Your browser doesn’t take you to the webpage you’re looking to visit straight away. What’s scary is that there is a chance that you end up on a scam site without you even noticing it. You may be redirected from a real website to a fake one when cybercriminals manipulate DNS records: an act called DNS spoofing.
It’s one of the more sophisticated and elusive cyber threats. To protect yourself, you need to know how it works. If you aren’t aware of how you’re connected to websites on the internet, you might be under the impression that the website itself has been hacked, even though it may be only your device. Read on as we explain what DNS Spoofing is all about.
What is a DNS Server and How it Works?
To understand how DNS spoofing works, you need to know what the function of a DNS server is. Just as houses have addresses, websites have IP addresses or domain names. We remember websites by their domain names as they are easy to remember. A DNS server does the job of converting these domain names into long and difficult-to-remember IP addresses. It’s just translating a language we understand to navigate the net into computer language.
Suppose that you have typed in www.bbc.com into the browser. The DNS server first checks the domain’s IP address. Your browser can locate the IP address by connecting with the DNS server, which stores the domain names. The webpage is displayed on your screen after the DNS server has located the IP address sending information back to the server.
Your ISP owns the server, which, however, can’t hold the IP addresses of every website that exists on the internet. The addresses of only the most visited websites on the local network are stored on the local DNS server. The DNS server sends back the address of the website your browser seeks right away if it’s stored in the server. If it isn’t, the server forwards the inquiry to the next server. After the local server has sent the address to the browser, it stores the address in its cache temporarily should you need it again.
The Methods of DNS Spoofing
The most common forms of DNS Spoofing attacks are:
- Man-in-the-middle duping. With this method, the attacker places himself between the web browser and the DNS server infecting both. The hacker uses a tool to carry out cache poisoning and server poisoning on the DNS server simultaneously. This redirects you to a malicious site hosted by the hacker on their local server.
- DNS Server Hijack. This is an even more sophisticated method where the criminal directs all users of a website to a malicious one by directly reconfiguring the server. After the DNS server is infected with a fake DNS entry, any IP request for the spoofed domain will lead users to the fake site.
Ways to Prevent DNS Spoofing
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do as you just can’t tell whether the IP address is real or fake. If you’re redirected to a fake website, avoid clicking on anything, leave right away, and inform your ISP about the compromise on the DNS record. Here’s what you should do:
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). An online VPN helps protect you online by hiding your IP address and obscuring your online identity. It is an effective solution against man-in-the-middle attacks, which are commonly related to DNS spoofing.
- Check the URL. If the URL is different from what you entered, it should set the alarm bells ringing. While creating the replica of a website, the attacker will have to register it with a domain name that’s similar to the real one. That compels him to change some letters or remove them altogether. Additionally, a fake website might not have a valid SSL certificate. It means you need to look for the padlock sign next to its name.
DNS Spoofing is a threat all of us face, with cybercrime rising every day. The best way to fight it is by staying cautious and taking preventive measures like installing a VPN. Cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target unsuspecting victims with DNS Spoofing. Be very careful about the sites you visit and double-check before you click on any link that you may receive with any email. Staying alert is the key to protect yourself.