Skip to content

Is your DNS Security Ready for the NIS 2 Directive? The Clock is Ticking!

By implementing robust DNS security and threat intelligence measures, organizations can strengthen their defenses, minimize cyber risks, and play a crucial role in upholding the integrity of the internet, meeting compliance with new standards set by the NIS 2 regulation.

February 29, 2024 | Written by: Yaëlle Harel | , , , ,

Dns Security Ready for the Nis 2 Directive

The NIS 2 directive underscores the importance of robust DNS security to uphold internet integrity, highlighting DNS’s critical role in digital infrastructure and vulnerability to cyber threats. Implementing a Protective DNS Security solution combined with DNS-centric threat intelligence and other security measures is essential for organizations to improve defenses, minimize cyber risks, and ensure compliance with new standards set by NIS 2, thereby maintaining internet stability and security. Let’s take a closer look.

NIS 2: What’s next?

The year ahead is set to bring notable change to the cybersecurity landscape as the European Union’s revised Network and Information Security Directive, NIS 2 comes into effect. This new directive is designed to level up cyber resilience for organizations across the EU by introducing stricter requirements for risk management and incident reporting, expanding the obligated sectors and entities, and increased penalties for non-compliance. The measures of the NIS 2 Directive are to be adopted and published by EU members, with enforcement by 18th October 2024.

With DNS playing a critical role in network operations, effective DNS management and security will be an important factor in complying with the new directive.

Indeed, the directive states: “Upholding and preserving a reliable, resilient and secure domain name system (DNS) are key factors in maintaining the integrity of the internet and are essential for its continuous and stable operation, on which the digital economy and society depend”.

Key NIS 2 Directive requirements and the role of DNS security

The NIS 2 Directive introduces new cybersecurity requirements and obligations for organizations, focusing primarily on risk management and incident handling and response. Regarding cybersecurity risk management, entities are mandated to implement appropriate and proportionate technical, operational, and organizational measures to mitigate risks to their network and information systems. These measures should encompass various critical aspects such as conducting risk analysis, ensuring business continuity, securing supply chains, and providing cybersecurity training.

Meanwhile, incident handling and reporting entails establishing procedures and utilizing technologies to prevent, detect, analyze, respond, and recover from an incident. Organizations are obligated to promptly notify the relevant authorities of any significant incidents, providing detailed information on the incident’s nature, severity, impact, and the mitigation measures undertaken. These authorities orchestrate responses to incidents spanning multiple countries and may mandate public disclosure to ensure transparency and raise awareness.

The NIS 2 directive highlights the vital role of DNS security in addressing its key objectives of risk management and incident handling and response. That’s not surprising, given the impact of DNS attacks, which can severely disrupt operations due to its critical role in the network. Under the directive, DNS-related measures play a crucial role in enhancing cybersecurity resilience. By ensuring the reliability and integrity of the DNS, security teams can effectively mitigate risks and respond to incidents, aligning with the directive’s mandates to promote a secure digital environment.

Financial consequences of neglecting DNS security

The financial consequences in case of a breach of the cybersecurity risk management and reporting obligations are significant, as highlighted by the NIS 2 directive. Enterprises must ensure their security capabilities, including DNS, are up to standard, or face fines of up to 10% of their annual turnover. The regulation categorizes entities into two distinct groups – essential and important. This determines the supervisory measures and penalties applicable to each category. Essential entities could face up to €10,000,000 or 2% of their total worldwide turnover for security non-compliance including DNS security, whereas important entities may incur up to €7,000,000 or 1.4%. In addition, NIS 2 can hold top management personally liable if gross negligence is proven following a cyber incident.

But, it is worth remembering that the financial impact of DNS attacks goes beyond the fines. DNS-based cyber attacks can have significant impacts in both the short and long term, leading to downtime, loss of productivity, missed deals, loss of customers, decreased market share, data confidentiality breach, and brand damage. 90% of organizations suffer DNS attacks, with the average cost of a DNS attack being estimated at $1.1 million by the 2023 IDC DNS threat report.

The clock is ticking to achieve compliance by October 2024 and avoid these fines and impacts.

Elevating the role of DNS security

DNS security is fundamental for maintaining the integrity and functionality of modern networks, as the DNS plays a pivotal role in routing traffic between users and applications. DNS ensures that users can access websites and apps, send emails, and utilize various essential services by translating human-readable domain names into the IP addresses that devices use to connect. However, the DNS wasn’t originally designed as a secure service. It was designed as an open and connectionless service, which did not account for malicious actors, making it vulnerable to exploitation.

DNS is not only targeted in cyberattacks, such as in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks but also serves as an attack vector. Attackers take advantage of the DNS’s vulnerability to execute phishing attacks, to deploy ransomware and to perform sophisticated supply chain attacks as demonstrated in the SolarWinds attack. The DNS can be exploited across multiple attack stages including device infection, Command & Control communication, and attempts to steal sensitive data with data exfiltration. Attackers employ various methods to exploit DNS, including DNS spoofing, DNS hijacking, DNS tunneling, random Domain Name Generation (DGA), and more.

Traditional security solutions, such as next-generation firewalls and IPS products, encompass a broad range of cybersecurity measures. However, they frequently prioritize broader network protection over specific DNS threat detection and mitigation. This lack of specialization and expertise in effective DNS security, coupled with insufficient visibility into DNS traffic, limits their ability to offer advanced functionalities such as deep DNS traffic inspection and behavioral analysis. Furthermore, they may encounter challenges in managing volumetric DDoS attacks and producing numerous false positives, resulting in operational disruptions and increased costs within DNS operations.

Protective DNS (PDNS) has emerged as a crucial DNS security recommendation from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), as well as the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). By analyzing and filtering DNS queries, it helps prevent access to malicious or suspicious websites and mitigates the risks associated with cyber threats. These capabilities are essential for both keeping the network secure and functional, and complying with NIS 2’s new requirements.

How EfficientIP helps meeting NIS 2 Directive head-on

EfficientIP offers a comprehensive “all-hazards approach” that aligns with the risk management, incident handling, and business continuity requirements outlined in NIS 2. This multi-layered approach underscores EfficientIP’s commitment to helping organizations achieve NIS 2 compliance, ensuring end-to-end advanced protection against DNS threats.

By implementing the EfficientIP DNS Security solution, which includes DNS Guardian as the Protective DNS and groundbreaking DNS-centric threat intelligence with DNS Threat Pulse and DNS Intelligence Center, organizations can effectively manage and mitigate the risks associated with DNS-based attacks. This helps ensure business continuity in the face of evolving cyber threats. 

Real-time DNS incident handling: prevention, detection, investigation, and response

Leveraging innovative and patented algorithms such as deep DNS traffic inspection, behavioral threat analysis, AI-based Dynamic Generation Algorithm (DGA) detection, machine learning-driven image recognition, and natural language processing, EfficientIP’s technology facilitates prompt incident prevention and detection, meeting NIS 2 risk management and incident handling obligations.

More specifically, DNS Threat Pulse provides an AI-powered, DNS-centric threat intelligence feed, continuously updated with malicious domain data for preemptive network protection. This feed, along with DNS filtering and advanced access controls, reduces the risk of users falling victim of phishing attacks by clicking malicious links, strengthens network defense, and facilitates risk reduction and management.

With patented DNS Transaction Inspection (DTI) technology, DNS Guardian performs a detailed analysis of DNS transactions to identify and counteract threats like cache poisoning, DNS tunneling, and malware attacks. Advanced behavioral analysis offers real-time detection of DNS-related incidents. These algorithms are designed to identify abnormal DNS traffic patterns indicative of malicious activities such as zero-day DNS attacks, command and control communications, or data exfiltration.

DNS Intelligence Center (DNS IC) brings vital insights for efficient incident investigation in real-time. It aggregates vast amounts of DNS statistics and data , enabling faster containment and accurate reporting to fulfill NIS 2 incident reporting requirements.

Finally, DNS Guardian provides proactive and automated DNS responses. It utilizes patented adaptive countermeasures and unique innovations such as rescue mode to ensure service continuity. It seamlessly integrates with the existing security ecosystem and tools such as SIEM, SOAR, and NAC, enabling fast and effective remediation through actionable DNS insights and automated responses.

Access control policies fulfilling Zero Trust principles

EfficientIP’s response to DNS attacks also includes applying Zero Trust principles via advanced access and application control capabilities, including privileged account management, continuous authentication, and DDI integration.

Our Client Query Filtering (CQF) offers innovative access control, allowing organizations to manage application access with unprecedented granularity. This approach goes beyond conventional DNS filtering by merging client-specific data with domain requests, facilitating customized access policies for distinct applications that are centrally managed. It also ensures robust protection against threats originating from the supply chain, leveraging DNS’s role as an early checkpoint in the connection flow.

DDI’s strategic role as a complement to DNS security

The SOLIDserver DDI solution extends EfficientIP’s role in complying with NIS 2 beyond DNS security, through advanced network visibility and management. Integrating IP Address Management (IPAM) with NetChange IP Locator for on-premises device discovery, along with Cloud Observer for identifying network objects in the cloud, establishes a centralized repository of ‘IP Golden Records’. This comprehensive database serves as a Network Source of Truth, crucial for effective risk assessment, asset management, vulnerability detection, and detailed network mapping. Any changes are tracked for increased network security.

Moreover, the DDI solution simplifies and accelerates disaster recovery in distributed environments with multiple DNS and DHCP vendors through SmartArchitecture™. It also guarantees business continuity and disaster recovery with Edge DNS Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB), thorough failure detection and automated failover across sites. This holistic approach supports DNS security initiatives and amplifies the overall effectiveness of an organization’s compliance with NIS2 requirements, offering a robust framework for network and information system security for increased resilience.

Get NIS 2 ready: assess your DNS security risks now!

In conclusion, the NIS 2 directive recognizes the pivotal role of comprehensive DNS security in safeguarding digital infrastructure against cyber threats. By embracing DNS-centric security strategies, organizations can significantly bolster their cyber resilience, ensure regulatory compliance, and contribute to maintaining a secure, stable internet ecosystem. To evaluate the effectiveness of cybersecurity risk-management measures of your organization and further prepare for NIS2 compliance, feel free to engage with us for an in-depth analysis and possibly a free data exfiltration test. In just five minutes, you can assess your network’s vulnerability to data theft via DNS. By proactively assessing your network’s security posture now, you can identify and address potential risks, helping you get ready for NIS 2 compliance.

Simplify & Secure Your Network

When our goal is to help companies face the challenges of modern infrastructures and digital transformation, actions speak louder than words.