DNS servers still sitting ducks inside many organisations, IDC survey finds

Awraness of risk high but protection low

DNS servers remain an unprotected sitting duck in many organisations despite good awareness of the risks posed by external attacks, a survey carried out by IDC for EfficientIP has found.

IDC's survey of 244 IT staff in the US, UK and France suggests a paradox in the rise in importance of DNS infrastructure; organisations know how important they are and yet often use older and inadequate forms of protection such as conventional packet firewalls to keep them safe.

Anxiety about the possibility of a DNS attack was high with 63 percent of respondents in France describing it as significant or very significant, ahead of 50 percent in the US and 47 percent in the UK.

The most often mentioned effect of an attack was disruption to the business, with the leakage of sensitive customer data, reputational damage, and legal issues not far behind on the list of worries.

As it happens, between a quarter and third mentioned having experienced attacks in the previous 12 months, with DNS amplification (a type of DDoS attack) noted by 40 percent across all three countries, beating straight DDoS and cache poisoning into second and third place with 28 percent and 25 percent respectively.

Although these attacks resulted in loss of business and a compromised website as might be expected, another dimension is the way they are being used to hide attacks designed to steal data; 41 percent reported lost intellectual property as part of DNS DDoS attacks and 31 percent the release of sensitive public data.

IDC also asked what types of DNS server were in place, with 77 percent having an internal Linux, Windows or appliance server and 71 percent an external hosted or cloud equivalent.

Surprisingly given the awareness of attacks, only around half used specialised security to protect their DNS infrastructure. Around 40 percent planned to rely on their ISP in the event of attack, and half mentioned having a backup DNS server. Nearly 60 percent of US and UK users said they'd fall back on traffic prioritisation should their DNS come under attack.

"These results show how little is actually being done by organizations to protect themselves. Most have been under attack in the past year, with severe consequences for their business, yet very little is being done about it and they feel that the basic protection offered by a firewall is enough," said IDC.

IDC speculated on the reasons for the apparent lack of investment in DNS security, concluding that many organsiations still aren't aware of how many DNS servers they use or rely on. DNS security, it seems, could look like just another cost drain among many parallel problems.

A range of solutions have been suggested to counter the vulnerability of undefended DNS infrastructure, including EfficientIP's own DNS firewalling technology. Rival Infoblox's has recently taken this concept one stage further, putting the anti-DDoS element inside the DNS appliance itself.

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