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What Is DNS Hijacking? – Most Common Stratagem of Cybercriminals

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DNS Hijacking, also termed DNS Redirecting or DNS Poisoning is a stratagem used by cyber pillagers. They trample upon a computer’s IP settings on the Internet to block access, restrict, and censor content.

By overriding a computer’s IP settings, the hijacker directs it to a rogue DNS server instead of the user-friendly domain names. This can also be achieved by monitoring and probing directly on the traffic at imperative routing spots.

The Great Firewall of China, which the government uses to achieve Internet censorship in China, is the biggest example of DNS hijacking.

What is DNS?

Domain Name Service is abbreviated as DNS. It is an Internet service that translates URLs such as Google.com to an IP address 8.8.8.8. Every website has an IP address linked to its URL via DNS. The DNS server holds a record of the IP address of every website along with the corresponding URL. Here, the URL depicts the name and the IP address, just like a phone book holding record of the enlisted people with their address.

Many companies publish the website’s DNS address and an algorithm that keeps them updated at the same time.

The DNS system is functioned by your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and many other private business organizations. Your computer is configured as such so that it uses the DNS server from the ISP. But these settings can be changed manually.

DNS Hijacking – Mechanism

When you enter a URL into your browser’s address bar, it is sent over to a DNS server to resolve into an IP address, hence mapping you to your friendly domain names. However, a wrong DNS server is often reached due to inadequate checks and balances.

An attacker might do the DNS hijacking, functioning in between the computer and the DNS server from a rogue device. If that’s the case, then the hacker now owns the DNS server as he might have changed the DNS settings and gained access to your computer.

 

DNS-hijacking

Now comes the point where the DNS server contaminates its records by swapping the IP addresses of the sites you wish to visit with those of another site that might be already infected with malware.

If an experienced hijacker carries out DNS hijacking, he might masquerade websites. As a result, he may compile sensitive information of users as well as the passwords and IP addresses of many websites.

In many cases, DNS hijacking is also carried out by using sophisticated malware such as a trojan horse. The DNSChanger trojan is a form of malware that profited about 14 million USD by hijacking the DNS settings of over 4 million computers through deceptive advertising revenue.

DNS Hijacking – Censoring the Internet

Internet censorship is enforced by many countries that require Internet Service Providers to cut off some specific domains from their DNS servers. However, this is a comparably easy form of hoodwinked censorship.

On the other hand, when a hijacker operates the whole network, he can restrict and block contractual DNS servers entirely or apply Deep Packet Inspection to block or misdirect requests specifically.

DNS Hijacking – Prevention

After going through the dangers you are exposed to with DNS hijacking, we will share the easiest way to prevent DNS hijacking.

Domain Name System Security Extensions, abbreviated as DNSSEC, can be considered a DNS hijacking analysis used to verify the integrity of the DNS server and for protection purposes. DNNSEC minimizes the chances of a hijacker masquerading a DNS, but it is a tough job for a user to set up, validate and monitor, unlike HTTPS in web servers.

A good antivirus program can protect your computer against such attacks, but keeping it updated is of prime importance.

DNS Hijacking – Fix

Strong privacy concerns are related to opting for the correct DNS server as each domain will be seen by them that you try to connect to. To avoid censorship by your local Internet Service Provider, you can change the DNS server. But eventually, this power will be withdrawn from the hands of your Internet Service Provider for a strong cause.

You may change your DNS server to an autonomous DNS service like OpenDNS or Google DNS.

Different VPNs run their DNS servers, and if you connect to one of the VPNs, you can automatically use their servers. No one will be able to hijack your connection, and thus, your information will be well-protected. Such VPNs also ensure that the sites you wish to visit resolve properly and are not censored by the ISP or government.

Conclusion

It has been observed that DNS hijacking is causing a menace in the Internet world. Not a single organization can be seen well-protected against DNS attacks. An example of DNS hijacking is the hackers’ group known as the Iranian Cyber army that took Twitter by storm.

DNS is important in resolving the URLs you enter into your browser’s address bar. It is a sort of recurrent operation that aids your browser in getting the IP address of the website you wish to reach. The delay the browser takes while attempting to resolve the IP address is used as an advantage by the hijacker. This results in DNS hijacking. The dangers of DNS hijacking may include the attacks of pharming and phishing.

To avoid DNS hijacking, you can use good security software, or you may change your DNS server. By following such basic steps, you will be able to thoroughly protect yourself from DNS hijacking and surf the web without any restriction of censorship!

 

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Rebecca James is an IT consultant with forward thinking approach toward developing IT infrastructures of SMEs. She writes to engage with individuals and raise awareness of digital security, privacy, and better IT infrastructure.

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