Have you ever been stuck in a situation where you had to call one of your loved ones – a family member or significant other – but you did not have your mobile phone with you and so had to use someone else’s phone? If your answer is “Yes!” and you did not remember their phone number, you should not feel bad about yourself as most of us do not know any of the numbers we have conveniently saved on our devices by heart.
Applying a similar scenario to the cyber world, imagine if you had to remember and type in a specific sequence of numbers every time you wanted to visit a website. How inconvenient and impractical would that be? That is where the DNS protocol comes into play to make life easier for us.
Short for Domain Name System, DNS is the standard communication protocol on the internet. It converts human-readable domain names to numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that enable network infrastructure components to identify and interact with one another. In that sense, DNS can be said to function like a phonebook that facilitates users’ ability to access the internet by providing easy-to-remember names for internet-based services. The DNS system consists of multiple interconnected and hierarchical DNS servers that work together to ensure reliable and efficient name resolution. DNS queries and responses exchanged between devices across a network are known as DNS logs and contain valuable information such as the requested domain name, source IP address, the type of query, and the timestamp from DNS servers. Apart from that, DNS performs several other crucial functions such as load balancing, which helps distribute traffic load across multiple servers to allow the smooth and reliable performance of websites and services.
DNS security relates to all the protection measures that involve the DNS protocol. DNS was born in the early days of the internet when security threats were scant and DNS traffic was allowed to pass freely through network firewalls. However, as the number of internet users and networks grew, so did the popularity of DNS in the eyes of malicious actors as an attack vector that could be exploited to compromise network security and deceive users into divulging personal information. In what follows, various DNS-based vulnerabilities will be discussed in more detail.
Given the history of how DNS was invented and its crucial role in the proper functioning of network components, it is little wonder that DNS security threats are among the most common types of cyber threats that occur today. However, when combined with appropriate security measures, DNS can be turned into a powerful layer of defence against cyber threats by allowing users to filter and monitor traffic for any anomalies indicating suspicious activities such as phishing and malware attacks. The last point has significant implications for network security in that it views DNS as an invaluable asset, rather than a liability, that can be utilised to stay one step ahead of malicious actors. Active DNS security, therefore, empowers users to identify and fend off DNS-based threats and should be an integral part of any organisation’s security plan.
The wealth of data embedded in DNS logs is the primary reason that lures cybercriminals to DNS, who use it to exfiltrate sensitive data. Another factor is the wide attack surface that DNS provides. DNS is a distributed system containing numerous components, each presenting malicious actors with potential and unique attack vectors to exploit. In recent years, with the onset of a major global pandemic and the ensuing hybrid work models, these exploitations have only been exacerbated by the expansion of the attack surface as a result of increased cloud usage and misconfigurations.
The format in which DNS codes are typically written, i.e., plain non-encrypted texts, also makes them susceptible to interception and manipulation by threat actors. DNS spoofing attacks (see below) are carried out utilising this very weakness.
Over the years, new encryption techniques were developed to improve DNS security. This soon proved to be a double-edged sword as cybercriminals began capitalising on this extra security layer to obfuscate malicious DNS-based traffic, making DNS attacks even harder to detect than before.
Since its inception, DNS has been exploited by cybercriminals in a variety of ways. According to the IDC’s 2022 Global DNS Threat Report, 88% of organisations experienced a DNS attack in the previous year, with 7 attacks and a $942k damage cost on average per organisation. The same report reveals an increase in the number and size of all types of DNS-based attacks compared to 2021 and calls for a more robust DNS security approach by organisations. Common attacks targeting the DNS protocol include:
These major DNS attacks come in various sub-types. DNS amplification attacks, for instance, may target specific components such as physical servers, load balancers, or other network equipment, i.e., protocol attacks, or they may be directed at distinct vulnerabilities within web servers, i.e., application layer attacks.
Regardless of their type and severity, DNS attacks can be restrained with the right security measures in place. Some common approaches to mitigating DNS-backed threats include:
It is worth noting that, the above measures are most effective when applied in combination, meaning a single-faceted security approach to DNS will probably fall short of safeguarding an organisation’s infrastructure against DNS-based risks. Yet, this is easier said than done. Conventional cybersecurity solutions such as Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools, Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPSs) are inadequate at identifying and deterring most DNS-based attacks. This is because well-organised cyber-attacks are normally obfuscated and cannot be mapped to a specific IP address generating the malicious traffic. For instance, 85% of malware domains are not linked to a direct IP address. Similarly, malware created using Domain Generation Algorithms (DGAs) cannot be traced back to the corresponding IP address of their command and control (C&C) servers. In situations involving IP-less malicious traffic, the only hope to detecting and blocking the ensuing attack is through DNS log analysis.
DNSSense unlocks the true potential of the DNS protocol for threat detection and prevention. The powerful AI-driven engines of Cyber X-Ray, the unique dynamic cyber threat intelligence and domain categorisation tool created at DNSSense, is also the engine that drives the company’s two other security solutions, namely DNSEye and DNSDome. What follows is a summary of the value DNSSense’s products bring to organisations of all sizes.
As described earlier, DNS traffic is challenging to process for threat detection and mitigation. Combining this understanding with the absolute necessity of DNS analysis for network security and integrity, it becomes evident how lack of a robust DNS security tool on an organisation’s network can pose far-reaching consequences, such as the risk of becoming a victim of data exfiltration attacks, botnet operations, and other malicious activities. DNSEye addresses these concerns by providing actionable insights through deep and comprehensive analysis of DNS logs.
Leveraging AI-based threat intelligence and machine learning algorithms, DNSEye improves overall cybersecurity operations by enabling analysts to perform detailed investigations, pinpointing individual client machines as well as rogue applications generating suspicious DNS traffic.
Why choose DNSEye?
Upon detecting malicious DNS activity, DNSEye identifies threats that may have been missed by other security solutions, enabling security teams to make adjustments if necessary. As a result, DNSEye demonstrates significant added value, and ultimately enhances the overall security.
DNSDome is a comprehensive cloud-based solution that focuses on early detection and mitigation of cyber-attacks. It leverages AI-based threat intelligence to defend networks against sophisticated threats.
Simple to implement yet highly effective, DNSDome provides instant protection for networks, applications, and users against a wide range of threats including DNS tunnelling, ransomware, spam, advanced phishing, malware, and zero-day attacks.
Why choose DNSDome?
In summary, DNSSense’s solutions help organisations achieve maximum efficiency in terms of DNS configuration and management by providing real-time monitoring and alerting, network performance metrics, DNS resolution time tracking, historical data analysis, and easy integration with other monitoring tools, making them an indispensable part of any organisation’s security plan.
Proper DNS configuration and management are critical for maintaining a secure and reliable network infrastructure. The following are some guidelines that can help organisations adopt an optimal DNS security strategy:
MITRE ATT&CK is a comprehensive model for tracking cyber adversary behavior, known for its CVE list at cve.mitre.org, which helps identify software and hardware exploits.
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Cyber security is a concept based on the security of digital assets. While enabling an information system to access data and information, it also covers all the security measures necessary to protect it from threats to the data and information in that system. Data threats can take many forms, such as cyber-attacks, data theft, and data modification.
The impact of the post-2020 pandemic has forever changed the world of enterprise security. Remote working, cloud-based technologies, and IoT concepts have changed the security structures of almost all enterprises.
DNSSense filters safe logs utilising template or custom rules. The EPS count is reduced by 95 percent as a result of this integration with the SIEM product, enabling you to save on the SIEM cost at the same rate.
Since 90% of a network’s traffic consists of secure traffic, the SOC teams do not need to analyze, compare and distinguish the malicious traffic among a huge number of logs. So this time-wasting process for SOC teams will be eliminated thanks to the filtration of DNSEye.