What is DNSSEC and Why Should I Care?

Your domain name is no less valuable than Facebook. It's just as easy for it to be abused or taken over as Facebook's too. What can you do to protect it?

DNSSEC stands for Domain Name System Security Extensions. This is a set of guidelines that help shield internet users and applications from pirated Domain Name System (DNS) data. This is done by reinforcing security to DNS records, which provide information about the IP addresses connected to specific domains.

Although it’s an essential and extremely useful part of the web, DNS has existed for over 30 long years. That means it’s outdated security-wise and, as we all know, outdated systems are prone to data breaches and theft.

DNS brings several issues to engineers from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). To face these common DNS security challenges, the IETF created DNSSEC. With this set of specifications, cryptographic signatures (or digital signatures) are used to confirm the reliability of DNS records. These signatures help validate data integrity and use encryption to protect information.

With DNS attacks soaring and costs following suit, organisations shouldn’t overlook DNS security. Just one attack could pose catastrophic security risks to businesses of all sizes.

Before we dive into why organisations should invest in stronger DNS protection, we’ll go over why DNS is so valuable, yet also potentially dangerous.

What is DNS?

Known as the “phone book of the internet”, DNS gives us the ability to navigate online by getting to different web addresses, like facebook.com. Thanks to DNS servers, users don’t need to learn and memorise complicated IP addresses. Imagine if we had to remember a number like every time we needed to access a website. That wouldn’t be optimal.

However, DNS was officially invented way back in 1983, along with the internet itself. Being an old protocol, its security isn’t up to today’s standards. As a consequence, DNS is subject to a number of malicious attacks, including what we call “DNS spoofing”.

Why Should I Care About DNS Security?

If your organisation has DNS that isn’t secure and you’re fully aware of that, you and your IT team should be the ones reinforcing security measures internally. Here’s why that matters to you:

The Infosecurity Group has put the damage of DNS attacks into substantial numbers: “Victims were hit 7.6 times at the cost of $950,000 per attack.

Smaller businesses, especially those oblivious or indifferent to cyber security measures could be hit hard. After all, this type of damage could be insurmountable.

The attacks mentioned refer to crimes such as DNS cache poisoning, which is a type of DNS spoofing. Spoofing concerns the cybercriminal act of entering forged information into a DNS cache, meaning the hacker will use altered Domain Name records to send traffic to a deceitful website. The fake address leading to a website initially mimics the original address, making users think they’re going where they planned to.

In other words, this type of cyber attack sends users to the wrong address, giving hackers the ability to access and steal personal data. The worst part is, cybercriminals just keep getting better and better at it.

According to Computer Weekly, “With cybercriminals launching more sophisticated DNS attacks, ill-equipped businesses are put at a big disadvantage and will struggle to respond effectively when targeted.” Small businesses, take note.

Most importantly, DNSSEC acts as a trust anchor for a string of encrypted characters we call a chain of trust. For this reason, safeguarding the DNS layer of your business with DNSSEC will:

  • Protect the system from unwanted access and cache poisoning.
  • Allow businesses to detect potential cyber-attacks at an early stage.
  • Prevent significant revenue loss caused by a potential attack.
  • Give businesses enough time to mitigate the risk accordingly.
  • Keep the entire organisation and its customers safe from data theft.

The sooner you implement DNSSEC, the better. As cybercriminals get more sophisticated with their spoofing tactics, your company’s security should always be one step ahead.

Duncan Isaksen-Loxton

Educated as a web developer, with over 20 years of internet based work and experience, Duncan is a Google Workspace Certified Collaboration Engineer and a WordPress expert.
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