Anyone and everyone who uses the Internet also uses the Domain Name System (DNS). It is, after all, what allows us to land on the pages we want to visit.
It maps human-readable domain names to IP addresses that point to the sites that contain the information we wish to find.
That pretty much explains why the DNS and domains are essential for digital marketers. All of their marketing efforts will go down the drain if they can’t direct their target audiences to their websites. But, most marketers hardly pay attention to their domain’s security, which can be detrimental to their success. Why should they? Because DNS-based attacks can effectively take their sites offline or redirect their potential consumers to other pages, thus causing loss of opportunities and, in turn, revenue.
And so, while it’s not marketers’ core function to defend themselves against attacks, they might also benefit from knowing more about these and how to avoid becoming the next victims with the aid of a DNS lookup tool and DNS DatabaseDownload.
What Are DNS-Based Attacks?
Most attacks targeting a domain are essentially DNS-based attacks, which effects can range from redirecting would-be visitors to other sites to actually rendering a website inaccessible. DNS-based attacks come in several forms, but we’ll only tackle some of the most important ones for digital marketers. These include:
Domain hijacking, also known as “domain theft,” occurs when an attacker changes the registration details of a domain name without its owner’s knowledge. In more sophisticated attacks, threat actors compromise a registrar’s network to inflict more significant damage. In such cases, they can modify all the records of the target registrar and its customers, allowing these threat actors to take control of multiple domains at once.
Once attackers have full control of a domain, they can prevent its owner from using it. And so the real owner loses customers and thus revenue. In some cases, hijacked domains end up hosting phishing and other malicious websites. That, of course, would translate to a tarnished reputation that some companies may not be able to recover from.
Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS)
A DDoS attack occurs when attackers direct too much traffic to a website or some other online service, thus eating up its resources until it becomes inaccessible. A form of this kind of attacks, “DNS amplification” uses open DNS resolvers as reflectors of queries to generate this traffic. In most cases, threat actors use botnets as no single computer can overwhelm a server enough to cripple it. What makes DDoS attacks successful is that it is quite hard for any network administrator to distinguish real from botnet traffic.
DNS spoofing, also known as “DNS cache poisoning,” occurs when hackers inject corrupted DNS data into the target’s DNS resolver cache. That causes the name server to return an incorrect result record, such as an IP address, which results in traffic diversion to the attackers’ or anyone else’s computer.
Why Should Marketers Care About DNS-Based Attacks?
A survey revealed that the number of DNS-based attacks grows each year, with each causing significant damage to those affected. More than 80% of the survey’s respondents, in fact, claimed to have succumbed to a DNS attack, which can cost them US$1 million or more. But what’s more interesting to note is that, among them, most did not have proactive security strategies in place.
It’s established that cybersecurity is every employee’s responsibility. And while a digital marketer’s job doesn’t focus on keeping his/her company’s domain infrastructure threat-free, he/she does have much to lose if a DNS-based attack hits the organization. The incident will definitely make a dent in its brand image.
Maintaining a strong brand image is crucial to marketing. No matter how brilliant a company’s campaigns are, they will amount to nothing if it has a lousy reputation. If its network can easily be abused or compromised by attackers, it would have a tough time convincing users to click links embedded in marketing emails.
Marketers can thus work closely with IT teams to ensure that their organizations’ domains stay protected against attacks. DNS Lookup API and DNS Database Download are particularly helpful tools, especially when dealing with DNS-based attacks.
Defending One’s Domain with a DNS Lookup Tool and DNS DatabaseDownload
DNS lookups may not be able to thwart DNS-based attacks single-handedly. Still, they can help pinpoint issues in DNS settings and records and potential threat sources for monitoring or blocking in order to mitigate such attacks. Here’s how:
Identifying misconfigured resource records
A DNS lookup reveals all of the DNS records tied to a particular domain along with its corresponding IP address. As such, users can use it to check if all said records are correctly filled in, thus preventing threats like domain hijacking.
DNS Lookup API also reveals a domain’s IP address, allowing users to ensure that website visitors won’t end up on the wrong websites as a result of DNS spoofing.
Spotting unauthorized DNS record changes
A DNS database allows users to see when a domain’s DNS records were last modified. Mismatches between update times (on your domains) or coincidental timing with an ongoing DDoS attack (on others’ domains) can be signs of unauthorized access and thus compromise.
Who knows? An attacker could have manipulated DNS records to make connected systems part of their botnet using the FastFlux technique.
Ensuring email deliverability
DNS Lookup API results show users all of their DNS records. For marketers who are very concerned about email deliverability, mail exchanger (MX) records may be worth looking into. All MX records must point to the right mail servers which have to meet various standards and recommendations to be considered as a trustworthy one. There are certain TXT records such as SPF or DMARC which are to be configured to run a reliable e-mail service.
Ensuring a business’s success is the responsibility of every employee. Every staff member that relies on the organization’s site for its tasks, therefore, needs to contribute to its security. For that, they can work with readily available solutions such as DNS Lookup API and DNS Database Download, especially when defending against the ever-growing number of DNS-based attacks.
About the Author
Jonathan Zhang is the founder and CEO of Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) — a data, tool, and API provider that specializes in automated threat detection, security analysis, and threat intelligence solutions for Fortune 1000 and cybersecurity companies. TIP is part of the Whois XML API Inc. family, a trusted intelligence vendor by over 50,000 clients.