Is IT losing the battle against DNS attacks?

Is IT losing the battle against DNS attacks?
Is IT losing the battle against DNS attacks? 

By Michael Cooney
Network World

Few things can strike fear into the heart of the IT department like an 
attack on a company's Domain Name System servers. That may explain why 
companies are spending so much time to deploy myriad, complex security 
measures to keep their DNS protected from malicious attackers.

A study released Wednesday of 465 IT and business professionals says 
despite the Sisyphean efforts, many companies remain vulnerable. More 
than half the respondents reported having fallen victim to some form of 
malware attack. More than one-third had been hit by a denial-of-service 
(DoS) attack, and more than 44% had experienced a pharming or 
cache-poisoning attack. External and internal DNS servers were equally 
vulnerable: Both types succumbed to attacks with roughly the same 
frequency, according to the study by Mazerov Research and Consulting.

A DNS server compromised by a hacker could be used to funnel Web surfers 
to all sorts of phishing attacks and malicious Web sites, and in some 
cases even could cause havoc with directory services and e-mail, said 
Paul Mockapetris, the father of the DNS technology, in a Network World 
story earlier this year. Once you control the DNS server, you have 
license to do phishing and pharming attacks and mislead all the users of 
that DNS server, said Mockapetris, who in 1983 proposed the DNS 
architecture and is acknowledged, along with the late Jon Postel, as the 
technologys inventor.

According to the Mazerov study, DoS attacks are prevalent among the 
respondents, with only 16% never having experienced one, although more 
than 10% said they often or frequently receive DoS attacks to their 
network. What also is interesting is that, while a total of 59% of 
respondents rarely or never experience DoS attacks, a surprisingly high 
41% experience them. The study found that the top forms of DNS attack 
are malware (worms, viruses, Trojans and so forth), 68%; denial of 
service, 48%; cache poisoning, 36%; and pharming, 23%.

The patching game seems to be the method of choice for protecting DNS. 
Three-quarters of all respondents devote valuable resources to patching 
their operating systems continuously. Others reported having to harden 
operating systems; invest in dedicated firewalls; and add DNS 
appliances, DoS mitigation services and other network security devices. 
On average, respondents typically used at least 3.5 overlapping methods 
simultaneously to shore up their DNS security.

The study also looked at how long respondents companies could weather 
DNS being taken offline before significant problems occurred, IT 
personnel were more sensitive to the issue than those occupying 
C-suites. According to the study, C-level executives estimated they 
could withstand losing Internet connectivity for slightly more than two 
hours (126 minutes), whereas IT managers estimated significant problems 
would arise after 105 minutes. Other IT personnel who may be most 
directly responsible for maintaining Internet uptime estimated an even 
shorter time frame an average of 72 minutes.

Respondents also were asked to assess what the probable impact would be 
on the health of their company if they were to experience a loss of 
Internet connectivity for a significant period of time. Maybe most 
alarming was that 12% of participants claimed they would be extremely or 
somewhat likely to go out of business completely, the study said.

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