DNSBL queries (and, as such, DQS queries) are simply A queries for a certain hostname within the DNSBL zone.
The zones provided by DQS can be divided in two groups
sbl, xbl, sbl-xbl, pbl and zen, that provide information about IP addresses
dbl and zrd, that provide information on hostnames and domains
One must avoid to send IP queries to domain databases or domain queries to IP databases.
The hostname to be queried in order to know if a certain resource is listed is specific to the type of resource being queried:
Queries for IPv4 addresses. If the resource to be queried is an IPv4 address, the four octets of the IP addresses need to be inverted, then prepended to the DQS zone of choice. For instance, to query sbl about the listing status of
203.0.113.79one would perform an
ADNS query for the hostname
Queries for IPv6 addresses. If the IP address to be queried is IPv6, it must be transformed into a nibble format, which means all the hex digits of the expanded IPv6 address in reverse order and separated by dots. Then, such string needs to be prepended to the zone. For instance, to query sbl about the listing status of
2001:db8:7ca6:22::45one would use
The format used to represent IP addresses in DNSBL queries is the same used by the in-addr.arpa and ip6.arpa zones to represent reverse DNS lookups
Queries for domains or hostnames. In this query the domain/hostname is simply prepended to the dbl (or zrd) DNSBL zone name, like in
It must be emphasized that both dbl and zrd are wildcarded zones that do not consider the hostname part of fully qualified domain names. Therefore, fully qualified domain names can be inserted as they are in the DNS queries, without having to strip away the domain part.
For both IP and domain datasets, a reply providing one or more
A records within 127.0.0.0/8 is considered a positive reply (meaning the queries resource is listed), whereas an
NXDOMAIN (host not found) represents a negative reply (resource not listed).
Querying code is expected to go through all the A records provided by a positive reply and act accordingly to each one, as opposed to just picking up the first entry, as that single reply may not be the one the specific check was supposed to trigger upon.
Therefore, for example, checking the IP
220.127.116.11 against the zen zone may return the following:
18.104.22.168.<key>.zen.dq.spamhaus.net. 60 IN A 127.0.0.9 22.214.171.124.<key>.zen.dq.spamhaus.net. 60 IN A 127.0.0.2 126.96.36.199.<key>.zen.dq.spamhaus.net. 60 IN A 127.0.0.3 188.8.131.52.<key>.zen.dq.spamhaus.net. 60 IN A 127.0.0.4
Indicating that this IP is listed in SBL (127.0.0.2), in the CSS component of SBL (127.0.0.3), it is part of a DROP IP range (127.0.0.9) and is listed in the CBL (part of XBL) as well (127.0.0.4). It is not listed on PBL.
Queries returning IPs outside 127.0.0.0/8 are absolutely not expected and mean something is interfering with the DNS resolution process. Such replies must be discarded and the DNS resolution chain investigated to exclude the misbehaving actor.