30.7. Domain Name System (DNS)

Domain Name System (DNS) is the protocol through which domain names are mapped to IP addresses, and vice versa. DNS is coordinated across the Internet through a somewhat complex system of authoritative root, Top Level Domain (TLD), and other smaller-scale name servers, which host and cache individual domain information. It is not necessary to run a name server to perform DNS lookups on a system.

The following table describes some of the terms associated with DNS:

Table 30.4. DNS Terminology
Forward DNSMapping of hostnames to IP addresses.
OriginRefers to the domain covered in a particular zone file.
ResolverA system process through which a machine queries a name server for zone information.
Reverse DNSMapping of IP addresses to hostnames.
Root zoneThe beginning of the Internet zone hierarchy. All zones fall under the root zone, similar to how all files in a file system fall under the root directory.
ZoneAn individual domain, subdomain, or portion of the DNS administered by the same authority.

Examples of zones:

As one can see, the more specific part of a hostname appears to its left. For example, example.org. is more specific than org., as org. is more specific than the root zone. The layout of each part of a hostname is much like a file system: the /dev directory falls within the root, and so on.

30.7.1. Reasons to Run a Name Server

Name servers generally come in two forms: authoritative name servers, and caching (also known as resolving) name servers.

An authoritative name server is needed when:

  • One wants to serve DNS information to the world, replying authoritatively to queries.

  • A domain, such as example.org, is registered and IP addresses need to be assigned to hostnames under it.

  • An IP address block requires reverse DNS entries (IP to hostname).

  • A backup or second name server, called a slave, will reply to queries.

A caching name server is needed when:

  • A local DNS server may cache and respond more quickly than querying an outside name server.

When one queries for www.FreeBSD.org, the resolver usually queries the uplink ISP's name server, and retrieves the reply. With a local, caching DNS server, the query only has to be made once to the outside world by the caching DNS server. Additional queries will not have to go outside the local network, since the information is cached locally.

30.7.2. DNS Server Configuration

Unbound is provided in the FreeBSD base system. By default, it will provide DNS resolution to the local machine only. While the base system package can be configured to provide resolution services beyond the local machine, it is recommended that such requirements be addressed by installing Unbound from the FreeBSD Ports Collection.

To enable Unbound, add the following to /etc/rc.conf:


Any existing nameservers in /etc/resolv.conf will be configured as forwarders in the new Unbound configuration.


If any of the listed nameservers do not support DNSSEC, local DNS resolution will fail. Be sure to test each nameserver and remove any that fail the test. The following command will show the trust tree or a failure for a nameserver running on

% drill -S FreeBSD.org @

Once each nameserver is confirmed to support DNSSEC, start Unbound:

# service local_unbound onestart

This will take care of updating /etc/resolv.conf so that queries for DNSSEC secured domains will now work. For example, run the following to validate the FreeBSD.org DNSSEC trust tree:

% drill -S FreeBSD.org
;; Number of trusted keys: 1
;; Chasing: freebsd.org. A

DNSSEC Trust tree:
freebsd.org. (A)
|---freebsd.org. (DNSKEY keytag: 36786 alg: 8 flags: 256)
    |---freebsd.org. (DNSKEY keytag: 32659 alg: 8 flags: 257)
    |---freebsd.org. (DS keytag: 32659 digest type: 2)
        |---org. (DNSKEY keytag: 49587 alg: 7 flags: 256)
            |---org. (DNSKEY keytag: 9795 alg: 7 flags: 257)
            |---org. (DNSKEY keytag: 21366 alg: 7 flags: 257)
            |---org. (DS keytag: 21366 digest type: 1)
            |   |---. (DNSKEY keytag: 40926 alg: 8 flags: 256)
            |       |---. (DNSKEY keytag: 19036 alg: 8 flags: 257)
            |---org. (DS keytag: 21366 digest type: 2)
                |---. (DNSKEY keytag: 40926 alg: 8 flags: 256)
                    |---. (DNSKEY keytag: 19036 alg: 8 flags: 257)
;; Chase successful

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