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What is DNS hijacking and how to stop it

Thought DNS hijacking was a thing of the past? The recent happenings from the world of cybersecurity suggest otherwise. The fact of the matter is that your network is not safe by default. So what can you do to protect yourself from this cybersecurity threat and stay safe? As always, the best recipe is to cover the essentials first.

The ins and outs of DNS hijacking – are you familiar with them?

The nature of DNS requests is that they are, for the most part, unencrypted. The malicious attackers are more than happy to take this as an opportunity to strike. In practice, this means redirecting your DNS queries to a malicious website, which is otherwise known as DNS hijacking. In the process, the target URL gets replaced with a fake IP, so you get redirected to a website that looks like the original (hiding the fact that it’s nothing more than a forgery). While visiting, you’re likely to input your sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card details, and anything else worth stealing.

There are multiple types of DNS hijacking you should be wary of

Before knowing how to defend yourself against this particular type of cyberattack, it’s important to learn how to distinguish from the different variations of it. Without delving in too deep, here’s the nitty and gritty of it:

– Pharming. It’s performed by exploiting the local DNS server and manipulating your computer into redirecting the web traffic toward a malicious server. Sometimes, hackers like to take advantage of this to trick you into opening a webpage that’s full of ads and designed for no other purpose than to generate revenue for the authors.

– Phishing. The main objective of phishing attacks is to trick you into handing over your sensitive information, like your login credentials or banking details, right into the hands of the hackers. A typical phishing email can trick you into visiting a website that belongs to the hackers. From there on out, you will be presented with a legitimate-looking form that tries to imitate the real website, but with a caveat; it’s nothing more than a scheme designed to suck your username and password right out of you.

– Router hijacking. Has your router been compromised? In this case, its settings might have been changed to redirect all traffic to fraudulent servers. Every user that connects to the network through it is at risk of being sent to fake websites.

– Hijacking via malware. Every device is susceptible to malware attacks, and the longer you haven’t updated the operating system and its applications, the more this is true. Among other things, malware can try to alter your DNS settings.

– Rogue DNS hijacking. All it takes is for a DNS server to get hacked, and the web traffic will get redirected to fraudulent websites.

– Man in the Middle attack. This type of attack happens when a hacker manipulates the communication between the user and the DNS server, redirecting them to a malicious website.

What can you do to stop DNS hijacking?

Now that you know the different types of DNS hijacking, here are some actionable tips on how to stay safe:

Avoid clicking on suspicious-looking links

Whether you see them on social media or in your email inbox, the general rule of thumb is to avoid clicking on links whose sender you don’t recognize.

Protect your router

First things first: have you changed the default username and password on your router? This is one of the most common ways cybercriminals get access to other people’s networks. The next step is to update your router’s firmware. To be extra sure, run the router through an online checker to make sure it’s not infected with malware.

Check your DNS for leaks

A DNS leak test can reveal whether your DNS settings have been compromised (https://nordvpn.com/features/dns-leak-test/). Nowadays, there are tools designed to take care of this for you automatically, so there’s no need to be tech-savvy to do a simple check.

Be wary of public Wi-Fi networks

Using them for reading blogs, forums, or your favorite news site is fine. But if you’re planning to transfer any kind of personal information through them, don’t do it lightheartedly. The very least you can do is have a VPN installed. Also, make sure it stays on all the time you are online.


When it comes to taking advantage of what modern technology can offer, deploy DNSSEC to up the level of your DNS security. It checks that the DNS records are pulling data from a legitimate source.


DNS hijacking is a potent cybersecurity threat. Only by arming yourself with the knowledge and tools necessary to keep your data and devices safe can minimize the risks.

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