What is DNS Hijacking and how to prevent it from happening on your website
Do you know how DNS hijacking can harm your brand?
Cybercriminals are aware of how important the Domain Name System (DNS) is for Internet usability. It is responsible for turning numerical IP addresses into domain names, which can be easily saved and shared by people.
Hackers also understand that this is a reliable protocol and that many organizations do not monitor their DNS traffic properly to prevent malicious attacks.
DNS Hijacking works by replacing the TCP/IP configuration that redirects traffic to an unauthorized server under the attacker’s control.
In this article, we discuss what DNS Hijacking is and how you, an Internet user, can protect your system from this kind of attack. See below:
- What is DNS Hijacking?
- What is the cybercriminals’ purpose?
- Do only cybercriminals use DNS Hijacking?
- How to prevent this type of attack on your website?
What is DNS Hijacking?
DNS Hijacking is a form of DNS intrusion that occurs mainly through phishing attacks. However, the victim’s system can also be hacked on self-service platforms (through Internet service providers) and DNS providers based on public routers.
In domestic infrastructures, DNS Hijacking takes advantage of the router firmware’s vulnerabilities, which allows access without a password request.
It also depends on the negligence of users who keep devices’ factory credentials unchanged, information that can be easily found by hackers for later access to the server.
These intrusion methods direct web traffic to unauthorized DNS servers. Thus, users’ requests are intercepted and the system is redirected to the attacker’s compromised DNS.
The browser displays the original URL, which leads the user to believe that the site is trusted for access. Meanwhile, the information shared on websites and stored in the database is stolen and all activities performed on the machine are monitored.
What is the cybercriminals’ purpose?
The purpose of this type of attack, in addition to collecting personal and financial information, is to add unauthorized advertisements on the user’s page, turn them into audiences for websites with ads, or request a ransom for hijacked data, usually paid for in cryptocurrencies. This makes it difficult for the authorities to track the transaction.
Phishing, for example, directs access to a fake version of the website. In the process, confidential information is stolen, which can be used in exchange for a ransom or so that the cybercriminal can assume the user’s identity in online transactions.
Financial institutions are the main target of phishing attacks because the deceived user can input data such as their account number, username, and password on the fake page, without even realizing it.
Consequently, the hacker takes over the account on the real page and carries out financial transactions.
DNS Hijacking is not essential in phishing attacks, because they happen through the access of manipulated links. However, when the DNS is corrupted, a phishing attack can be even more critical.
Regardless of whether the user entered the correct URL or clicked on a website from a widget, it will still be redirected to that fake website. Access is unlikely to arouse users’ distrust and that is what makes DNS Hijacking even more malicious.
In contrast, pharming attacks do not harm the user. They happen because the attacker takes advantage of the victim’s “digital identity” to turn them into an audience for websites with ads, who pay owners dearly for the clicks obtained in these environments.
The scam directs users to a fake website, filled with advertisements. These web pages do not perform any real function, but the operator generates revenue each time they are visited — even if the person closes the page immediately after opening it.
From the profit of these operations, the cybercriminal can finance other criminal activities.
Do only cybercriminals use DNS Hijacking?
Unlike what most people think, DNS Hijacking is not just for Internet fraud practices. The intrusion system can also be used by other agents.
Some governments, for example, apply the practice to censor the Internet: they repress political opposition or prohibit access to specific content, such as sites with illegal or pornographic content.
That way, users who attempt to access this kind of content are redirected to other pages and receive notice that the previous site is inaccessible.
Some Internet service providers also use this protocol to display error messages when users attempt to access domains that do not exist. For example, if the user enters a wrong URL or one that is not registered with DNS, the error message NXDOMAIN is displayed.
But before the user receives this response, the request goes through all levels of DNS to verify that entry’s existence. At that point, the Internet service provider intercepts the error message and redirects access to other environments, such as a popular page, the provider’s institutional website, or pages with advertisements, which increase business revenue.
How to prevent this type of attack on your website?
DNS Hijacking is a widely used practice by cybercriminals and must be prevented with more effective control, which is possible through a layered security strategy. For example, a DNS-based security solution could have been used to impose a stricter policy on critical infrastructure devices and block malware once the “patient zero” intrusion is identified.
Such early identification would allow the incident response team to fix the affected devices before other systems are infected. Using trusted platforms, such as Rock Stage, is also a way to prevent your WordPress site from being hacked and to inhibit hackers and cybercriminals.
However, users can increase their infrastructure’s security with a few actions:
- change your router’s default password and disable the remote administration option;
- make constant updates to inhibit vulnerabilities and flaws that are not related to its use;
- update the router’s firmware;
- use pop-up blocking tools;
- click on various areas of the website you intend to visit before writing any credentials (it is rare for the entire phishing page layout to be recreated);
- check if the connection is secure by using https:// before the URL, and whether the site has any certificates or security protocols, such as TLS.
DNS Hijacking can be used in many ways, but they are all illegitimate. After all, the user is not aware of the use of their digital identity: their device’s IP.
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