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What exactly is DNS, and how does it perform its functions?

The Domain Name System (DNS) translates the names of websites to their underlying IP addresses, making the process more efficient and providing an additional layer of protection.

Even though the Domain Name System (DNS) is one of the pillars of the Internet, the vast majority of individuals who are not involved in networking probably aren't aware that they use it every day to perform their jobs, and check their email, or waste time on their cellphones.

At its most fundamental level, the Domain Name System (DNS) is a directory of names that correspond with numbers. In this instance, the numbers represent Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, which are how computers communicate with one another. The most common way to explain DNS is by comparing it to a phone book, which is appropriate for anyone older than 30 who is familiar with the concept of a phone book.

If you are under the age of 30, think of DNS as being comparable to the contact list on your smartphone. This list associates the names of individuals with their respective phone numbers and email addresses. After that, multiply that contact list by all the other people on the earth.

A brief overview of the history of DNS

When fewer individuals and devices connected to the Internet, it was much simpler for users to associate particular IP addresses with specific computers. However, this association became increasingly difficult as the size of the Internet continued to rise. It is still possible to enter a particular IP address into a web browser to visit a website; however, back then, just as they do now, people desired a speech that consisted of words that were simpler to remember and were of the type that we would now refer to as a domain name (such as Elizabeth Feinler at Stanford was responsible for allocating those names and addresses back in the 1970s and early 1980s. She kept a master list of every machine connected to the Internet in a text file known as HOSTS.TXT.

This was an impossible position to maintain as the Internet continued to grow, not the least of which was that Feinler would only accept inquiries before 6 p.m. local time in California and take time off for the holidays. In 1983, a researcher at the University of Southern California named Paul Mockapetris was entrusted with coming up with a compromise among numerous options for dealing with the situation. He did not consider any of them and instead devised his system, which he called DNS. Even while it has certainly undergone a great deal of change ever since then, the core of how it operates is virtually the same as how it did about four decades ago.

How DNS servers work

There is not a single location on the Internet that houses the DNS directory that is responsible for making the connection between names and numbers. At the end of 2017, more than 332 million domain names were listed, meaning that a single directory would be extremely vast. Much like the Internet, the guide is dispersed across the globe. It is kept on domain name servers, more commonly abbreviated as DNS servers. These DNS servers maintain constant communication to ensure that all information is current and that there are backups available.

DNS servers can be divided into two categories: authoritative and recursive.

Your computer will initially send a request to a recursive DNS server, sometimes referred to as a recursive resolver, whenever it is trying to determine the IP address associated with a certain domain name. A recursive resolver is a type of server typically run by an Internet service provider (ISP) or another type of third-party provider. This type of server can determine which additional DNS servers it needs to query to match the name of a website with its corresponding IP address. Authoritative DNS servers are servers with the required information stored on them.

Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and DNS servers

Multiple Internet Protocol addresses can be associated with a single domain. Some websites have hundreds or even thousands of IP addresses, each corresponding to a particular domain name. For instance, if you type "" into your browser, your computer will connect to a server that is most likely entirely different from the one that someone in a foreign country would connect to if they typed the same site name into their browser.

If there were only one location for the directory, then the time it would take for you to get a response when you were looking for a site would be significantly longer if there was only one location for the directory to be shared among the millions, or probably billions, of people who were also looking for information at the same time. Because of this, the directory is distributed across multiple locations. A very big line of people is waiting to use the phone book.

What exactly is the caching of DNS?

To work around this issue, the DNS information is distributed across many servers. On client PCs, data is stored locally for recently viewed websites and cached information. There is a good chance that you visit multiple times each day. This information is maintained on your computer so that it does not have to query the DNS name server for the IP address of each time. As a result, your computer does not need to consult a DNS server to resolve the name to its corresponding IP address. Both the clients' routers, which are used to connect them to the Internet, and the servers of the user's Internet service provider (ISP) are potential locations for additional caching (ISP). Because of the widespread use of caching, the number of queries sent to DNS name servers is significantly smaller than would initially appear to be the case.

Where can I locate my local DNS server?

When you connect to the Internet, the Domain Name System (DNS) server you use will, in most cases, be set up for you automatically by the network provider you use. Some web utilities may provide a variety of information about your current network connection. For example, if you want to determine which servers are your primary nameservers — typically the recursive resolver, as explained above — you can use one of these web utilities. A nice one is; it offers a lot of information, including the DNS servers that are currently being used by your computer.

Is it possible to use the DNS?

It would help if you remembered that even though your Internet service provider (ISP) will configure a default DNS server, you are not required to use it. Some users may have good cause to avoid using the DNS provided by their Internet service provider (ISP). For example, some ISPs utilize their DNS servers to send queries for addresses that do not exist to pages that include advertising.

You can instead direct your computer to a public DNS server that will perform the function of a recursive resolver if you are looking for an alternative. Google's public DNS server, which can be accessed via the IP address, is widely considered among its most renowned. Google's DNS services are typically very quick. Even though some people are suspicious of the true reasons Google is providing this service at no cost, it's unlikely that the company will be able to obtain any information from you that they don't already have access to, thanks to Chrome. To connect your computer or router to Google's DNS, Google provides a page with step-by-step instructions that may be accessed on their website.

How the Domain Name System (DNS) increases productivity

The Domain Name System (DNS) is structured in a hierarchy, contributing to its streamlined and efficient operation. To give you an example, let's imagine you were interested in going to

As mentioned up top, the first time an IP address is requested, the query is sent to a recursive resolver. The recursive resolver is aware of which other DNS servers it must query to match the domain name of a website ( with its corresponding Internet Protocol (IP) address. This search will take you to a root server, which has access to all of the information regarding top-level domains, such,.net,, as well as all of the information regarding country domains.CN (China) and.UK (United Kingdom) (United Kingdom). Because root servers can be found worldwide, the system will typically lead you to the one that is physically located closest to you.

After the appropriate root server has processed the request, it is sent to a top-level domain, or TLD, name server. This type of server is responsible for storing the information for the second-level domain, consisting of the words used before,.org, extensions (for, this information is "network world"). Following this, the request is sent to the Domain Name Server, which is the repository for information regarding the website and its IP address. Following the discovery of the client's IP address, that address is then forwarded back to the client, who can then use it to access the website. This entire process occurs in a matter of milliseconds.

Most people do not give DNS much thought because it has been operational for more than 30 years. When the system was built, security was not a consideration at all, and as a result, cybercriminals have taken full advantage of this by developing a range of different assaults.

Attacks using DNS reflection

Victims of DNS reflection attacks can be inundated with a huge volume of messages from DNS resolver servers. Attackers will send requests for huge DNS files to as many open DNS resolvers as they can locate while using a faked IP address for the target of their attack. After the resolvers have responded, the victim will receive a deluge of unrequested DNS data, which will cause their computers to become overwhelmed.

poisoning of the DNS cache

The poisoning of the DNS cache can potentially direct users to malicious websites; when a potential victim requests an address resolution for one of the poisoned sites, the DNS answers with the IP address for a different site, one that the attacker controls. Attackers can implant bogus address records into the DNS. When victims go on these fake websites, they risk being fooled into divulging their passwords or downloading malicious software.

DNS resource exhaustion

Attacks that deplete DNS resources can choke the infrastructure of internet service providers (ISPs), preventing consumers of the ISP from accessing websites on the Internet. Attackers can accomplish this by registering a domain name and then using the victim's name server as the authoritative server for the domain they have created. Therefore, if a recursive resolver cannot provide the IP address connected with the site name, it will inquire about the IP address from the victim's name server. Attackers will generate a huge number of requests for their domain and include recommendations for subdomains that do not exist. This will result in a deluge of resolution requests being sent to the victim's name server, which will cause it to become overwhelmed.

What exactly is DNSSec?

The DNS Security Extensions project is an initiative aimed at securing the communication between the various layers of servers engaged in the DNS lookup process. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the agency that is in charge of the Domain Name System (DNS), was the one that came up with the idea.

ICANN learned of vulnerabilities in the communication between the DNS top-level, second-level, and third-level directory servers that might allow attackers to hijack lookups. These vulnerabilities were discovered after ICANN became aware of the vulnerabilities. This would allow the attackers to respond to requests for lookups to genuine sites with the IP address for malicious sites when those requests are made. These websites can potentially infect users with malware and conduct phishing and pharming assaults.

DNSSEC would solve this problem by requiring that every level of DNS server digitally sign its requests. This would ensure that attackers do not take over the queries sent in by end-users. This creates a chain of trust, ensuring that the request's honesty is checked at each stage of the lookup process.

In addition, DNSSec can determine whether or not specific domain names exist; if it discovers that a domain name does not exist, DNSSec will prevent the fraudulent domain from being provided to innocent requesters looking to have a domain name resolved.

Maintaining a thriving DNS ecosystem will be necessary as more domain names are formed, as an increasing number of devices continue to join the network through the use of Internet of things devices and other "smart" systems, and as a growing number of websites transition to IPv6. The proliferation of big data and analytics will inevitably increase the demand for DNS administration.

signed: A wormable DNS issue has been discovered in the system

Because of the recent revelation of a vulnerability in Windows DNS servers, the entire world was given an up-close look at the kind of unrest that DNS flaws could cause. Signed is the name given to the potential security hole, and it takes a sophisticated attack chain to exploit. However, it is possible to manipulate unpatched Windows DNS servers to potentially install and execute arbitrary malicious programs on clients. In addition, the vulnerability is wormable, which means that it can propagate from one computer to another without the assistance of a human being. Because this vulnerability was deemed to be of sufficient concern, the federal agencies in the United States were allowed only a few days to install patches.

A new privacy scenario presented by DNS over HTTPS

As this article is being written, the Domain Name System (DNS) is on the cusp of undergoing one of the most significant changes in its entire existence. DNS over HTTPS, or DoH, is a system in which DNS requests are encrypted by the same HTTPS protocol that already protects most web traffic. Google and Mozilla, who control the lion's share of the browser market, are encouraging a move toward DoH. Google and Mozilla together hold the lion's share of the browser market. In Chrome's implementation, the browser checks to see if the DNS servers support DoH, and if they don't, it reroutes DNS requests to Google's server. If the DNS servers support DoH, the browser does not make any changes.

It's a move that's sure to stir up some debate. Paul Vixie, who conducted most of the early work on the DNS protocol in the 1980s, considers the change a "disaster" for security. For example, it will be difficult for corporate IT to monitor or direct Department of Homeland Security traffic that passes their network. Nevertheless, Chrome is everywhere, and DoH will soon be enabled by default, so we'll have to wait and see what the future has in store for us.