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DNS Protection, Protective DNS and DNS Security … What’s the Difference?

In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, staying ahead of threats is paramount. Two terms that often surface in discussions about online safety are DNS protection/security (protection and security used interchangeably here) and protective DNS.

While they might seem synonymous, they carry nuanced differences that play critical roles in fortifying digital environments. In this blog, we’ll compare the two and explain why both are crucial in fortifying your digital defenses.

DNS Security Is Not Inherently Secure

At its core, DNS (Domain Name System) serves as the internet's address book, translating human-friendly domain names into the numerical IP addresses that computers use to locate each other. DNS is a vitally important function of the internet and is commonly overlooked or thought of as inherently secure.

DNS was designed with functionality in mind, not security so the protocol is susceptible to several different attacks including spoofing, tunneling, data exfiltration and man-in-the-middle attacks just to name a few.

Another misconception is that using well known public DNS services guarantees improved security and privacy. While this can be true in some respects, they are far from a comprehensive solution. As security professionals, it is important to have a deep understanding of the difference between DNS protection and protective DNS so that we can employ a multi-layer approach to secure ourselves and our organizations.

DNS Protection: Securing the Protocol

DNS protection is a comprehensive strategy focused on protecting the DNS protocol itself. It ensures the integrity, authenticity, and availability of DNS services. Here are some the core components:

  • DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions): One of the cornerstones of DNS protection is DNSSEC, which stands for Domain Name System Security Extensions. DNSSEC is a powerful tool in fortifying the Domain Name System against a range of cyber threats. It accomplishes this by introducing cryptographic mechanisms that enhance the authenticity and integrity of DNS data.
  • DNS over TLS (DoT) and DNS over HTTPS (DoH): DNS over TLS or DoT is a protocol that secures DNS traffic using encryption. It employs Transport Layer Security (TLS), typically used for web security (HTTPS), to create a secure channel for DNS data. This encryption ensures confidentiality, authentication, and protection against tampering during DNS communication. DNS over HTTPS or DoH also encrypts DNS traffic, but it does so by encapsulating DNS queries within the secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). Using the standard HTTPS port (443), DoH enhances user privacy by preventing intermediaries from inspecting DNS traffic. It ensures data confidentiality and integrity during DNS transactions. The choice between DoT and DoH depends on user preferences and network configurations, with both protocols serving to secure DNS communications.
  • Network Segmentation: This strategy isolates critical DNS infrastructure from less secure areas of the network, limiting the potential impact of threats by creating controlled access.

Protective DNS: Analytics and Active Security Controls

Protective DNS is a cybersecurity layer designed to proactively safeguard users and networks from accessing known or suspected malicious domains and websites. It operates as a gatekeeper within the DNS ecosystem, actively preventing users from connecting to harmful online destinations.

This helps organizations enhance their cybersecurity posture by reducing exposure to threats like malware, phishing, and malicious content, contributing to a safer online environment. Here are some of the highlights on how Protective DNS operates:

  • Domain Reputation Analysis: Protective DNS assesses domain trustworthiness in real-time, based on historical data, threat intelligence, infrastructure awareness and several other factors.
  • Responsiveness: Protective DNS offers low-latency responses to swiftly thwart access to hazardous domains, ensuring minimal exposure.
  • Content Filtering: Beyond blocking malicious sites, protective DNS can also filter content based on policies set by organizations.

Implement a Multi-Layered Cybersecurity Defense

In summary, utilizing DNS protection and protective DNS as part of a multi-layered cybersecurity strategy is of paramount importance in today's digital landscape. DNS serves as a foundational element of internet communication, making it a prime target for cyber threats. DNS security measures such as DNSSEC, DoT, and DoH focus on safeguarding the DNS protocol itself, ensuring data integrity and authenticity. However, they may not comprehensively address emerging threats.

Protective DNS complements these protocols by actively filtering and blocking access to known malicious domains and content in real-time, offering proactive threat prevention and content filtering. By combining both DNS protection and protective DNS services, organizations create a robust defense against a wide array of cyber threats.

This multi-layered approach not only enhances the integrity of DNS data but also actively prevents users from accessing hazardous online spaces, strengthening overall cybersecurity defenses and ensuring a safer digital landscape.

Further Reading

HYAS Protect Protective DNS

Guide to Protective DNS Security

Protective DNS eBook

AV-TEST evaluation of HYAS Protect

Want to talk to an expert to learn more about Protective DNS? Contact us today to find out what HYAS security solutions can do for your organization.