What is DNS hijacking and how can you prevent it?


A Domain Name System (DNS) is one of the essential elements that promote interactions on the web. Web applications and cloud services depend on it for their performance and online validity. A flaw or vulnerability in the DNS results in the loss of sensitive data, the exploitation of site users, and the hijacking of a website by attackers.

Failure to monitor your domains for malicious activity is one reason hackers launch a series of attacks on your DNS. In this article, we will discuss DNS hijacking in detail and how you can prevent it.

What is DNS hijacking?

Cybercriminals steal computer data

A Domain Name System (DNS) is a directory of domain names that match their corresponding IP addresses. It’s like a phone book where you store someone’s number along with their name and only have to type their name to retrieve their number.

Web browsers and devices interact with the Internet through Internet Protocol (IP) addresses with numbers such as 305.0.2.11. Domain names like exmaple.com are created for websites. Because the IP address is complex for users to remember, DNS synchronizes domain names with the correct IP address to allow users to access online resources through domain names while browsers can continue to use the address. Friendly IP.

DNS hijacking, also known as DNS forwarding, is a practice in which cyber criminals corrupt the resolution of domain name servers and redirect traffic to malicious domain systems. It is widespread in the absence of good security practices to protect your web application.


Why do attackers hijack a DNS?

Hacker at work

An attacker uses DNS hijacking to perform what we call pharming. Here, the hacker displays unnecessary ads only to generate revenue on views and clicks. They also use it to redirect site visitors to a cloned version of your site and steal your data.

Interestingly, cybercriminals aren’t the only ones involved in DNS hijacking. Several Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use this technique to regulate DNS requests from users to collect their data for business purposes.

Some agencies also perform a type of DNS hack where they censor certain content or redirect visitors to an alternative site. This practice is controversial because it exposes users to cross-site scripting attacks.

How does the DNS hijacking attack work?

Web developer

To carry out a DNS attack, the attacker will have to either hijack the router, infiltrate the DNS communication, or install malware on a user’s computer system.

While you might not be the one managing your DNS, the third party company doing it for you could be attacked without your knowledge. If this happens, the attacker can hijack all of your web traffic.

Let’s say you register your website with a domain registrar like example.com, for example. The registrar allows you to choose an available domain name of your choice. The domain name sold to you will be registered with an IP address.

Your unique IP address is kept in a DNS A record. The A record points your domain name to your IP address. Your domain registrar name server can be attacked by hackers at any time, especially if its security is not that strong. If the name server is compromised, attackers can potentially change your unique IP address to another IP address. When your domain name is taken from the DNS record, it points to the attacker’s own servers instead of yours.

In addition, when someone types your domain name into their browser, they will be redirected to the attacker’s site. When your visitors land on the attacker’s website, they will see a replica of your website. But unbeknownst to them, it is under the control of hackers who can steal their credentials and gain access to their account.

Types of DNS hijacking attacks

Smart phone on a surface

Internet users, web applications, and programs all depend on DNS to function online. The attackers already know this. So, they go looking for security holes in the DNS to launch an attack against it.

Cybercriminals use different techniques to gain unauthorized access to DNS. Common forms of attack include:

1. Local DNS hacking

To perform a local DNS hijack, an attacker installs malware on a user’s computer and changes local DNS settings. This redirects the user to a bogus website without their knowledge.

2. DNS router hijacking

A DNS router is a hardware device used by domain service providers to match people’s domain names with their corresponding IP addresses. Several routers struggle with firmware vulnerabilities and have weak default passwords. These flaws expose the router to cyber attacks where hackers can hack into the router and reconfigure its DNS settings.

The attacker continues to divert visitors to a malicious website and block access to the target website after successfully overwriting the site’s DNS router.

3. Man-in-the-middle DNS hack

In a man-in-the-middle attack, the cybercriminals insert themselves into the communication channel between the user and the DNS server to listen to or modify the message.

The attacker changes DNS settings, entering their own IP address and redirects users to their malware-laden website.

4. Malicious DNS server hijacking

Attackers hijack DNS servers and modify configurations of targeted websites so that their IP addresses point to malicious websites. When users send a request to the target website, they are redirected to a scam website where they are vulnerable to attack.

How to prevent DNS hijacking

Cybercrime Stealing Credit Card Details

Traffic is more or less a digital currency. As you work to increase traffic to your website, you need to prioritize the security of your DNS to make sure every traffic counts.

Here are some ways to secure your web server against DNS hijacking.

1. Examine the DNS settings of the router

Routers are vulnerable to attack and hijackers take advantage of this weakness to exploit victims. To stay safe, you need to check and examine your router’s DNS settings. You should also update their passwords regularly.

2. Implement registry locking in your domain account

Another way to prevent DNS hijacking is to use a registry lock against cyber threats.

A registry lock is a service provided by a domain name registry to protect domains from unauthorized updates, transfers, and deletion. If your web host doesn’t offer this service, you should look for one that does.

Make sure to enable two-factor authentication on your domain account as an additional layer of security. Boost security further by launching the Domain Name System Security Extension (DNSSE) in your website’s control panel. It strengthens DNS authentication while preventing DNS redirection, man-in-the-middle attack, and cache poisoning.

3. Install anti-malware protection

DNS hijackers also target user login credentials. Make sure you install antivirus software on your computer to detect any malicious attempts by cyber criminals to expose your credentials. Use only secure virtual private networks to reduce the risk of your data being exposed.

To further secure your credentials, create passwords that are difficult to understand and change them regularly.

Secure your DNS with the utmost care

DNS attacks evolve daily as cybercriminals seek new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in DNS. If you are laid back with your cybersecurity, you will be one of their many victims.

There is not too much security. If your website is important to you, implementing multiple layers of security is the least you can do to keep it secure.

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