Status Report on the DNS in Egypt

by Rod Beckstrom on January 31, 2011

Along with the entire global Internet community, ICANN is watching the events unfolding in Egypt with great concern for the safety of the people of Egypt and for their ability to use the Internet. On January 27, most Internet connectivity to Egypt was shut down, apparently on the instruction of the national government. This has led to the inaccessibility of the main domain name system (DNS) server of the Egyptian ccTLD (.eg).

Egypt’s top-level domain .eg is operated by the Egyptian Universities Network (EUN) (http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/eg.html). The Arabic script top-level domain .masr (مصر, http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/xn--wgbh1c.html) is operated by the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Egypt (NTRA) (http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/xn--wgbh1c.html).

The primary servers they operate have been inaccessible to those outside of Egypt since January 27. Secondary DNS servers for .eg, located in Austria and the United States, have continued to function with data provided before the shutdown.

The .مصر DNS servers are exclusively in Egypt and there do not appear to be any secondary DNS servers outside the country. This means that service to sites served by this top-level domain are unreachable by the rest of the world.

Secondary servers copy their data from the primary server at regular intervals. Data in the secondary DNS servers, serving anyone in the world wishing to receive .eg DNS services, have an expiration date. Secondary servers require regular updating from the primary server at specified intervals – called “time to live” (TTL) – and that time is set to expire in 140 days.

Normally when primary servers fail – for example, following the earthquake in Haiti – the operator wants secondary servers to continue operating with the last zone file they had provided. This allows users around the world to connect to functioning servers in their zone.

ICANN’s Manager for Regional Relations for the Middle East has been communicating with both TLD operators, EUN and NTRA. The operators of .eg have communicated with ICANN and through ICANN are communicating with the secondary operators outside the country. They have requested that the secondary operators continue using the existing zone files past their time to live timeframes, if necessary.

This experience offers a number of lessons, among them that a policy to encourage the establishment of secondary servers to promote continuity of service as well as DNS stability could be useful and in the global public interest. ICANN will ask the ccNSO to consider proposing a policy to address this type of situation.

ICANN helps to ensure a secure and stable global Internet through its coordination of the domain name system, and is the global policy development body for the DNS and related matters. More than 100 ccTLD operators are voluntary members of the Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO), a formal ICANN policy and coordination body.

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