Revisiting How Registrants Can Reduce the Threat of Domain Hijacking

Recent events1,2 have shown the threat of domain hijacking is very real; however, it is also largely preventable. As Verisign previously noted3, there are many security controls that registrants can utilize to help strengthen their security posture. Verisign would like to reiterate this advice within the context of the recent domain hijacking reports.

Domains are an important element of internet infrastructure; their functionality and security rely upon many factors such as their delegated name servers. Name server delegations introduce complex and subtle inter-dependencies between domains and their authoritative name servers. Compromise of any name server in the delegation hierarchy can lead to a potential hijacking scenario. Targeted name server compromises in the delegation hierarchy can facilitate a complete hijack of a domain or set of domains, while name server compromises deeper in the delegation hierarchy may result in partial hijacking, since not all name servers in the hierarchy are involved in every DNS resolution request. A compromised name server is capable of diverting DNS requests to malicious servers controlled by threat actors and can be weaponized for phishing attacks or other nefarious purposes.

Over the past several weeks, security professionals have issued reports1, 2 about the hijacking of various domains via their name server delegations. These changes were likely made using compromised registrar credentials and are believed to be backed by a foreign nation state entity1, 2. During the attacks, the threat actors used the traffic directed to their infrastructure to launch spear phishing campaigns against various government entities in northern Africa and the Middle East. These targeted spear phishing attempts were facilitated by the transitive trust4 placed on the compromised domains and their delegated name servers.

Several of the compromised domains contained hosts that were specified as name servers for numerous top-level domains (TLDs) including country code TLDs5 in the northern African and Middle East regions. Subsequently, DNS traffic resolution for corresponding reliant zones were partially/completely routed to the threat actors’ infrastructure. This redirection of DNS traffic facilitated their ability to target specific government and industry entities in the targeted countries. While the domains did not employ a domain locking tool, some were DNSSEC6 signed, which helped mitigate the attack for resolving parties that perform validation.

As part of the response to this incident, the Department of Homeland Security issued Emergency Directive 19-017 requiring federal civilian agencies to address the risks presented by this activity. The order mandated four actions to be taken: 1) Audit DNS records, 2) Change DNS account passwords, 3) Add multi-factor authentication to DNS accounts and 4) Monitor Certificate Transparency logs.

Verisign is engaged with various industry and government entities regarding this incident and has provided technical insights into the DNS ecosystem regarding the complex mechanisms and system-to-system interactions/dependencies involved. To date, there is no evidence that the scope of compromise extends beyond the sets of credentials at various registrars.

Verisign encourages registrants to research their registrar’s security offerings and to take advantage of the tools and services they offer. Techniques such as locking services offered by registrars and registries8, two-factor authentication, password strengthening, and other common security hygiene practices9 are all best practice security recommendations that Verisign encourages and promotes.

Additional security recommendations are available in the following ICANN SSAC reports:

  • SAC04010: “Measures to Protect Domain Name Registration Service Against Exploitation or Misuse”
  • SAC04411: “A Registrant’s Guide to Protecting Domain Name Registration Accounts”
  • SAC07412: “Best Practices for Preserving Security and Stability in the Credential Management Lifecycle”

1 https://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-research/2019/01/global-dns-hijacking-campaign-dns-record-manipulation-at-scale.html

2 https://www.crowdstrike.com/blog/widespread-dns-hijacking-activity-targets-multiple-sectors/

3http://www.circleid.com/posts/20130722_how_registrants_can_reduce_the_threat_of_domain_hijacking/ 

4https://www.usenix.org/legacy/events/imc05/tech/full_papers/ramasubramanian/ramasubramanian_html/dns.html

5 https://www.internic.net/domain/root.zone

6 https://www.verisign.com/en_US/domain-names/dnssec/how-dnssec-works/index.xhtml

7 https://cyber.dhs.gov/ed/19-01/

8 https://www.verisign.com/en_US/channel-resources/domain-registry-products/registry-lock/index.xhtml

9https://www.markmonitor.com/download/checklist/MarkMonitor_Domain_Security_Best_Practices.pdf

10 https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/sac-040-en.pdf

11 https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/sac-044-en.pdf

12 https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/sac-074-en.pdf

Q2 2018 DDOS TRENDS REPORT: 52 PERCENT OF ATTACKS EMPLOYED MULTIPLE ATTACK TYPES

Verisign just released its Q2 2018 DDoS Trends Report, which represents a unique view into the attack trends unfolding online, through observations and insights derived from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack mitigations enacted on behalf of customers of Verisign DDoS Protection Services.

Download your free copy of the Q2 2018 DDoS Trends Report

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Operational Update Regarding the KSK Rollover for Administrators of Recursive Name Servers

Currently scheduled for October 11, 2018, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plans to change the cryptographic key that helps to secure the internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) by performing a Root Zone Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) key signing key (KSK) rollover.

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Q1 2018 DDoS Trends Report: 58 Percent of Attacks Employed Multiple Attack Types

Verisign just released its Q1 2018 DDoS Trends Report, which represents a unique view into the attack trends unfolding online, through observations and insights derived from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack mitigations enacted on behalf of Verisign DDoS Protection Services, and security research conducted by Verisign Security Services.

Download your free copy of the Q1 2018 DDoS Trends Report

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DNS-Based Threats: Cache Poisoning

The Domain Name System (DNS) is the cornerstone of communication for the internet. Navigating to the sites you access every day often starts with a DNS request. Cybercriminals recognize the value of DNS and may look for ways to abuse improperly secured DNS to compromise its uptime, integrity or overall response efficacy—which makes DNS an important area for enforcing security and protecting against threats.

One such threat: cache poisoning. (more…)

Q4 2017 DDoS Trends Report: Financial Sector Experienced 40 Percent of Attacks

Verisign just released its Q4 2017 DDoS Trends Report, which represents a unique view into the attack trends unfolding online, through observations and insights derived from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack mitigations enacted on behalf of Verisign DDoS Protection Services and security research conducted by Verisign Security Services.

Download your free copy of the Q4 2017 DDoS Trends Report

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DNS-Based Threats: DNS Reflection and Amplification Attacks

The Domain Name System (DNS), if not properly secured, may be susceptible to abuse by malicious actors. Cybercriminals recognize the value of DNS availability and look for ways to compromise DNS uptime and the DNS servers that support it. As such, DNS becomes an important point of security enforcement and a potential point in the Cyber Kill Chain®1 for many cyber-attacks.

This blog discusses one such threat, DNS reflection and amplification attacks.

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Q3 2017 DDoS Trends Report: 29 Percent of Attacks Employed Five or More Attack Types

Verisign just released its Q3 2017 DDoS Trends Report, which represents a unique view into the attack trends unfolding online, through observations and insights derived from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack mitigations enacted on behalf of Verisign DDoS Protection Services and security research conducted by Verisign Security Services.

Download your free copy of the Q3 2017 DDoS Trends Report

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A Framework for Resilient DNS Security: DNS Availability Drives Business

To establish connectivity with other users and devices, almost anything that interfaces with the internet depends on the accuracy, integrity and availability of the Domain Name System (DNS). Most online transactions and data movement are critically dependent on DNS services.

As such, DNS is an important point of security enforcement and a potential point in the Cyber Kill Chain for many cyber-attacks. Organizations are beginning to recognize this and are using DNS security mechanisms as a first line of defense for preventing or mitigating online threats.

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Q2 2017 DDoS Trends Report: 25 Percent of Attacks Peaked Over 5 Gbps

Cover of the Q2 2017 DDoS Trends Report
Download your free copy of the Q2 2017 DDoS Trends Report

Verisign just released its Q2 2017 DDoS Trends Report, which represents a unique view into the attack trends unfolding online, through observations and insights derived from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack mitigations enacted on behalf of Verisign DDoS Protection Services and security research conducted by Verisign Security Services.

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