What Is DNS Hijacking and How To Stop It
DNS is an acronym for Domain Name System. It is a system that links websites to their IP address. DNS hijacking occurs when your DNS is intercepted and you get redirected to malicious sites or pop-ups. These sites are commonly full of malware and other dangerous threats. The attackers forge a DNS entry containing a different IP destination from the domain you entered and poison your DNS.
Thankfully, there are ways to prevent DNS hijacking. Using a VPN or ensuring that a website is secure before visiting are some of the means you can employ.
How Is DNS Hijacked?
Have you visited a website and gotten multiple tabs of newly redirected sites and pop-ups? DNS hijacking is ongoing. Every DNS has unique protocols. Ideally, every company or website owner is responsible for monitoring its domain to prevent malicious activities but, some are negligent. Cybercriminals take advantage of this negligence to initiate attacks on the DNS.
Domain Name System (DNS) turns URLs to IP addresses allowing you to match the required website during a search query. There is a DNS resolver with the main function of finding a match with high-level domain servers and sending it to your device. When DNS hijacking happens, your DNS will get compromised and its resolver will send malicious websites to your device.
Cybercriminals initiate this attack by hacking the DNS communication and installing malware on your device. When the DNS hijacking takes place, you will get redirected to a fake or malicious site.
No company or website is above DNS hijacking. Reputable companies like Gmail, PayPal, and even Netflix have been targets for DNS hijacking. If the company does not monitor its website’s activity, the DNS can be hijacked, and the user will experience dangerous threats.
When you visit a website with HTTP instead of HTTPS, there’s a tendency that DNS hijacking can occur. An HTTPS site typically has the right security protocols to prevent DNS hijacking.
Types of DNS Hijacking
There are five (5) major types of DNS hijacking that you need to avoid.
1. Man-in-the-Middle Attack
One popular type of DNS hijacking is the Man-in-the-middle attack. In this type of attack, the cybercriminal intercepts the DNS and redirects it to a hostile DNS server chosen by the hacker.
The attacker can use the phishing method to initiate a man-in-the-middle attack. In this method, a trojan is used to send a “spoof” website. The spoof site will look a lot like the one you want to intend to visit to trick you. Any information entered into the spoof site will likely get stolen.
The cybercriminal can also use a pharming method to carry out a man-in-the-middle attack. In this case, a series of unwanted display ads and pop-ups will be redirected to you. The hacker here is trying to use DNS hijacking to generate revenue.
2. Malware Attack
A malware attack is a common type of DNS hijacking attack. In this case, your device will be infected with malware trojans once you visit the website. The trojans will change your DNS settings on your device and redirect you to a malicious server. It is a local attack because it attacks your device directly.
3. Cache Poisoning
Cache Poisoning is another type of DNS hijacking. In this case, the attacker does not directly hijack your DNS request. Instead, it redirects you to a “spoof” website and sends fake DNS entries to the cache of your DNS resolver. By doing so, you will be redirected to different malicious sites instead of the sites requested.
A well-organized cache poisoning can affect your entire Local Area Network (LAN) along with those using it. The problem can occur by clicking a malicious link from a pop-up ad or email.
4. Rogue DNS Server
This type of DNS hijacking occurs when the cybercriminal targets and hacks the DNS server and changes its setting to redirect your traffic to fake and malicious websites.
5. Router DNS Hijack
This attack occurs when a cybercriminal gains access to your router and changes your DNS settings to a compromised server. Most DNS routers come with a preset password that is quite vulnerable. If you did not change your router password, a cybercriminal can gain access to your router, and DNS hijacking will occur. Once they change your DNS settings, your traffic will be redirected to malicious or dangerous sites.
How To Stop DNS Hijacking
DNS Hijacking can cause a lot of damage. Luckily, there are ways to stop DNS hijacking. Once you notice your DNS has been compromised you need to act fast by doing the following:
1. Change Your DNS Router Password
Your DNS router may have been compromised and its settings changed to divert you to a malicious site. First, change your password then, revert your settings to their original form. As often as possible, try to update your router’s software to avoid security vulnerabilities.
2. Clear Your Cache
Your DNS can be compromised through the cache poisoning method. The best way to fight it is to clear your cache (memory). By doing so, you will clear out the hijack settings and get your DNS back. Try to clear out your cache from time to time, just in case you visited an unsecured site without knowing.
3. Get an Antivirus and Malware Protector
If you visit a website that spreads malware and trojans to your device, antivirus or malware protector will save the day. A good antivirus will detect the malware and fight it as soon as it attacks your device. You, however, need to avoid visiting such sites to prevent those attacks from reoccurring.
4. Contact Your IT Team
As the owner of a website with a DNS hijack, you need to contact your IT team as soon as possible. Once the problem is solved from your end, it will prevent the users of your site from experiencing redirects to malicious sites. It is your responsibility as a website owner to maintain your site and prevent DNS hijacking.
5. Patch DNS Vulnerabilities
Once you notice your DNS is vulnerable, you need to patch it before cybercriminals access it.
Tips to Prevent DNS Hijacking
To prevent DNS Hijacking, you should do the following :
1. Use a Premium VPN
The best way to protect yourself from DNS hijacking is to use a premium VPN. A VPN has an encrypted tunnel that performs all DNS requests with a private DNS resolver. Your data will be encrypted and therefore difficult for cybercriminals to access or hack.
Additionally, VPNs have the necessary features to ensure your privacy and security when using the internet. It is important to use a premium VPN provider like ExpressVPN or NordVPN to get the best quality of service for your protection. Using a free VPN may not protect you to the best level.
2. Have Good Security Software
Always have up-to-date security software on all your devices to prevent DNS hijacking. A malware protector, and antivirus, can save you from experiencing hacks and data leaks on your device. It is also better to use a premium antivirus or security software, so you can guarantee its efficiency.
3. Avoid Clicking Questionable Links
Never click on the links you receive from emails or social media from questionable sources. A single click on a wrong link can cause DNS hijacking or fill your device with malware and other dangerous threats. Even when you know the sender of the link, it is always better to write out the URL and check if it’s secured if you have any suspicions.
4. Only Visit Secure Sites
Avoid visiting sites without an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate. The URL should have HTTPS preceding it; not just HTTP. You can see if a site has an SSL certificate when it has a lock icon or secure icon written at the browser’s address bar. If you notice anything suspicious about a website, close the site immediately and check your DNS settings.
5. Avoid Sharing Personal Information on Public Networks
Whenever you’re using a public wi-fi network avoid logging in to sites that require credentials or other personal information. Public Wifi networks can easily get compromised.
A cybercriminal can be at the other end accessing your data without your knowledge. You should never use a public network to share or receive private information unless you have it secured with a VPN.
6. Be Vigilant
Little DNS vulnerabilities can be exploited by cybercriminals. Although using a VPN or having security software will help, you also need to be vigilant. If you see too many pop-ups on a page or platform, leave immediately and ensure your DNS is not compromised.
DNS hijacking happens when your DNS settings get compromised. A cybercriminal can then redirect you to dangerous and malicious sites or pop-ups. To prevent this from happening, you should always use a VPN, especially when using a public network. Having good security programs can also help keep you safe. You need to stay vigilant when using the internet to prevent threats.