Install unbound DNS(SEC) resolver on OS X

Here's a little guide that explain how to install unbound 1.4.20 on the latest version of Mac OS X (10.8.4 at this time); as a bonus you will learn how to create system users on OS X :)

Please note that the setup here described is tailored for a workstation use; we will also enable the resolution of local DNS zones through a local DNS server (usually the wi-fi router).

In the following instructions we assume a LAN address space of with our local DNS server on

To install unbound you can use homebrew or macports:

$ brew install unbound

Unbound will run as a system daemon so we need to create a new user and group. First we need to find a free unique id for our user and group in the range 1-500 (this range is reserved for system accounts); pick a random number between 1 and 500 and check if it's taken, for example `451`: :

$ dscl . -list /Groups PrimaryGroupID | grep 451
$ dscl . -list /Users PrimaryGroupID | grep 451

If both commands doesn't show any output we are safe to use 451 for our user and group id.

To create the group and the user for unbound we run the following commands:

$ sudo dscl . -create /Groups/_unbound
$ sudo dscl . -create /Groups/_unbound PrimaryGroupID 451
$ sudo dscl . -create /Users/_unbound
$ sudo dscl . -create /Users/_unbound RecordName _unbound unbound
$ sudo dscl . -create /Users/_unbound RealName "Unbound DNS server"
$ sudo dscl . -create /Users/_unbound UniqueID 451
$ sudo dscl . -create /Users/_unbound PrimaryGroupID 451
$ sudo dscl . -create /Users/_unbound UserShell /usr/bin/false
$ sudo dscl . -create /Users/_unbound Password '*'
$ sudo dscl . -create /Groups/_unbound GroupMembership _unbound

Now we can edit the configuration file of unbound which by default is located in `/usr/local/etc/unbound/unbound.conf`:

  verbosity: 1
  access-control: allow
  chroot: ""
  private-domain: "my.lan"
  domain-insecure: "my.lan"
  username: "_unbound"
  auto-trust-anchor-file: "/usr/local/etc/unbound/root.key"


  control-enable: yes
  server-key-file: "/usr/local/etc/unbound/unbound_server.key"
  server-cert-file: "/usr/local/etc/unbound/unbound_server.pem"
  control-key-file: "/usr/local/etc/unbound/unbound_control.key"
  control-cert-file: "/usr/local/etc/unbound/unbound_control.pem"

  name: "my.lan"

You can tell unbound about local domains with the private-domain parameter; in this configuration we are specifying my.lan as a private domain.

If you wish to enable DNS forwarding to an external DNS server you can specify one with a catch-all forward zone; for example to use Google Public DNS as a forwarder add this to the bottom of `unbound.conf`: :

  name: "."

In the next step we will fetch the root key needed for DNSSEC validation: :

$ sudo unbound-anchor -a /usr/local/etc/unbound/root.key

Now we must create the certificate files needed by the unbound-control utility: :

$ sudo unbound-control-setup -d /usr/local/etc/unbound

The unbound process needs read and write permission for the configuration directory; we use staff as group so our user will be able to run `unbound-control`: :

$ sudo chown -R _unbound:staff /usr/local/etc/unbound
$ sudo chmod 640 /usr/local/etc/unbound/*

To start unbound at boot time we need to create a plist file in `/Library/LaunchDaemons/net.unbound.plist`:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">
<plist version="1.0">

To start unbound now we must load the plist with launchctl (be aware that you must execute launchctl outside of tmux or proxied by reattach-to-user-namespace): :

$ sudo launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/net.unbound.plist

To test our setup we can follow the examples on the DNSSEC page on the Debian wiki: :

$ dig org. SOA +dnssec @
; <<>> DiG 9.8.3-P1 <<>> org. SOA +dnssec @
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 49736
;; flags: qr rd ra ad; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 2, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

If you see ad in the flags field then DNSSEC is working.

You can also do a TXT query for to get a verbose confirmation that you are using DNSSEC; be aware that this test will fail if you are using an external DNS forwarder: :

$ dig TXT @

Now you should be all ready to use as your DNS resolver and benefit from DNSSEC; to see if everything is going right you can check the system Console for errors.

There are still some things that could be done better, for example we could specify a chroot to isolate the unbound process; I've also encountered problems running unbound-control reload and my Console always shows this line:

unbound[35549]: [35549:0] warning: did not exit gracefully last time (34581)

Hoepfully this post will be updated as I figure out how to resolve this problems :)

Some useful resources: