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Creating Secure and Private DNS Servers

Creating Secure and Private DNS Servers

The accuracy and security of a network DNS system cannot be undervalued. Not only do zone files need maintenance to keep data in sync with reality, the system needs to be secured so that results cannot be altered, intentionally or unintentionally. Out-of-date or incorrect zone files may point users or services to incorrect or nonexistent ...

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The accuracy and security of a network DNS system cannot be undervalued. Not only do zone files need maintenance to keep data in sync with reality, the system needs to be secured so that results cannot be altered, intentionally or unintentionally. Out-of-date or incorrect zone files may point users or services to incorrect or nonexistent hosts. Similarly, because data in a DNS server contain a “map” of a network, it is important that a DNS server provide protection from attackers.

As with any software, bugs in the code have, in the past, allowed attackers to compromise the DNS server. Finally, as with any service, a DNS server uses other resources (such as CPU and bandwidth) and therefore has finite capacity. This section describes some standard DNS configurations.

Protected with a firewall and thereby inaccessible from the public Internet, these configurations are also secure. These standard configurations include a caching-only name server; restricted zone transfers; authoritative-only services (also known as nonrecursive servers); and forward servers.

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Using Caching-Only Name Servers

One common configuration is a caching-only name server. By placing a DNS server inside a network firewall, DNS lookups can be cached for later use, speeding queries and limiting the number of slower links to the outside world. However, if an enterprise DNS server is not protected, the opposite may occur:

Unauthorized queries can unexpectedly load down the system, using greater bandwidth and slowing lookups for internal users. If a cachingonly name server is publicly available, or if there is an unexpected number of users within a large organization, performance can suffer and impact other services. Fortunately, the default configuration forestalls one of the issues out of the box: The problem of allowing unexpected users the use of a DNS server. By default, only localnets are allowed recursion basically, the use of a DNS server past itself.

A caching-only name server is of little use otherwise. The solution to this problem of lock-in is simple: Using Server Admin, set an ACL, using the Settings pane, to restrict recursion to specific machines, subnets, or both. (To see the impact of DNS queries, trace some network traffic and watch how many DNS queries are made thanks to almost complete reliance on DNS even on a seemingly idle machine. Multiply this by the number of devices in a large organization, and you can appreciate the impact of DNS queries on a network.)

About Emma G.

Working in the marketing industry since 2002. This blog is one of my hobbies.

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