Blog Post

DNS Security: Fortifying the Core of Internet Infrastructure

Discover escalating cyber threats to DNS infrastructure & how to enhance defenses. Learn about DNS hijacking, tunneling, DDoS attacks & monitoring with Catchpoint.

In an era marked by escalating cyber threats, Domain Name System (DNS) infrastructure security has become a key concern for IT organizations worldwide. Attacks related to DNS infrastructure, such as DNS hijacking, DNS tunneling, and DNS amplification, are on the rise. Many organizations find themselves questioning the robustness of their DNS security protocols.

According to 2021 IDC research, around 87% of organizations have experienced one or more DNS attacks, from subtle spoofing to relentless DDoS assaults, posing a direct threat to online operations. This figure has been steadily increasing year by year.  

Several notable incidents are listed below.  

  1. In Oct 2016, a massive DDoS hit Dyn, a major DNS provider, causing widespread outages for sites like Twitter, Spotify, and Reddit. Orchestrated by the Mirai botnet, it exploited vulnerable IoT devices.
  1. In Mar 2019, Google Cloud faced DNS issues affecting services like YouTube, Gmail, and Google Drive. Attributed to a config error; it lasted several hours.
  1. In Feb 2019, AWS' DNS, Route 53, suffered a multi-hour outage in the U.S. East region, impacting AWS services and hosted websites.
  1. On 4 October 2023, Cloudflare experienced DNS resolution problems, impacting products like WARP, Zero Trust, or third-party DNS resolvers using  

These incidents had wide-ranging consequences, including disrupted services, compromised revenue streams, and the erosion of customer trust.

Top DNS Security Concerns: Unmasking the Threats

Let's look at the biggest security worries, from DNS hijacking and tunneling to DDoS attacks and setup mistakes. These vulnerabilities highlight the critical importance of vigilant monitoring and robust defenses.

  1. DNS Hijacking: The Silent Sabotage
    DNS hijacking involves gaining unauthorized access to a domain owner’s account with a registrar or registry. This nefarious practice involves diverting DNS queries from client devices, leading them to incorrect IP addresses.
  1. DNS Tunneling and Exfiltration: Evading Detection
    DNS tunneling and exfiltration. Typically employed after a network breach, hackers use DNS tunneling to extract data clandestinely.
  1. DNS Amplification Attacks: Unleashing DDoS
    DNS amplification attacks are a form of distributed denial of service (DDoS) assault. These attacks can overwhelm DNS servers, causing service disruptions and impacting the availability of websites.
  1. DNS Spoofing and Cache Poisoning
    Attacks attempt to corrupt DNS caches or provide false DNS information to redirect users to malicious websites.
  1. Zone Walking (DNSSEC Related)
    If DNSSEC isn't correctly configured, attackers may be able to gather information about a DNSSEC-protected domain.
  1. Fast Flux DNS
    Botnets use this technique to rapidly change DNS records associated with a domain, making it challenging to trace malicious activities.
  1. DNSSEC Key Compromise
    If the private keys used in DNSSEC are compromised, it can lead to the falsification of DNS records.
  1. Improperly Configured DNS Servers
    Poorly configured DNS servers can inadvertently expose sensitive information or provide opportunities for attackers.
  1. Lack of Monitoring and Logging
    It's challenging to detect and respond to suspicious activities without proper monitoring and logging of DNS traffic.

The Right Way to Monitor DNS

DNS is a multi-layered system with various routing options and third-party providers. Not all DNS monitoring methods are equally reliable. Relying on open DNS resolvers, for instance, can yield inaccurate results.

Monitoring DNS resolution is crucial for ensuring a seamless user experience. However, blindly monitoring DNS without understanding the monitoring process can lead to flawed data analysis.

Strategies for Enhanced DNS Security

  1. DNS Firewalls: Fortifying the Perimeter
    Deploying a DNS firewall is an effective means to mitigate DNS security risks. Nearly 47% of DDI experts advocate this approach.
  1. DNSSEC: A Shield of Authenticity
    DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC) introduces a layer of security by enabling the validation of DNS responses. Implemented through public key cryptography, DNSSEC digitally signs DNS records at authoritative DNS servers.
  1. DNS Visibility: Enlightened Oversight
    To maintain robust DNS security, DDI teams must have clear visibility into their infrastructure.

Catchpoint: Comprehensive DNS Monitoring for Optimal Performance

Catchpoint provides a comprehensive suite of DNS monitors, offering complete visibility throughout the resolution process. This includes various monitors that provide insight from multiple vantage points, such as last mile and backbone nodes, providing performance measurements from the end user's perspective.

Beyond validating correct DNS record mappings, you can monitor DNS resolvers or evaluate public DNS resolvers by overriding specific DNS resolvers. You can verify the proper configuration of DNSSEC for security and scrutinize each hop using a traceroute test.

Here is an example:  

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For instance, when examining DNS performance in Indonesia, we observed two sets of resolution times from the same nodes. Some test runs had DNS times under 20ms, while others exceeded 150ms. Through Catchpoint DNS monitoring, we identified the root cause of this behavior, pinpointing slower DNS response times from specific name servers.  

Strengthening Defenses in the Face of Growing DNS Threats

Securing DNS infrastructure is crucial in the current landscape of escalating cyber threats. The surge in attacks, from hijacking to amplification assaults, highlights the need for robust security protocols. Incidents like the Dyn DDoS attack and Google Cloud's DNS error are stark reminders of the potential consequences.

Effectively countering these threats requires a multi-faceted approach. This includes implementing DNS firewalls and DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC) and gaining comprehensive visibility into resolution processes. Catchpoint's suite of DNS monitors, encompassing last mile and backbone nodes, provides crucial end-to-end insight, allowing organizations to measure DNS performance from the user's perspective.

By adopting this proactive stance and leveraging Catchpoint's monitoring capabilities, organizations can neutralize potential risks, maintain a seamless user experience for their clientele, and strengthen their overall approach. This fortified strategy not only mitigates threats but also builds trust and resilience in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Internet Performance Monitoring
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