Unresolved Issues: Prevalence, Persistence, and Perils of Lame Delegations


The modern Internet relies on the Domain Name System (DNS) to convert between human-readable domain names and IP addresses. However, the correct and efficient implementation of this function is jeopardized when the configuration data binding domains, nameservers and glue records is faulty. In particular lame delegations, which occur when a nameserver responsible for a domain is unable to provide authoritative information about it, introduce both performance and security risks. We perform a broad-based measurement study of lame delegations, using both longitudinal zone data and active querying. We show that lame delegations of various kinds are common (affecting roughly 14% of domains we queried), that they can significantly degrade lookup latency (when they do not lead to outright failure), and that they expose hundreds of thousands of domains to adversarial takeover. We also explore circumstances that give rise to this surprising prevalence of lame delegations, including unforeseen interactions between the operational procedures of registrars and registries.

ACM Internet Measurement Conference (IMC ‘20), October 27–29, 2020, Virtual Event, USA