What is DNS?

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a critical component of the internet, functioning like a phone book for the digital world. It translates user-friendly domain names, such as “welcometobora.com,” into numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that computers use to communicate with each other. This system is crucial because while domain names are easy for people to remember, computers access websites based on IP addresses.

How Does DNS Work?

The process of DNS resolution involves several steps, providing a seamless experience for the user:

1. Query Initiation: It begins when you enter a website’s name into your browser. The browser sends a DNS query to find the website’s corresponding IP address.

2. Recursive DNS Servers: The query first reaches a recursive DNS server, typically provided by your internet service provider (ISP). If this server doesn’t have the IP address cached, it initiates a process to find it.

3. Root Name Servers: The query then moves to a root name server. The internet has 13 root name servers that direct the query to the appropriate top-level domain (TLD) server, like “.com” or “.org.”

4. TLD Servers: These servers hold information about the authoritative DNS servers for each domain within their specific TLD.

5. Authoritative DNS Servers: Finally, the query reaches the authoritative DNS server for the specific domain. This server holds the actual DNS records, including the IP address for the domain.

6. Response: The IP address is then sent back through the chain to your browser, enabling it to establish a connection to the website’s server.

Types of DNS Service

1. Recursive DNS Servers: These act as intermediaries, handling DNS queries from clients and seeking information from other DNS servers.

2. Authoritative DNS Servers: These servers provide the actual DNS records for domains. They are the definitive source for information about domain IP addresses.

Importance of DNS

DNS is indispensable for internet usability and functionality. Without it, navigating the web would require memorizing complex numerical IP addresses for every website, a daunting and unrealistic task for users.

Security Threats Against DNS

DNS, while crucial, is also a target for various cyber threats:

1. DNS Spoofing or Cache Poisoning: Attackers manipulate a DNS server’s cache, causing it to return incorrect IP addresses, diverting users to fraudulent or malicious sites.

2. DNS Tunneling: This technique involves embedding malicious data in DNS queries and responses. Attackers use this method to bypass security measures and exfiltrate data or establish command and control channels.

3. DNS Hijacking: Attackers redirect queries to a malicious DNS server, leading users to counterfeit or dangerous websites.

4. DNS Amplification Attacks: These are perpetrated as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Attackers exploit the DNS protocol’s open and recursive nature to overload a target with traffic. This is done by sending small queries with a spoofed source IP address (the victim’s IP). The DNS server responds with a larger reply, directing the response to the victim’s IP, leading to service disruption.

Understanding DNS is crucial in the realm of cybersecurity. It’s not just about knowing how the internet connects users to websites, but also about recognizing the vulnerabilities within this system. By securing DNS practices and being aware of potential threats, we can safeguard an essential component of our digital infrastructure and enhance overall cybersecurity.

For more essential cybersecurity definitions, check out our blogs below:

21 Essential Cybersecurity Terms You Should Know

40+ Cybersecurity Acronyms & Definitions

Return to Cybersecurity Glossary

Scroll to top