Study: Many companies still vulnerable to DNS outage

Eight months after a faulty router configuration led to a daylong blackout of many Microsoft websites, 25% of Fortune 1000 company websites still have the same vulnerable DNS (Domain Name System) network setup that led to the Microsoft outage.

          Eight months after a faulty router configuration led to a daylong blackout of many Microsoft websites, 25% of Fortune 1000 company websites still have the same vulnerable DNS (Domain Name System) network setup that led to the Microsoft outage, according to a survey conducted by Icelandic DNS software maker Men & Mice.

          DNS servers translate domain names into numeric IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. When those servers go down, users who type web addresses -- such as Microsoft.com and Hotmail.com -- can't connect to the intended servers. Redundancy is key to protecting against outages: If a company spreads its DNS servers out across several network segments, it is better protected against failures like the one that struck Microsoft in January.

          That much-publicised attack helped increase network administrators' awareness of DNS vulnerabilities, but too many large enterprises are still susceptible, says Men & Mice Chairman Jon Adalsteinsson.

          Shortly after the Microsoft breakdown, Men & Mice surveyed the website networks of Fortune 1000 companies and found that 38% of the companies had all their DNS servers on the same network. That number fell to 25% when the company conducted another survey in May, Adalsteinsson says.

          Last month's terrorist attacks prompted Men & Mice to conduct another examination. "We knew that there was a heavy dependence on the IT infrastructure in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. We thought it would be good to check and see how this situation had improved," Adalsteinsson says.

          He was alarmed to find that it hadn't improved at all: 250 multinational companies' websites are still at risk of virtually shutting down if the single network segment housing their DNS servers fails. Adalsteinsson declined to name which companies have vulnerable configurations, but says the group includes "some household names."

          "I guess the message is that the IT world has not learned from the Microsoft disaster," Adalsteinsson says. "We have corporations spending lots of money on putting redundancy and disaster recovery (tools) in place for their web severs, but they don't seem to realise that without a properly redundant DNS setup, all that doesn't come into play."

          Fixing the problem isn't expensive, according to Adalsteinsson. "It has nothing to do with cost. The problem is simply lack of awareness," he says. "The second problem is lack of know-how. Employees are not trained well enough on DNS (issues). It's not a sexy technology."

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