I was doing great, enjoying my time as a Node.js developer with only one job crafting endpoints. I always thought I was an expert until one day, I was asked to configure something in the DNS.
My self-esteem took a hit that day; however, I put my discovery hat on and figured out that DNS can actually be helpful for me. I spent days reading articles, watching videos, and digging into case studies. But it wasn’t until I got my hands dirty with DNS that I learned a thing or two about what it is and what problems it can solve for me.
Now, after years of working with DNS, I’ve penned this quick guide that explains what DNS is and how it works. I hope this helps you in your pursuit of learning!
The Domain Name System (DNS) acts as a central database for the internet, including Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for different domain names and vice versa.
Let me put it simply: DNS provides a way to match meaningful website names (say Facebook.com) to the IP address where the website is located (say 22.214.171.124.69.63).
DNS is an incredibly useful part of the internet as it makes web browsing easier for users. Here are all the ways it helps businesses and large organizations operate online.
Back when the internet was a smaller place, websites used to be accessed by their IP addresses. These addresses were made up of numerical strings and were really hard to remember.
As the number of websites on the internet increased, it became hard to keep using IP addresses to access them. DNS evolved to enable websites to be accessed by fancy names instead of these complex IP addresses.
DNS solved the problem of having to remember long addresses to visit web pages. All you have to do now is type in the domain name of the website, and you will land right where you wanted. Although you can still access websites with their IP addresses, this method is way more convenient and more popular among users.
DNS remembers the IP addresses of websites on your behalf and lets you browse through them directly using their domain names. This improved the online visibility of businesses and introduced a lot of convenience for consumers who want to access their websites.
In fact, the idea of online branding was made possible through DNS. Businesses can now easily market themselves online with dedicated domain names that represent the business. For instance, Apple gets to be on the internet as Apple.com instead of 126.96.36.199.
Besides the marketing point of view, consumers now intuitively know where to go to access the Apple website. This way, when they don’t have trouble accessing the website, they are more likely to use it for whatever reason they desire.
The role of DNS is to connect the website name to its IP address so that it can be accessed conveniently. As a website owner, you need first to decide on and then purchase a domain name for your website before you start using it for your business.
Since one domain name can be used for one website only, you need to find a domain name that is available and meets your budget. For example, if you are a music business, you might not be able to get Music.com as it might already be in use.
Domain names that are too generic and hence sought after are priced higher than others. Some of the most expensive domain names include CarInsurance.com, Insurance.com, and VacationRentals.com, priced at $49.7 million, $35.6 million, and $35 million, respectively. Imagine that!
However, if you do your research, you will find good domain names that are available and relate to your brand name well. Somewhere between $12 and $60 per year is a good price for a domain name.
DNS traffic is normally considered trustworthy and is allowed to flow freely through network firewalls. Yet, it is prone to network attacks from cybercriminals. The main reason behind this is that it is an old protocol and was built without any integrated security.
Here are a few solutions that have been developed to secure DNS from such attacks.
Malware that attacks computer systems normally makes DNS requests to locate the IP address of its operator’s websites. Reputation filtering blocks or redirects DNS requests to known malicious domains and stops the malware from communicating with its operator. This way, the computer system is unable to communicate with dangerous websites and hence stays protected.
Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) are used to detect and block the use of DNS for data exfiltration or any other malicious activities. These systems are usually integrated into a Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) to restrict the abuse of DNS for malware attacks.
The DNS Security Extension (DNSSEC) is an extension to the DNS protocol that authenticates responses received from authoritative DNS servers. Since these authenticated responses can’t be fabricated, the chances for malicious website IPs to pass decrease. As a result, the users stay protected from rogue websites and servers.
DNS over TLS (DoT) and DNS over HTTPS (DoH) are two methods users can use to ensure their DNS requests stay authenticated and encrypted at all times. This improves the privacy of DNS responses and blocks eavesdropping on DNS requests.
As discussed earlier, the first thing malware does when it gets into your computer is to communicate with its operator’s website. Thus, to protect your system against malware attacks, DNS filtering can come in handy.
DNS filtering is the process of using the Domain Name System to detect and filter out websites that are malicious or host any harmful or inappropriate content. This helps you in two ways: your company data remains secure as harmful websites are unable to access it, and you can restrict the websites your employees access on company-managed networks.
Here are all the reasons why you need to implement DNS filtering in your organization:
To block malicious websites
To block phishing websites
Phishing websites steal the login information of users by showing them fake login screens of well-known apps. For instance, you would be asked to log in with your Google account to continue to the website, and instead of using that information to actually log in, the website will store it and then misuse it to breach your data. Although these websites can be blocked using DNS filtering, the attackers keep generating new domains, and it becomes very difficult to filter them all.
To block prohibited content
Companies can maintain an allow-list that includes all websites that can be accessed and block out all others via DNS filtering. This process can be used to restrict content that is either inappropriate or prohibited in a certain social setting.
Selecting the best DNS for your website can be difficult since you have many options from which to choose. You can go with a public DNS service like OpenDNS or Google DNS, or you could select the DNS of your ISP itself.
One of the features of a good DNS is that it resolves requests for domain names fast. The faster the requests get resolved, the earlier web pages load, and the better the user experience. This loading speed is dependent on several factors, such as your distance from the server or the place where you are located.
Public servers are pretty good speed-wise and have nearly 100% uptime with minimal technical problems. On the flip side, they have some privacy issues, so using them for sensitive data is not always recommended. ISP-based DNS, on the other hand, are safer but not as quick in resolving requests.
Before you select a DNS for your website, you can test the loading speed via certain tools. I recommend DNS Jumper and DNSPerf. Those are two free and pretty thorough tools that give you accurate answers regarding DNS speed. You can use either of these to figure out the best DNS settings for your connection. Once you have the right settings, you can proceed towards building your website without a second thought.
This is a short story of how Geniusee started working with DNS. One of our projects involved the development of a small website builder. As you may know, such builders have the function of connecting the personal domains of users to their newly built websites. Some common website builders include Wix, WordPress, Shopify, and Squarespace.
Since these tools required working with DNS frequently, it was inevitable that I would finally get to know how it works.
Here are a few projects we have recently worked on that included DNS extensively.
PrintBi has the largest and most detailed database of printing companies worldwide, powered by advanced technologies and market intelligence tools. We worked with them for the designing and creation of their web platform to deliver an outstanding user experience. The web platform allows users to search for leads in the printing industry quickly.
Other services we delivered were DevOps, including CI/CD to support a seamless development process, along with an automation development tool to extract important information from the company’s website based on URLs.
A trading company wanted us to develop a financial dashboard for traders, allowing them to analyze cryptocurrency exchange rates on different platforms. They also wanted to create a possibility of purchasing cryptocurrency on the platform.
Geniusee designed the UI/UX of their web platform and provided them DevOps services based on AWS. All of this was backed by an analytical approach from the requirements elicitation until the very end.
DNS was developed 35 years ago and eventually became the backbone of the internet because of how helpful it has been for organizations and consumers. Fortunately, it isn’t hard to grasp, and for someone related to the tech industry, knowing DNS is an absolutely essential skill to have.
I hope my account of how DNS works helps you understand it better and makes the learning process easier for you. If you’re looking for a DNS-related solution for your business, Geniusee will always be around to assist you.
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