".

A.1.2.2.  AWS Certificate Manager (ACM)

   To get issued a certificate by AWS Certificate Manager (ACM), you can
   create a CNAME record to verify domain ownership [ACM-CNAME].  The
   record name for the CNAME looks like:

 `_<random-token1>   IN   CNAME`

   Note that if there are more than 5 CNAMEs being chained, then this
   method does not work.

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A.1.3.  DNAME

   DNAME-based [RFC6672] domain verification is theoretically possible
   (though no examples were found).  Since DNAME redirects the entire
   subtree of names underneath the owner of the DNAME, you cannot place
   an underscore name under the DNAME itself - it would have to be
   placed under the DNAME target name, since any lookups for an
   underscore at the DNAME will be redirected to the corresponding label
   under the DNAME target.

A.1.4.  Time-bound checking

   After domain verification is done, there is typically no need for the
   TXT or CNAME record to continue to exist as the presence of the
   domain-verifying DNS record for a service only implies that a user
   with access to the service also has DNS control of the domain at the
   time the code was generated.  It should be safe to remove the
   verifying DNS record once the verification is done and the service
   provider doing the verification should specify how long the
   verification will take (i.e. after how much time can the verifying
   DNS record be deleted).

A.1.4.1.  Atlassian

   Some services ask the DNS record to exist in perpetuity
   [ATLASSIAN-VERIFY].  If the record is removed, the user gets a
   limited amount of time to re-add it before they lose domain
   verification status.

Authors' Addresses

   Shivan Sahib
   Brave Software

   Shumon Huque

   Paul Wouters

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