In 1992, librarian Jean Armor Polly coined the phrase “surfing the Internet” and for anyone who has since surfed his waves of data and information, chances are you’ve come across the term DNS. Today, the Domain Name System (DNS) is one of the foundations of the Internet, operating quietly in the background to ensure smooth navigation in this space.
But before DNS, browsing the Internet was an exhausting task. In the beginning, messages were sent manually from one network to another, using a series of IP addresses. The rapid growth of the Internet has caused enormous problems when it comes to maintaining records of these addresses and, given that there are now over 360 million domain name registrations, this method was not viable.
To solve this problem, DNS was created to provide an easy way to browse the Internet and connect users to websites – using domain names. Now, instead of humans acting as a switchboard for the Internet, the DNS is there to direct them to where they need to go.
But what does DNS mean (opens in a new tab)and what role does it play in protecting organizations?
Overview of the Domain Name System
The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical decentralized naming system, created over thirty-five years ago to provide interconnectivity between online systems and Internet traffic routing protocols. In other words, every device connected to the Internet has its own unique IP address.
DNS allows you to type normal words into your browser, without having to remember long and often complex IP addresses. Essentially a DNS server (opens in a new tab) is a database full of public IP addresses and acts like a telephone directory of the Internet, with entries added, deleted and modified in real time every second transparently.
Every time you type a domain name in your URL bar, DNS will find the corresponding IP address and direct you to where you need to go. So why is it important? DNS can be considered one of the cornerstones of the Internet. After all, if a DNS can’t find the correct IP address, you simply won’t be able to access the website you’re looking for.
However, the fundamental importance of DNS makes it a major target for criminals and there is an ever-present and growing threat to businesses of all sizes. Losing control of a critical domain name or an unavailable website, even for a short time, will cause damage to organizations’ revenue and reputation.
Increased volume and variety of DNS attacks
Over the past two years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in demand for bandwidth as the world adapts to new ways of working; with the DNS system now processing more than 2 trillion queries every day. But alongside an increase in legitimate DNS queries, there has been an undesirable increase in malicious activity, as criminals seek to compromise the DNS infrastructure for their own personal and financial gain.
There has been a significant increase in DDoS attacks (opens in a new tab). These attacks target the DNS infrastructure of organizations or DNS providers with huge volumes of DNS queries to prevent legitimate requests from reaching web servers and gaining access to websites and online services.
Although the nature of the attacks has changed, the traditional threat of DNS hijacking or cache poisoning remains a real and legitimate threat. These attacks are based on criminals accessing DNS databases and changing the IP address so that legitimate website traffic using a particular domain name is redirected to another website, often without the user acknowledging that there is a problem. Recently, cryptocurrency exchange Curve Finance fell victim to hackers hijacking its DNS. The company lost over $570,000 to criminals redirecting its traffic to their own website.
Organizations need to ensure that key infrastructure is protected in a world of growing digital threats. It is essential to have strong security policies that encompass the use and protection of domain names as key digital assets.
Protect your websites against attacks
Understanding how their domain names are used is crucial for every business. Many will be used in a way to generate revenue, increase perception and reputation, or support critical infrastructure. But it’s not always obvious to internal stakeholders that a domain no longer resolves to the right website, if at all.
DNS traffic analysis, for example, is a great way to ensure that each domain is redirecting where it should, highlighting anomalies that can be quickly fixed and aligned with domain name policy.
Data analysis will also highlight high-traffic domain names that may require improved functionality, prioritization, and security management. It is useful to identify these key areas and evaluate the use of registry-level locking, email security records, and DNSSEC.
While DNS’s priority is to ensure that domain names are directed to the correct web content, enterprise providers will also offer proactive threat monitoring and intelligence that keeps the most critical domain names present and protected. It is essential to have robust security policies that encompass the use and protection of domain names as key digital assets, as major DNS outages or security incidents are now front page news for all bad reasons.
These types of events not only harm the revenue, but also the reputation of organizations. That’s why it’s essential to choose an enterprise DNS partner that has a globally distributed network of DNS nodes. Using enterprise-grade DNS ensures that critical domain names that support websites, online applications, and email addresses continue to function, even in the event of a DDoS attack on the network.
DNS services come in all forms. Basically, they ensure that domain names are right where they should be. The key test comes when the network is under pressure, either from an increase in legitimate traffic or from nefarious sources. For many organizations, the question is whether they can afford to risk having their domain names stop working due to limitations in their DNS network.
Regular DNS auditing is now considered best practice. Working with a domain security expert will provide you with reliable forensic analysis and recommendations to ensure domain names increase revenue and reputation rather than headaches and security issues.