Here's something that I had never seen before: A Top-Level Domain being used as a hostname for a website.
It's actually a mirror of http://nic.ac/, but web browsers are able to access it at http://ac/ or http://ac./ The extra period is sometimes required to force a DNS lookup, but isn't required on subsequent requests.
These URL's all go to the same place:
Let's look at what makes up a domain. A domain name consists of parts separated by periods. For a domain like www.example.com, com is the top-level domain and example is a sub-domain of that. The last part, www, is a sub-domain of example.com. Oh, and a hostname is a domain that points to an IP address, like 188.8.131.52.
There is a list of generic top-level domains such as GOV, EDU, COM, MIL, ORG, and NET. Many more top-level domains have been given out by ICANN (icann.org) for use by specific countries. That list can be found in the Root Zone Database (iana.org).
It's rare to see web sites hosted on a Top-Level Domain. In fact, there are currently 312 TLD's and only 17 of them resolve to an IP address.
AC - 184.108.40.206 AI - 220.127.116.11 CM - 18.104.22.168 DK - 22.214.171.124 GG - 126.96.36.199 IO - 188.8.131.52 JE - 184.108.40.206 PH - 220.127.116.11 PN - 18.104.22.168 SH - 22.214.171.124 TK - 126.96.36.199 TM - 188.8.131.52 TO - 184.108.40.206 UZ - 220.127.116.11 VI - 18.104.22.168 WS - 22.214.171.124 XN--O3CW4H - 126.96.36.199
Only 9 of those 17 domains with IP addresses are hosting a web server on port 80.
AC AI DK IO PN SH TM UZ WS
How can a URL look like this? I naturally asked myself if this could raise any security issues.
If there are XSS vulnerabilities (Cross-Site Scripting) on a Top-Level domain, could it affect all of it's subdomains?
Could you use the XSS to grab records and spoof content on all xx.yy.ac subdomains?
Could you create a cookie on the ".ac" domain that is re-sent for all sub-domains for the ultimate ad-network cookie or session-fixation attack?
Fortunately, domain policies work the from left-to-right. For example, xx.yy.ac can set a cookie for .yy.ac, but not the other way around. Additionally, browser vendors collaborate (publicsuffix.org) on a list of domain name suffixes (mxr.mozilla.org), so they can set rules that restrict the way TLD's are used.
I have a feeling that a web server running on a TLD could mess with a browser/plugin/proxy filter somewhere and cause some security issues, but I couldn't find anything concrete. I'm hoping that this post will inspire security researchers to look into the risks that this brings, because the scope of the issue is about to explode!
ICANN has a new initiative (icann.org) that intends to add between 300 and 1,000 new TLD's. Organizations can apply to control their own generic TLD, like .coke or .pepsi.
Security researchers should take a look at this now before things get crazy.