Enterprise organizations must take note of the Kaminsky DNS flaw

Jon Oltsik fears many companies with a big Web presence don't realize the DNS flaw is their problem, and says if that's true, we all have a problem.

Jon Oltsik
Jon Oltsik is a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group. He is not an employee of CNET.
Jon Oltsik
2 min read

If you haven't heard about the current DNS vulnerability, here is a Reader's Digest-like summary. Security guru Dan Kaminsky found a vulnerability that could give the bad guys a relatively easy way to redirect Internet traffic. For example: You might think you are logging on to Bank of America's Web site. But instead, some hacker may have just exploited a domain name system vulnerability and is now in control of your identity.

Kaminsky deserves credit for finding this flaw and alerting the Internet community so it could fix the problem. This effort is well under way, but according to an article in yesterday's New York Times, Kaminsky believes that 41 percent of all DNS servers are still vulnerable, meaning that no one has patched these systems with new software that closes this gaping security hole.

The danger here is that most of the world will shrug its collective shoulders, dismissing this as a technology problem. The truth is that this is the Internet equivalent of a bridge collapse on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis. This disaster demonstrated that a critical piece of infrastructure was badly in need of repair. Unfortunately, the same is true of DNS, a critical but rickety technology.

Clearly the folks who control most of the Internet infrastructure get this. Comcast and Verizon have already patched their DNS servers, while AT&T is in the process of doing so. Great, but what about all of the companies with a large Internet presence? This is where the Internet may be most vulnerable, folks. According to ESG Research, 48 percent of large organizations (i.e. 1,000 employees or more) experienced at least one DNS outage in the past 12 months. What's more, 42 percent of these companies consider patching and upgrading DNS a time-consuming operational process. Given these statistics, my guess is that a lot of enterprises believe that the DNS problem doesn't really impact them, that it is really an Internet infrastructure problem. This is a misguided and dangerous perspective.

DNS anchors all Internet communications, thus it should be considered critical infrastructure. It's time that enterprise organizations realized this and started treating it accordingly. Hopefully Kaminsky's discovery will act as a change agent to fix the problem. Otherwise, we could all be in trouble.

Jon Oltsik is a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group.