Channel 211, the SIE Newly Active Domains (NAD) channel is a source of DNS intelligence for previously seen domains observed in channel 204 after 10 days of inactivity. This enables customers to observe and monitor known domains that have been inactive and then notified when they become active again.

Newly Active Domains (NAD) is one of several channels that tracks domain observations, creation, and changes. These channels follow:

1: A “base domain” is one label followed by a suffix. See the Public Suffix List for information on the current list of official suffixes. Suffixes are a superset of the Top Level Domains (TLDs).

These channels use Channel 204 Processed DNS Data, that is used by DNSDB, as their authoritative data source. The DNS data available from channel 204 is after the deduplication and verification phases from the Passive DNS Processing “Waterfall” Model. Domains and hostnames are checked for historic observations in DNSDB back to June 2010.

For more information about Channel 204 Processed DNS Data, please refer to the SIE Technical Overview guide.

Table of Contents

About Security Information Exchange (SIE)

The Security Information Exchange (SIE), from Farsight Security® Inc., is a scalable and adaptable real-time data streaming and information sharing platform. SIE collects and provides access to more than 200,000 observations per-second of raw data from its global sensor network. Farsight also applies unique and proprietary methods for improving usability of the data, directly sharing the refined intelligence with SIE customers and DNSDB®, one of the world’s largest passive DNS (pDNS) databases.

The diverse set of data available from SIE includes the following and is relevant and useful for practitioners in various technology roles:

Each unique set of data in SIE is known as a channel and the data acquired from a specific channel can be customized to meet the needs of each customer, enabling you to subscribe to and access only the channels needed to solve your problem. A channel in SIE may be the result from analyzing the data or a subset of data from other channels.

Why Passive DNS (pDNS)?

DNS is a critical component of Internet communication and almost all Internet transactions begin with a DNS query and response.

DNS serves as early warning and detection solution for phishing, spam, malicious and suspicious behaviors, and other attacks. DNS intelligence is considered the only source of “ground truth” information for the Internet.

Passive DNS (pDNS) begins with raw DNS traffic that is observed and collected by passive DNS sensors and contributed to Farsight’s Security Information Exchange (SIE) by pDNS sensor operators. Once the data is sent to SIE, the data then passes through a series of processing phases:

  1. Deduplication: Channel 207, DNSDB Deduplicated Data
  2. Verification: Channel 208, DNSDB Verified Data
  3. Filtering: Channel 204, Processed DNS Data (which used by DNSDB)

The end result is the highest-quality and most comprehensive passive DNS database, DNSDB, of its kind-with more than 100 billion unique DNS resource records since 2010.

Farsight Security’s mission is to make the Internet a safer place. We provide security solutions that empower customers with meaningful and relevant intelligence. This information provides customers with insights about the network configuration of a threat and the surrounding network on the Internet for improving the value and impact of threat intelligence and research.

The Security Information Exchange (SIE), from Farsight Security Inc., is designed with privacy in mind. The passive DNS (pDNS) sensors do not collect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from client resolvers (also known as stub) by deliberately collecting between recursive resolvers and authoritative servers.

The data from SIE enables security professionals to accurately identify, map, and protect their networks from cybercriminal activity by providing global visibility. It provides immediate access to a real-time global sensor network without the need to develop or deploy your own data collection infrastructure.

About SIE Newly Active Domains (NAD)

Channel 211 provides insights about DNS activity for previously observed base domains seen in channel 204 after 10 days of inactivity. If DNS activity meets this criteria, the intelligence is sent to channel 211.

A “base domain” is one label followed by a suffix and a domain that users can register with a registrar. See the Public Suffix List for information on the current list of official suffixes. Suffixes are a superset of the Top Level Domains (TLDs). For example, farsightsecurity.com is a “base domain”.

When is DNS intelligence for NAD sent to channel 211?

The following narrative will inform and guide you in understanding when DNS resource record data is sent to one of the channels that tracks domain observations, creation, and changes.

For a good introduction into the opportunities and possibilities of these channels, see New (and Newly-Changed) Fully Qualified Domain Names (FQDNs): A View of Worldwide Changes to the Internet’s DNS from Black Hat Europe, 2015.

Use Cases for SIE Newly Active Domains (NAD)

Newly Active Domains (NAD) is an important tool in recognizing potential bad actor domains and enables customers to observe and monitor known domains that have been inactive and then notified when they become active again.

In most environments, domains and hostnames are created and staged long before they “light up” and become active. With malware, ransomware, and other criminal activities, domains often become active shortly after registration and creation. By monitoring and tracking this activity, it is possible to identify domains and hostnames used by bad actors and block access to them before they can be used to cause malicious actions or problems in your environment.

Malware and other bad actor domains and hostnames often have two behaviors:

  1. Domain is registered / created and then shortly followed by DNS activity
  2. Dormant domain becomes active after a period of inactivity

The first behavior can be easily recognized when a domain is observed in the Channel 212 Newly Observed Domains (NOD) and then observed after 10 days of inactivity and is sent to Channel 211 Newly Active Domains (NAD). This type of activity can be an indicator that site is risky.

The second behavior is less clear, since it can be an indicator of risky activity or a legitimate site that is being brought live. Channel 211 Newly Active Domains (NAD) can inform customers about idle to active behaviors, but further may be analysis needed to understand whether the activity is risky

Organizations have utilized DNS intelligence from Newly Observed Domains (NOD) and Newly Active Domains (NAD) and implemented countermeasures with the following criteria. If domains are first observed in NOD and then observed in NAD, then a short-term block known as a “greylist” is implemented to prevent access to the suspicious domains.

While the suspicious domains are greylisted, teams analyze and validate to determine whether they are legitimate or risky. Once analysis is complete, access to a domain is either permitted or it is added to a block list and access is denied.

Implementing this type of countermeasure could prevent email for the suspicious domains from being received, may deny and/or reject connection attempts to a website, or both. There is rarely an urgent need to access a new website and greylists can help mitigate the risk of a new or unknown domain.

Channel 211 Newly Active Domains (NAD) is an essential tool that enables you to identify domains that were previously observed, dormant, and then become active again. This channel empowers an organization to create policies and decide whether to permit or deny access to the domains and how long access to should be prevented.

Channel Information for SIE Channel 211

Channel Name Newly Active Domains (NAD)
Channel Number 211
Description Domains that have been observed after having not been seen for at least 10 days.
Schema SIE:newdomain
Bit Rate 56Kb/sec
Bit Rate (Max) 170K/sec
Payloads 50/sec
Payloads (Max) 150/sec

Note: Quoted bitrates and payloads are representative of SIE traffic as of June, 2021.

Access Methods for SIE Channel 211

SIE Direct Connect Yes
SIE Direct Connect Data Format NMSG
SIE Remote Access (SRA) Yes
SRA Data Format NMSG
SIE Batch Yes
SIE Batch Data Format Newline-Delimited JSON (ND-JSON)
Advanced Exchange Access Middleware Daemon (AXAMD) Yes
AXAMD Data Format NMSG

Data Format for SIE Channel 211

The Newly Active Domains (NAD) channel data uses the SIE NMSG newdomain schema:

DNS Query and Response resource record schema that observes and collects data returned from a query. The data available from this channel contains NMSG SIE:newdomain type messages that include the following fields:

The NMSG header includes the following fields:

KEY VALUE
time Time when base domain was observed in Channel 204 after 10 days of inactivity.
vname Vendor Name, SIE.
mname Message type, newdomain.
message Embedded JSON record describing the observed DNS Query and Response RR.

The embedded NMSG message payload is JSON formatted and includes the following fields:

KEY VALUE
domain Domain name of the query observed by pDNS.
time_seen Time that pDNS observed the base domain after 10 days of inactivity.
rrname Domain name of the query observed by pDNS.
rrclass RR CLASS is always “Internet (IN)”, which is decimal value “1”.
rrtype RR TYPE describes the type of RR, e.g., A(1), NS(2), CNAME(5).
rdata Data that describes the RR type, returned as an array.
keys Always empty or null.
new_rr Always empty or null.

Note: Time-based strings are in the YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS format. The month “MM” starts at 01 for January and ends with 12 for December. The hours “HH” are 00-23, and minutes “MM” and seconds “SS” are 00-59. The times are recorded at UTC (GMT) and daylight savings time (DST) is not applicable.

Example Message from SIE Channel 211

Data acquired from Channel 211 Newly Active Domains (NAD) is returned in NMSG format when using the Direct Connect or SIE Remote Access (SRA) access methods. NMSG is an adaptable container format that allows for consistent or variable message types. If data is downloaded for Channel 211 using SIE Batch, the data is already delivered in ND-JSON format, and the nmsgtool step below can be skipped.

The nmsgtool program is a tool for acquiring a variety of different inputs, like data streams from the network, capturing data from network interfaces, reading data from files, or even standard input and making NMSG payloads available to one or more outputs. The nmsgtool program can acquire data from SIE Channel 211 and convert it to a ND-JSON (newline-delimited JSON) text format for display or additional processing and analysis. nmsgtool is a program written by Farsight and released as open source.

See the following pages for instructions on how to install software packages for a specific distribution.

After data for Channel 211 has been acquired, written, and saved to a file, you need to decode it to ND-JSON using nmsgtool. The [-r ch211_nad.nmsg] option tells nmsgtool to read binary NMSG data from a file, [-c 1] limits the output to single NMSG payload, and [-J -] displays the record in ND-JSON format to stdout, which is typically the screen.

$ nmsgtool -r ch211_nad.nmsg -c 1 -J -
{"time":"2020-03-12 16:13:03.567192526","vname":"SIE","mname":"newdomain",
"message":{"domain":"example.com.","time_seen":"2020-03-12 15:39:45",
"rrname":"example.com.","rrclass":"IN","rrtype":"NS",
"rdata":["nsg1.example.com.","nsg2.example.com."],"keys":[],"new_rr":[]}}

Once the data has been formatted to ND-JSON, a record from the Newly Active Domains channel will look similar to the following. The following output can be sent to another tool for additional processing.

{"time":"2020-03-12 16:13:03.567192526","vname":"SIE","mname":"newdomain",
"message":{"domain":"example.com.","time_seen":"2020-03-12 15:39:45",
"rrname":"example.com.","rrclass":"IN","rrtype":"NS",
"rdata":["nsg1.example.com.","nsg2.example.com."],"keys":[],"new_rr":[]}}

If you want to display a pretty-printed output of ND-JSON formatted records, we recommend using jq, a lightweight and flexible command-line JSON processor. The open source software package is available on Debian and can be installed using $ sudo apt-get install jq. The output from nmsgtool in JSON format [-J -] can be piped to jq using the following:

$ nmsgtool -r ch211_nad.nmsg -c 1 -J - | jq -r '.'
{
  "time": "2020-03-12 16:13:03.567192526",
  "vname": "SIE",
  "mname": "newdomain",
  "message": {
    "domain": "example.com.",
    "time_seen": "2020-03-12 15:39:45",
    "rrname": "example.com.",
    "rrclass": "IN",
    "rrtype": "NS",
    "rdata": [
      "nsg1.example.com.",
      "nsg2.example.com."
    ],
    "keys": [],
    "new_rr": []
  }
}

SIE Access Methods

Data from SIE can be accessed and acquired using the following methods:

For additional information about SIE access methods, please see the SIE Technical Overview document.

Direct Connect

SIE Direct Connect allows a customer to physically connect a server to the Farsight SIE network for maximum data throughput. This can be done in one of two ways:

If a blade server is leased from Farsight, it will be pre-installed with the essential software components needed to acquire, process, compress, buffer, and transfer data from SIE channels to the customer’s data center for additional analysis, enrichment, and storage.

If a customer uses their own server, an order can be submitted for a cross-connect to the SIE switches hosted at select Equinix data centers (Ashburn DC3 and Palo Alto SV8). An FSI account manager can help guide cross-connect provisioning details, hosting, or colocation options.

For additional information about SIE connection methods, please see the SIE Technical Overview document. A Farsight’s sales representatives is happy to share a copy of this document with you. This will help inform and guide you in understanding which connection method will work best for you.

SIE Remote Access (SRA)

SIE Remote Access (SRA) enables a customer to remotely connect to the Security Information Exchange (SIE) from anywhere on the Internet. SRA provides access to SIE channel data on customer’s local servers, allowing their analysis and processing systems to be located in their own data centers rather than physically co-located at a Farsight’s data center.

Due to the technical limitations of transporting high bitrate SIE channels across the Internet, the SRA access method is not available for all SIE channels. Please reference the SIE Channel Guide for channels that can be accessed using SRA.

SRA uses the Advanced Exchange Access (AXA) transport protocol which enables SRA sessions to perform the following:

The streaming search and filtering capabilities of AXA enables SRA to access and acquire meaningful and relevant data from SIE while avoiding the costs of transporting enormous volumes of data across the Internet.

Note: For high volume channels accessed using SRA, it is expected that customer’s will specify a search or filter for IP addresses and DNS domain names or hostnames of interest. The SRA service will only collect and send data matching the specified criteria across the Internet to the customer.

SIE Batch

SIE Batch provides on-demand access for downloading data from SIE channels using a RESTful API or web-based interface. You select the channel and duration of time you are interested in, and then download the data for analysis. The duration of available data is dependent on the channel, but is typically the most recent 12-18 hours. SIE Batch allows you to acquire data from SIE channel using two (2) methods:

Advanced Exchange Access Middleware Daemon (AXAMD)

Farsight also provides a RESTful middleware layer in front of its AXA service. This service is called the AXA Middleware Daemon (AXAMD) and provides a RESTful capability that adds a streaming HTTP interface on top of the AXA toolkit. This enables web-application developers to interface with SIE using SRA. Farsight also published a command line tool and Python extension library called axamd_client. This toolkit is licensed under the Apache 2.0 license.

The Advanced Exchange Access (AXA) toolkit contains tools and a C library to bring Farsight’s real-time data and services directly from the Farsight Security Information Exchange (SIE) to the customers network.

Advanced Exchange Access Middleware Daemon (AXAMD) is a suite of tools and library code to bring Farsight’s real-time data and services directly from the Farsight Security Information Exchange (SIE) to the customers network.

Due to the technical limitations of transporting high bitrate SIE channels across the Internet, the AXAMD access method is not available for all SIE channels.

Additional Information

About Farsight Security

Farsight Security, Inc. is the world’s leading provider of historical and real-time DNS intelligence solutions. We enable security teams to qualify, enrich, and correlate all sources of threat data and ultimately save time when it is most critical - during an attack or investigation. Our solutions provide enterprise, government, and security industry personnel and platforms with unmatched global visibility, context, and response. Farsight Security is headquartered in San Mateo, California, USA. To learn more about how we can empower your security, threat, and intelligence platforms and security organization with Farsight Security passive DNS (pDNS) and threat intelligence solutions, please visit us at www.farsightsecurity.com or follow us on Twitter at @FarsightSecInc.