Unbound DNS Server Cache Control

Mar 12, 2016 12:00 unbound dns

Unbound is a highly-performant, easy-to-configure, recursive, caching DNS server. Configuring Unbound as a recursive, caching DNS server is outside of the scope of this post. However, Calomel.org has a well-written how-to on doing so.

Part of what makes Unbound a great tool is that it’s cache can be manipulated on the fly using unbound-control. The examples below should give you some flavor of how straight-forward working with Unbound’s cache can be.

Showing Cache Data

Unbound will allow you to interrogate it’s cache in multiple ways, one of which is by simply dumping the cache:

# unbound-control dump_cache

Here’s an example snippet:

;rrset 73895 1 1 11 4
mozilla.net.	73895	IN	DS	58911 7 1 D14FECD29A6ED5E519375B4BD29294F6E9F77785
mozilla.net.	73895	IN	RRSIG	DS 8 2 86400 20160316051355 20160309050355 51128 net. L9RT2YhKWxyT2THZdbwfvR4iQxysDhDNSykO3yKMpxL6MJTcGA5gl+O3+GMydJLZ2e7CY/MLtXr9jZcaHHmFvpv73Rn47dn/CpHWYEzTc/uxAXVGhvUm9/RISfBVHuLz4oX8L1N1b4pTbWBm91TbmIhSfGO6ROadZIbZlz58YcE= ;{id = 51128}
;rrset 72433 1 0 5 3
mail.google.com.	507560	IN	CNAME	googlemail.l.google.com.
;rrset 1147 1 0 5 3
c-ls.mgo-images.com.edgekey.net.	1147	IN	CNAME	e7226.g.akamaiedge.net.

Importing Cache Data

You may already have been wondering if Unbound would allow cache data to be imported: Yes, it does.

Simply dump the cache to a file:

# unbound-control dump_cache > unbound.dump

Then, import the dump:

# cat unbound.dump | unbound-control load_cache

This is mostly useful for debugging purposes.

Clearing Cached Data

All Data for a Zone

Suppose you wanted to clear all cache data for google.com. The following command will clear everything related to google.com from the cache:

# unbound-control flush_zone google.com
ok removed 12 rrsets, 6 messages and 0 key entries

This command has the potential to be slow especially for a zone like google.com. Chances are, there are many entries for google.com in your cache and Unbound needs to go looking for every one of them in the cache.

You may want to drill or dig for multiple record types related to google.com before running this command. You should notice that the TTLs start decrementing before running the command. After running the command, you should notice that the TTLs jump back up.

Partial Data for a Zone

Maybe you only want to clear instances of ‘www’ from the google.com zone in the cache and not others such as ‘maps’ or ‘mail’. The following will delete A, AAAA, NS, SOA, CNAME, DNAME, MX, PTR, SRV and NAPTR records associated with www.google.com:

# unbound-control flush www.google.com

A specific record type can also be specified in case you want clear one type and not others. For example, if you wanted to remove AAAA records but keep A records for www.google.com:

# unbound-control flush_type name www.google.com aaaa

Adding Data to Cache

Using DNS to block ad servers is a pretty common tactic nowadays. Entries can be added to return ‘’ instead the actual ad server IP - preventing communication with the ad servers:

# unbound-control local_zone "random-ad-server.com" redirect
# unbound-control local_data "random-ad-server.com A"

These examples don’t cover all use cases. There are still other cache-related actions that unbound-control can do. For more info check out the unbound-control man page.