DNS4EU, a new European domain name resolution service is being developed by an international consortium with the participation of the ELKH Institute for Computer Science and Control (SZTAKI). The goal of DNS4EU is to provide EU citizens, companies, and institutions with a secure, privacy compliant, and powerful recursive DNS – an “address book of the internet” enabling browsing web via domain names instead of strings of numbers. The project will become a vital part of European internet sovereignty.
With DNS services, computers connected to the Internet can be accessed not by IP addresses, which are long strings of numbers, but by more easily remembered domain names, such as sztaki.hu. IP addresses and domain names are linked by DNS servers, which serve as a kind of internet directory. A central part of this system is the DNS resolver, which can be used to retrieve the names associated with each address. A European version is now being developed at the initiative of the European Commission.
Since independent name resolution is costly or slow, the task is usually performed by specialized service providers instead of end-user devices. Public DNS resolvers cover more than half of the queries, while the remainder are handled by resolvers offered by ISPs and other non-public solutions.
According to Ernő Rigó, head of the Department of Network Security and Internet Technologies at SZTAKI, “DNS resolution service operators obtain a significant amount of information about users’ internet activities through the requests they receive, in fact they can indirectly influence, block or even reroute these activities. This influence is usually sold to users in the form of value-added security services, such as the filtering of DNS requests for malicious content. There are potential economic, cybersecurity and national security risks associated with this level of data collection and interference.”
The European Commission’s aim is to keep user data in the EU’s digital space and to make the service available to as many European users as possible – up to 100 million people – while ensuring the highest standards of data protection.
The plan is to combine the infrastructure of telecom operators and ISPs with new publicly available DNS resolvers. The basic service will be free of charge for European citizens and institutions, and premium services will be available for a fee.
The DNS4EU project, led by the Czech software company Whalebone, will be implemented between January 1, 2023 and December 31, 2025, with 13 consortium members from 10 EU countries, including SZTAKI and HunCERT coordinated by SZTAKI, from Hungary. Other consortium members are ABI Lab (CERTFin, Italy), Centro Nacional de Cibersegurança (CERT.PT, Portugal), CESNET (Czech Republic), CZ.NIC (Czech Republic), the Czech Technical University in Prague (Czech Republic), deSEC (Germany), Ministry of Electronic Governance (Bulgaria), NASK (CERT Polska, Poland), National Cyber Security Directorate (Romania), F-Secure (Finland), and Time.lex (Belgium).