Government Keeping Its .Gov Domain Names Secret

Despite a presidential promise of openness in government, GSA officials decline to release the full list for fear of cyberattack.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

March 2, 2009

1 Min Read

Cricket Liu, VP of architecture at Infoblox, an Internet infrastructure management company, agrees that security through obscurity won't work. "DNS is a public, worldwide naming system," he said in an e-mail. "If a subdomain of .gov is used at all on the Internet, there's some evidence of it. Even if the subdomain isn't visible at all on the Internet, the fact that it's hidden doesn't improve the security of hosts in that subdomain."

Frank Hayes, senior VP of marketing at Nitro Security, said security through obscurity "is not necessarily something that we'd recommend to implement solely." He added, "A lot of times, it's just policy to try to keep those things secret." He speculated that some .gov sites might only allow traffic from whitelisted sites and that publication of those domain names might undermine that strategy.

Another possible reason for the government's reluctance to reveal the list of .gov domains might be that the GSA, which administers the .gov domain, has come under fire for allowing government domains to be politicized and for allowing exceptions to the naming policy for .gov domains.

Aftergood said he thinks there's a good chance that a court would overturn the GSA's decision. "But the move illustrates the temptation of secrecy for some government officials," he said. "It's their first instinct."

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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