Local authorities and cyber attacks – a useful free tool

Local authorities are a prime target for cyber attacks. In the United States, entire districts have recently been severely disrupted – particularly as a result of costly ransomware attacks. However, there are some useful tools and resources available to help them protect their systems and data, including this free resource…

The NCSC has many tools and services available to all UK businesses. They also have a select number of services available to only public sector organisations, such as local authorities, central government and emergency services, among others.

One of these services is Protective Domain Name System (PDNS). This service has been designed to restrict the use of DNS for malware distribution and operation. It has been created by the NCSC and is implemented by Nominet UK (The official registry for UK domain names).

PDNS is currently in use by just over half of all local authorities and as of June 2019, it was performing 2.6 billion queries per week and blocking 2.1 million attempts to connect to nearly 6,000 malicious domains.

The main benefit of implementing PDNS is that is prevents access to internet domains known to be malicious, simply by not resolving the address. Preventing this access to malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, viruses, malicious sites and spyware at source makes your network more secure.

In addition, PDNS provides your organisation with details about the health of your networks and gives you NCSC outreach support to resolve any issues. The data from PDNS is also used to inform and support UK government cyber incident response functions in the event of a cyber-attack.

Benefits of PDNS include:

  • Block malware and malicious sites – PDNS prevents access to sites hosting malware, ransomware and spyware. It also blocks malware communication, which serves to contain active threats
  • Dashboard and data logs are available to help customers monitor the status of their networks and resolve any issues
  • It is free at the point of use – the service is centrally funded by the NCSC
  • You benefit from subject matter expertise at the NCSC and Nominet, including world leading analysis and incident management capabilities
  • It is centrally managed – you only need to change your current recursive DNS resolver to the NCSC PDNS servers for it to start working
  • You stay updated with the latest defence, with targeted threat analysis and updates to blocked sites/blocked lists taking place frequently

Protective DNS is not a cure for all of your cyber security issues – you still need to be vigilant and ensure all of your systems are adequately protected from malicious activity. You will also still need to ensure your staff have up to date cyber security awareness training, but PDNS can – and will – help protect your organisation from users accessing malicious internet sites.

Full details of Protective DNS, eligibility and how to sign up can be found here.

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