Why DNS Protection Should Be A Crucial Part In Building Cyber Defense

Brought to you by Renelis Mulyandari    
 
When discussing cyber threats, the first things that come to mind would likely be viruses, ransomware, DDoS, and data theft. Only a few would mention DNS attacks. Not many may even know what DNS is.

The attacks on the Domain Name System (DNS) should not be downplayed, though. There may be a perception that these threats are not among the most common, but they are quite prevalent. A 2022 IDC survey shows that around 88 percent of organizations worldwide have been hit by DNS attacks. Companies reportedly suffered an average of seven attacks each year, and these attacks are said to have cost the targeted organizations nearly a million dollars per attack. 

The Importance Of DNS Protection

An overwhelming majority of organizations need DNS protection since virtually everyone already connects to the internet and maintains an online presence. DNS is a vital part of online navigation, as it translates IP addresses into characters that are easier to read and remember for human users. Various unwanted consequences ensue if DNS becomes dysfunctional or faulty.

Here are some of the ways the DNS is attacked.

Cache poisoning -  This cyber attack entails the corruption of the DNS cache data to forcibly direct users to anomalous websites. It is also referred to as DNS spoofing because it corrupts the cache to lead users to malicious sites usually without them realizing it. They enter the correct URL but load on their browser a fake site that usually resembles the real one, where their sensitive data may be collected as they enter their login details and other information.

DDoS -  Distributed denial of service attacks do not only target server resources; they can also disrupt by overloading the DNS with massive amounts of illegitimate requests. The attack can be bolstered with DNS amplification, wherein the perpetrator puts out a DNS query with a spoofed source IP address to a DNS resolver. The resolver then provides a larger response, which amplifies the traffic, overwhelms the DNS, and makes it unresponsive. Attackers may also use NXDOMAIN attacks, which involve requests for nonexistent domains to overload the DNS.

Hijacking -  This means taking over the DNS server to modify the DNS settings of devices and networks and route all DNS requests to the perpetrator's DNS server. This redirects users to malicious sites and leads to data theft. DNS hijacking may be done through brute force attacks, the hacking of domain registrars, phishing, and the exploitation of protocol vulnerabilities.

Tunneling -  For organizations that implement some form of DNS protection, attackers use DNS tunneling to bypass security controls and access a network. This attack involves the exploitation of vulnerabilities in legitimate protocols, making it difficult to detect.

Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) -  In MitM attacks, threat actors intercept the data exchange between a DNS server and a user sending a request. A successful interception allows the attacker to capture sensitive data or manipulate DNS responses and lead users to malicious sites.

Malware attacks -  DNS servers can be infected with malicious software to steal data that can be used to hijack the DNS server, corrupt the DNS cache and implement malicious redirection, or make the DNS unresponsive.

To recap, DNS protection is necessary because attacks on the DNS have serious consequences, including denial of service, the redirection of users to anomalous sites, data theft, and account hijacking. In other words, the DNS can be a route for common cyber attacks.

DNS Atack Damages

Here’s a rundown of the damages or costs of cyber attacks that can be associated with DNS vulnerability exploitation. They are essentially the same as the common attacks many are already familiar with.

Distributed denial of service attacks can set back businesses for up to $40,000 per hour of downtime. This is just for the disruption in operations. Remediation, recovery, and reputational damage entail additional costs.

On the other hand, the cost of data theft varies depending on the standing of an organization and the nature of the data stolen. IBM’s Cost of Data Breach Report 2023 says that the average cost of a data breach in 2023 is around $4.45 million, with those in the finance industry taking heavier damage at nearly $6 million per incident.

While there are no studies that focus on the damage incurred by organizations that have suffered malware infection through DNS attacks, it is reasonable to say that the damages are also considerable. The malware that hits DNS servers causes the redirection of customers to the wrong sites, which means lost sales/revenues and the degradation of customer trust.

Ensuring DNS Protection

Given the complex and wide-ranging nature of DNS attacks, more than a single solution is required to counter them. There is no single defensive strategy that can adequately handle DNS threats. A multifaceted and multifunction solution is needed.

One of the most important defenses is phishing or social engineering protection. This is necessary to address DNS hijacking and cache poisoning. Attackers need a way to manipulate the DNS settings and server hijacking through social engineering is one of the most viable ways to do it. 

Another necessary security control is malware and anomaly detection. As mentioned, malicious software can be used to infect DNS servers to steal data or cause them to go haywire. There are advanced AI-powered solutions that detect malicious files and activities not only by using up-to-date threat intelligence but also by conducting behavioral analysis.

Additionally, it is vital to have a DNS firewall and intrusion prevention system (IPS). The firewall blocks malicious domains and regulates DNS traffic to make sure that anything suspicious is kept out of the server. Meanwhile, IPS monitors DNS traffic to detect potential threats and respond in real-time to keep attacks at bay. Quality intrusion prevention systems are also effective against DNS tunneling methods used by attackers to evade detection.

It also helps to have botnet protection, content filtering, as well as ad-blocking systems to protect the DNS. Having a typo correction mechanism is also advisable to prevent users from mistakenly inputting the URLs of malicious sites.

Moreover, organizations should consider conducting regular DNS audits to constantly check DNS settings and ascertain that the DNS is free from vulnerabilities, malware infection, and other anomalies. The audit should also include steps to identify obsolete or unnecessary DNS records, so they can be disposed of properly and securely. 

A Crucial Cybersecurity Factor

DNS vulnerabilities can lead to cyber-attacks with severe consequences, especially in the age of widespread connectivity. It makes perfect sense to plug these security weaknesses before they can be spotted and exploited.

The risks surrounding the Domain Name System are far from straightforward. Hence, they should be addressed with a holistic strategy and a set of effective cyber defenses that address the different attack vectors.

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