African TLDs, ISPs implement DNSSEC to attract more users

The move is meant to increase Internet use by ensuring better security

Africa's country code top-level domains and Internet service providers have implemented DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions) in order to attract more users.

DNSSEC is a security protocol that guards against online fraud, identity theft and hijacking of websites. It ensures users that the communication between an application and organization is trustworthy and is not susceptible to eavesdropping, tampering and other online threats.

Tanzania, Uganda and Gabon are the latest TLDs to implement DNSSEC, while Namibia and Seychelles had implemented earlier. In some countries, ISPs have also put in place DNS-aware servers that allow end users to validate sites with DNSSEC. For instance, Egypt TLD has not implemented DNSSEC but Linkdotnet, offers DNSSEC validation. Other countries with ISPs offering validation are Libya, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti, Algeria, Zambia, Angola and South Africa.

"People buying .Tz domain will be assured of security especially when doing business online -- DNSSEC implementation has added an extra layer of security, increasing the value of .Tz," said Abibu Ntahigiye, TZNIC (.tz domain registry) manager.

The failure of e-commerce in Sub-Saharan Africa has been blamed on the lack of a credit card culture and fear of online fraud. South Africa has a more thriving e-commerce market because of its entrenched credit card culture, which also comes with other security measures.

"By signing .tz and its second-level domains, we are setting a stepping-stone for third-level domains to be signed as well," Ntahigiye said. "TZNIC is now directing its focus on marketing this service so that the current owners of .tz domain names and the new owners may adopt and use it to secure their domains."

TZNIC offers domains at a cost of between US$8 and $16 depending on whether the use is commercial or for schools. The second-level domains are;;;;;;;;;;;; and

TzNIC, UniForum SA, Africa Top Level Domain Organization and AFRINIC, the regional registry, have offered training about DNSSEC for ISPs and content and network providers.

"Since 2009, 350 people have enrolled in the training program offered by UniForum at either introductory or advanced level. Courses have been held in South Africa, Zambia and there are plans to hold training in Lesotho," said Mark Elkins, the co-trainer at UniForum. The other trainer is Johan Ihrén from Netnod, Sweden.

Lack of demand from corporations and consumers, and lack of sufficient knowledge by ISP managers on benefits of DNSSEC, have been cited as some of the reasons behind slow implementation by TLD managers and ISPs.

"The biggest consumers of domain name services are corporations, if these corporate network managers have no sufficient information or knowledge of how DNSSEC can protect them, they will put zero pressure on service providers to implement it. The reality is that awareness and communication toward corporate network has been very low in our region," said Adiel Akplogan, AFRINIC CEO.

The TLDs in the region have not been stable, with many of then stymied by manual operations, but AFRINIC has been engaging them and exploring ways to support them more, especially in training and understanding DNSSEC and encryption.

"People are generally a bit worried and hesitant about anything that involves encryptions and the rigorous process in our region. DNSSEC by itself is not a complex technology but it requires well defined processes and strict management of its operation," Akplogan said.

Globally, Google offers the largest public DNS services on DNSSEC while in Africa, AFRINIC provides members (IP address allottees) with DNSSEC public DNS services, and members can now upload their information on the member portal, indicating whether they have implemented DNSSEC or the stage they are at.

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