IANA Designates .Onion as Special Use Domain to Boost Security

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The Dark Web gets a bad rap for criminal activity, but it is used for many legitimate purposes as well. On Wednesday, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) designated the .onion domain a Special Use Domain, giving sites hosted on the Tor network more legitimacy.

Aside from giving .onion an official designation, it will also help .onion site administrators benefit from security certificates and encryption, according to a report by Motherboard, adding an extra layer of security and privacy. With the change, the .onion domain can only be used within the Tor network.

In an Internet Draft, security researcher Jacob Appelbaum and Facebook security engineer Alec Muffett said “.onion names are used to provide access to end to end encrypted, secure, anonymized services; that is, the identity and location of the server is obscured from the client. The location of the client is obscured from the server. The identity of the client may or may not be disclosed through an optional cryptographic authentication process.”

Applebaum and Muffett describe how the need for a special-use designation comes from how .onion domains are owned, the Register reports.

“’Ownership’ of a .onion name is derived solely from control of a public/private key pair which corresponds to the algorithmic derivation of the name.”

The Internet Draft also describes some of the security concerns, warning users to be wary of “onion-like” domains and encouraging them to update legacy TOR clients, according to the Register.


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