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What is Domain Name System (DNS)?

What is Domain Name System (DNS)?

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a cornerstone of the internet, often referred to as the "phone book of the internet." This system translates user-friendly domain names (like www.example.com) into machine-understandable IP addresses (such as Through this process, internet users can access websites and establish online communication. DNS operates over a distributed database across millions of machines, relying on the interaction between these machines.

The operation of DNS can be simply outlined as follows:

  1. A user queries a domain name in a web browser. A recursive resolver takes this query and begins processing it.
  2. The resolver forwards the query to the root servers at the foundation of the internet.
  3. The root server provides the resolver with the address of the relevant Top-Level Domain (TLD) server.
  4. The resolver approaches the TLD server to find out which name server hosts the specific domain.
  5. The resolver then contacts the name server hosting the domain to obtain the final IP address.
  6. Finally, the resolver passes this IP address to the user's web browser, facilitating access to the desired website.

Initially designed in the 1980s, DNS was not primarily focused on security concerns. The DNS protocol, while translating domain names to IP addresses, does not provide any content protection. This exposes it to manipulation risks, particularly in caching and data transmission. For instance, a resolver can accept a fraudulent response as if it were from an authoritative server. This vulnerability could lead unsuspecting users to malicious sites.

Additionally, resolvers cache DNS data to speed up the process. However, this caching is susceptible to 'poisoning' by attackers sending fake DNS responses. As a result, users can be inadvertently directed to harmful websites determined by attackers. These security vulnerabilities represent significant challenges DNS faces in the context of modern internet security.

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