Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS

Dave Piscitello, Internet Security Skeptic | 7/26/2011 | 19 comments

Dave Piscitello
We all know how traditional phishing works, where email is sent to users in an attempt to steal login or credit card information. But there is another, less known attack that is becoming more common: striking at the domain name level.

A phisher uses a routine correspondence from domain name registrars in an attempt to gain control over legitimately registered domain names. Phishers (criminals, in general) see a great benefit from using a domain name that is held by a registrant in good standing because of the uncertainty they cause when claims of misuse are registered. Any uncertainty on the part of interveners or registrars may delay efforts to suspend any illegal activities conducted in association with that domain name. A recent example against is described here.

A chronology of this phishing attack scenario follows:

  1. The phisher hosts a fraudulent copy of the registrar’s login portal. The login form on the fraudulent page hosts a script that accepts the visitor’s username and password and delivers this to the phisher.

  2. The phisher spams a copy of a routine correspondence that registrars send to customers. Registrars contact customers by email to notify them to renew or update contact information domains, or to inform them when changes have been made to a domain registration or the name server configuration for their domain. These correspondences are familiar to customers, and more importantly, they ask the customer to log into his account. They are perfect bait for a phish.

  3. The registrars’ customer takes the bait, visits the fraudulent login page, and unwittingly discloses his registration account credentials to the phisher.

Only the initial purpose of registrar phishing attacks is to gain control over domain names. A common secondary objective is to exploit the DNS to facilitate other criminal acts. A phisher will first change the name servers for a domain managed through the account to point to a name server also under the phisher’s control. The name servers in a domain name registration record identify the name servers to which top-level domains like .com refer DNS queries for resolution of names delegated from a registered domain name.

For example, the .com name servers refer DNS queries for my domain,, to NS25.DOMAINCONTROL.COM or NS26.DOMAINCONTROL.COM. These two name servers host the DNS data for my domain -- e.g., both will return the IP address for my Website, If a phisher were to compromise my registration account, he would change the name server information to point to a name server he’s owned, and .com’s name servers would be updated to reflect this change in configuration. The attacker can now control the responses for any DNS query about my domain because he controls the name server and the DNS data it publishes.

This is a very powerful attack platform. Here’s a short list of attacks that he can facilitate, for himself or others who “contract his services” (A fuller list is identified in the ICANN SSAC report on registrar phishing):

  • Modify IP address records to point to spoofed Web or other servers under the attacker’s control. The attacker can then host whatever content he chooses at the phony site; for example, the attacker might choose to deface the Website and embarrass the registrant.

  • Modify IP address records to point to spoofed login pages for intranet, wiki, or customer Web portals. Like other forms of phishing, the attacker seeks to dupe unsuspecting employees into disclosing usernames and passwords so he can access and steal sensitive information.

  • Modify mail exchange (MX) resource records in the domain zone data he controls to point to addresses of mail servers under his control and send spam from mail servers he controls. Altering MX records will in many cases disrupt mail delivery to points of contact for the domain name registration and will keep the organization in the dark regarding the compromise.

  • Set time to live values (TTLs) and alter DNS records of the domain zone data on the name servers he operates at those addresses to support fast flux or double flux attacks.

Given the advantages we’ve considered, it’s pretty obvious why phishers find registrar phishing “good for business.” It’s worth your while to be as vigilant in protecting your organization from such attacks. In my next blog, I’ll discuss measures to detect and respond to registration account compromise.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
eethtworkz   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   8/1/2011 12:36:51 PM
Re: Careful with Google Apps

Well Said!!!

securityskeptic   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   8/1/2011 12:10:10 PM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
Ashish says "Phishing controls are available everywhere.We need to just use them!!"

The most important control is the human at the keyboard. Phishing is overwhelmingly about social engineering and underwhelmingly about clever programming and technology.
User Ranking: Blogger
securityskeptic   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   8/1/2011 12:07:56 PM
Re: Alternate DNS Hosting
Cvargas asked "How do you split your DNS hosting from the registrar?"

A discussion of how to add diversity to your DNS hosting might be a good "part III" but the short answer is that when you purchase a domain registration, your registrar of choice *typically* gives you the opportunity to identify the IP address of your primary and secondary name server. If you don't give one, the registrar typically hosts your DNS on his own name servers. You can change this at any time by logging into your domain registration account to "manage your DNS" through some user interface the registrar provides.

Before you change the name server IP address, you must either arrange to run a DNS server on a public IP address yourself, or make arrangements with some other party than the registrar, such as your ISP, a web hosting company, or a DNS service provider.
User Ranking: Blogger
eethtworkz   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/31/2011 8:01:10 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps

I agree entirely....

Phishing is a menace hardly anybody wants to talk about or appreciate in great details...

We need to be very careful which link we click on when.

Phishing controls are available everywhere.We need to just use them!!


Skr2011   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/29/2011 2:24:08 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
I just checked out that website. AWESOME!
catalyst   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/28/2011 10:26:21 PM
Re: Alternate DNS Hosting

One thing that I like to do is also split my DNS hosting away from the registrar and even the hosting company for a site.

How do you split your DNS hosting from the registrar? I am very interested in finding out. This seems to add an additional layer of security.
catalyst   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/28/2011 10:24:04 PM
Re: Careful with Google Apps

Don't click on links in any mail, even from your most trusted friends and family. Type URLs into your browser.

Absolutely spot on. At times I can be lazy and click away at links embedded in an email. To be vigilant I'll need perk up my fingers and start typing URLs directly into the browser. I'm especially wary of emails from financial institutions. I guess I'll need to put emails from registrars at the top of the list.
securityskeptic   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/28/2011 11:00:29 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
Good to be careful, even suspicious. Teach your family and friends. A really helpful source for children and non-technical people is the NCSA''s Stay Safe Onlne program at
User Ranking: Blogger
Skr2011   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/28/2011 1:49:16 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps
@ Securityskeptic You are so right. I used to be so trusting online.  Now everything is suspect.
securityskeptic   Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS   7/27/2011 9:37:06 AM
Re: Careful with Google Apps

Unfortunately, until we learn to be more vigilant, these criminals are living large. Don't click on links in any mail, even from your most trusted friends and family. Type URLs into your browser. Phishers depend on people finding this too inconvenient and they depend on people realizing later that it's much more inconvenient and costly to recover a stolen identity.

We are very bad at considering consequences. People who ask "what if..." while they are online are less likely to fall victim to phishing.
User Ranking: Blogger
Page 1 / 2   >   >>

The blogs and comments posted on do not reflect the views of TechWeb,, or its sponsors., TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from Dave Piscitello
Dave Piscitello   8/18/2011   9 comments
We've witnessed a steady stream of attacks against corporate, government, military, and controversial targets. The victims continue to conduct postmortems to assess damage and mitigate ...
Dave Piscitello   8/2/2011   8 comments
In my last blog, "Phishers Are Casting Nets for Your Domain Names & DNS," I explained that even though security experts routinely warn Internet users to watch out for email notices from ...
Dave Piscitello   5/20/2011   9 comments
Yesterday, in Top 10 Advanced Persistent Threats, Part 1, I shared the observation that attacks used by Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) intruders are not that different from those used by ...
Dave Piscitello   5/19/2011   9 comments
The cyber version of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) shares many of the characteristics we attribute to spy wars: continual surveillance of and intelligence gathering on a particular ...
Latest Archived Broadcast
We talk with Bernard Golden about accelerating application delivery in the cloud.
On-demand Video with Chat
Register for this video discussion to learn how tablets can provide true business usability and productivity.
E2 IT Migration Zones
IT Migration Zone - UK
Why PowerShell Is Important
Reduce the Windows 8 Footprint for VDI
Rethinking Storage Management
IT Migration Zone - FR
SQL Server : 240 To de mémoire flash pour votre data warehouse
Quand Office vient booster les revenus Cloud et Android de Microsoft
Windows Phone : Nokia veut davantage d'applications (et les utilisateurs aussi)
IT Migration Zone - DE
Cloud Computing: Warum Unternehmen trotz NSA auf die „private“ Wolke setzen sollten
Cloud Computing bleibt Wachstumsmarkt – Windows Azure ist Vorreiter
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Enterprise Efficiency Twitter Feed
Site Moderators Wanted
Enterprise Efficiency is looking for engaged readers to moderate the message boards on this site. Engage in high-IQ conversations with IT industry leaders; earn kudos and perks. Interested? E-mail:
Dell's Efficiency Modeling Tool
The major problem facing the CIO is how to measure the effectiveness of the IT department. Learn how Dell’s Efficiency Modeling Tool gives the CIO two clear, powerful numbers: Efficiency Quotient and Impact Quotient. These numbers can be transforma¬tive not only to the department, but to the entire enterprise.

Read the full report
The State of Enterprise Efficiency in the Virtual Era: Virtualization – Smart Approaches to Maximize Gains
Virtualization is a presence in nearly all enterprise data centers. But not all companies are using it to its best effect. Learn the common characteristics of success, what barriers companies face, and how to get the most from your efforts.

Read the full report
Informed CIO: Dollars & Sense: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Cut through the VDI hype and get the full picture -- including ROI and the impact on your Data Center -- to make an informed decision about your virtual desktop infrastructure deployments.

Read the full report
A Video Case Study – Translational Genomics Research Institute
e2 Video

On the Case
TGen IT: Where We're Going Next

7|11|12   |   08:12   |   10 comments

Now that TGen has broken new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions, the company discusses what will come next for it and for personalized medicine.
On the Case
Better Care Through Better Communications

6|6|12   |   02:24   |   11 comments

The achievements of the TGen/Dell project could improve how all people receive healthcare, because they are creating ways to improve end-to-end communication of medical data.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Are Now

5|15|12   |   06:58   |   6 comments

TGen is breaking new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Were

4|27|12   |   06:45   |   10 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute wanted to save lives, but its efforts were hobbled by immense computing challenges related to collecting, processing, sharing, and storing enormous amounts of data.
On the Case
1,200% Faster

4|18|12   |   02:27   |   12 comments

Through their partnership, Dell and TGen have increased the speed of TGen’s medical research by 1,200 percent.
On the Case
IT May Improve Children's Chances of Survival

4|17|12   |   02:12   |   8 comments

IT is helping medical researchers reach breakthroughs in a way and pace never seen before.
On the Case
Medical Advances in the Cloud

4|10|12   |   1:25   |   5 comments

TGen and Dell are pushing the boundaries of computing, and harnessing the power of the cloud to improve healthcare.
On the Case
TGen: Living the Mission

4|9|12   |   2:25   |   3 comments

TGen's CIO puts the organizational mission at the heart of everything the IT staff does.
On the Case
TGen Speeding Up Biomedical Research to Save More Lives

4|5|12   |   1:59   |   6 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute is revamping its computing to improve speed, storage, and collaboration – and, most importantly, to save lives.
On the Case
Computing Power Helping to Save Children's Lives

3|28|12   |   2:13   |   3 comments

The Translational Genomics Institute’s partnership with Dell is enabling them to treat kids with neuroblastoma more quickly and save more lives.
Tom Nolle
The Big Reason to Use Office

3|18|14   |   02:24   |   46 comments

Office and personal productivity tools come in a first-class and coach flavor set, but what makes the difference is primarily little things that most users won't encounter. What's the big issue in using something other than Office, and can you get around it?
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Mobile Security — A Use Case

3|4|14   |   04:27   |   16 comments

New mobile security solutions can accommodate a wide array of needs, including those of a complex university environment.
Tom Nolle
Killing Net Neutrality Might Save You Money

1|16|14   |   2:13   |   16 comments

The DC Court of Appeals voided most of the Neutrality Order, and whatever it might mean for the Internet overall, it might mean better and cheaper Internet VPNs for businesses.
Tom Nolle
The Internet of Everythinguseful

1|10|14   |   2:18   |   19 comments

We really don't want an "Internet of Everything" but even building an Internet of Everythinguseful means setting some ground rules to insure there's value in the process and that costs and risks are minimized.
Tom Nolle
Maturing Google Chrome

12|30|13   |   2.18   |   25 comments

Google's Chrome OS has a lot of potential value and a lot of recent press, but it still needs something to make it more than a thin client. It needs cloud integration, it needs extended APIs via web services, and it needs to suck it up and support a hard drive.
Sara Peters
No More Cookie-Cutter IT

12|23|13   |   03.58   |   21 comments

Creating the right combination of technology, people, and processes for your IT organization is a lot like baking Christmas cookies.
Sara Peters
Smart Wigs Not a Smart Idea

12|5|13   |   3:01   |   46 comments

Sony is seeking a patent for wigs that contain computing devices.
Tom Nolle
Cloud in the Wild

12|4|13   |   02:23   |   15 comments

On a recent African trip I saw examples of the value of the cloud in developing nations, for educational and community development programs. We could build on this, but not only in developing economies, because these same programs are often under-supported even in first-world countries.
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Is Malware Evading Your IPS?

11|18|13   |   03:16   |   4 comments

Intrusion prevention software is supposed to detect and block malware intrusions, but clever malware authors can evade your IPS in these five main ways.
Sara Peters
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

9|27|13   |   3:15   |   38 comments

A good professional mentor can change your life for the better... but where do you find one?
Tom Nolle
SDN Wars & You Could Win

9|17|13   |   2:10   |   5 comments

VMware's debate with Cisco on SDN might finally create a fusion between an SDN view that's all about software and another that's all about network equipment. That would be good for every enterprise considering the cloud and SDN.
Ivan Schneider
The Future of the Smart Watch

9|12|13   |   3:19   |   39 comments

Wearing a bulky, oversized watch is good training for the next phase in wristwatches: the Internet-enabled, connected watch. Why the smartphone-tethered connected watch makes sense, plus Ivan demos an entirely new concept for the "smart watch."
Tom Nolle
Cutting Your Cloud Storage Costs

9|4|13   |   2:06   |   3 comments

Cloud storage costs are determined primarily by the rate at which files are changed and the possibility of concurrent access/update. If you can structure your storage use to optimize these factors you can cut costs, perhaps to zero.
Sara Peters
Do CIOs Need an IT Background?

8|29|13   |   2:11   |   23 comments

Most of the CIOs interviewed in the How to Become a CIO series did not start their careers as IT professionals. So is an IT background essential?
Ivan Schneider
The Internet Loves Birthdays

8|27|13   |   3:25   |   69 comments

The Internet has evolved into a machine for drumming up a chorus of "Happy Birthday" messages, from family, friends, friends of friends who you added on Facebook, random people that you circled on G+, and increasingly, automated bots. Enough already.