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What is DNS hijacking and how it affects you?

This might come as a shock to you, but nevertheless, here it comes. The Internet is not a safe place for data. This is why you probably use different types of security measures. Antivirus, Firewall and VPN. A few days ago we posted a short text about Firewall vs VPN – this is for you who missed it. Today we will try to explain what is DNS hijacking, how it works & how Smart DNS may give you a hint, that there is something wrong. 

 

Before we get to DNS Hijacking…

We would need to understand what is DNS in general and how it works. Most of you – unless you are using our Smart DNS service – is using a default DNS server assigned to you by your ISP. DNS server – its name stands for Domain Name Server – translates letters, like www.hideipvpn.com into IP addresses. Without DNS server you would not be able to open any website or access any online service. It is the DNS server that directs your data, your queries to correct place on the internet. Acting like sort of a roadmap.

We have used this function of DNS server when we created Smart DNS. Our Smart DNS server contains a list of websites and online services that in order to work, need to be accessed from the specific range of IP addresses. Like Netflix US, only through the USA IP address. Data flowing to such services are first redirected to a proxy server. All other addresses are accessed as they would be through ordinary DNS server.

 

What is DNS Hijacking?

We believe now it should be very simple to understand. DNS hijacking happens, when someone, without your knowledge and consent changes your DNS settings. This may happen through a malware you install on your computer or phone or a virus. Also, there are ways to do a DNS Hijacking from the other end, meaning that hackers are able to hijack actual domains and all traffic coming to a website will be redirected somewhere else. Most of the time such actions are quite spectacular. From your point of view however it may be a lot more harmful when your own DNS settings are compromised.

 

How does DNS Hijacking work?

We will now describe few possible scenarios of what may happen if you become a victim of DNS hijacking. Imagine yourself, that you are trying to access the website of your bank and log in to your account. As your DNS has been hijacked what you will access is not the bank website – hacked DNS will redirect you to a different place – but a website that only looks exactly as the one you want to use. If it is done correctly it may trick you to a PIN or password change asking first – of course – to enter your “old” password. All other websites and services will work as usual. So how will you know that there is something wrong?

Another scenario is even worse. Imagine yourself that every single bit of the data you send is being transferred first to a server, that is reading and recording all of them. Emails, Skype messages, browsing history, photos, the lot. With time it will give hackers quite a complete picture of you. That information may be later used to perform the actual attack.

 

How to Prevent DNS hijacking

Here are a few simple hints, that might help you prevent DNS hijacking.

Regular test

That means that you should from time to time check your DNS settings. Additionally, you may try to ping a domain you do know does not exist. If it suddenly resolves there is a chance that your DNS settings have been changed and you are a victim of DNS hijacking.

Don’t access unsafe websites

On many occasions, attacks against you might come directly from a content on websites. Malware, viruses, trojans are quite easy to find on many websites offering “free” videos. Popular blockbuster movies offered as a bait. Always ask yourself a question… “why is it given for free?”  and if you cannot come up with a sound reason there is a good chance that the content is not really free. Example of such action was DNS Changer Trojan. This malware was used to infect over 4 million computers. Through DNS hijacking it managed to generate around 14 million dollars through advertising.

Change your router password

Get in habit of changing your router password frequently. And not only on a router but preferably all others too. In order to get a safe password, try using one of the popular password generating engines. Make sure your router is not protected only by default settings like admin/admin !!!

Use a VPN service

Use of VPN service is one of the best, simplest and most efficient ways to protect yourself against many dangers online, including DNS hijacking. As all your network/web traffic gets encrypted in VPN tunnel – both from browser and apps – a potential hijacker will not be able to decipher data packages need for attack. Additionally, since your real IP address is hidden it will not be possible to find your device/router.

We encourage you to try our services – both VPN and Smart DNS and if you have any questions feel free to get in touch with us.

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