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What is a Domain Name Server (DNS) Attack?

written by: Lin Parker•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 2/1/2011

Domain name server (DNS) attacks are performed by web hackers who gain access to a web hosting account. Find out how to prevent DNS attacks and what to do if a different website appears when look up your website in a browser.

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    Definition of a Domain Name Server (DNS) Attack

    Domain name server attacks may also be known as DNS Spoofing or DNS cache poisoning. Web hackers find a way to log in to a web hosting account and redirect the domain name to another server. This means that a completely different website appears when the original domain name address is entered into a browser. The URL in the browser may still display the registered domain.

    Domain Name Servers are identified by the hosting provider's name and a set of numbers such as When a domain name is first registered, it is set to point at the domain name server for the hosting account. There is a primary name server, and a secondary name server. These details should be found in the control panel of a web hosting account.

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    What to Do When Your Website is Hacked

    If the web hosting control panel can still be accessed, upload all of the website files and check the domain in a browser. If the original website has returned, then all is well. Check that all email accounts have not been compromised. Change your hosting account password, notify the web hosting provider of the attack, and ask if they have any suggestions for protecting your account.

    If you are unable to access your web hosting account, contact the web hosting provider to inform them of the attack. They should be able to restore your original website. Change your password immediately.

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    How To Prevent DNS Attacks

    Don't be a Target for DNS Attack Check that you do not have any installation files which contain your login in details. When installing software, or setting up an SQL database, folders and files are automatically uploaded to your domain address. During the installation process, there should be a message that requests manual removal of the install file. Failure to do this can leave your web hosting account an easy target to hackers, who actively search out these installation files which contain passwords and log in details.

    Always use a strong password, with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. A long password is stronger that a short password. Use different passwords for the hosting account and email accounts. Do not use passwords that are easy to guess, such as birthdays, children's names and pet names.

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    Why Hackers Attack Domain Name Servers

    Some hackers attack DNS servers for fun, or to show their friends that they have the knowledge and power to do it. Other hackers use the attack system to divert websites to income generating sites, in the hope that they will make money from traffic diverted from the original site. They may divert visitors to a fraudulent website which illegally collects credit card details. There are also political hackers and animal rights activists who target websites to make their opinions heard.

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    Network Dictionary, DNS Attack. accessed 9.1.11.

    Web Developers Notes, How to Formulate a Good Password. accessed 9.1.11.

    Image by Jaylopez at