The New Zealand Ministry of Education has sought to improve security and resilience within educational facilities by offering free domain name system (DNS) registration and hosting services for schools and kura.
The SchoolDNS service, provided by Liverton Security Limited, offers several benefits to schools and kura (Māori-language immersion schools). The service provides a higher level of security to boost protection against several methods of cyber-attack (for instance, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), DNS hijacking or DNS spoofing), which meets the requirements set by the New Zealand government, and prevents scenarios in which schools could lose control of their domain.
By centralising and funding annual DNS registration and hosting, this service streamlines the domain name renewal process for schools and kura, ultimately enhancing the safety and authority of school domain names.
“This service is delivered by Liverton Security Limited to a high level of reliability and security that meets New Zealand government requirements and will help avoid situations where schools might temporarily or permanently lose control of their domain,” said Start Wakefield, chief information officer at the Ministry of Education.
More than 95 per cent of New Zealand’s educational institutions have .school.nz domains, administered and paid for separately.
DNS translates IP addresses into human-friendly domain names. For example, rather than entering an IP address 188.8.131.523 to access a website, you may type the domain name address, such as www.yourschool.school.nz, into your browser’s address bar. DNS is also used to translate routing information when communicating through email.
Since 2019, Liverton Security Limited has also been the provider of the registers for the .govt.nz, .health.nz, and .parliament.nz domains for New Zealand government departments. The government domain service offers central and local government agencies domain name registration, secure name server hosting and a resilient DNS management web portal.
The Government DNS Service, managed by the Department of Internal Affairs, provides increased protection for NZ Government domains using Domain Name System Protection Extensions (DNSSEC).
DNSSEC verifies that the answer IP address for a given domain name comes from a trusted and unmodified source. With DNSSEC, cybercriminals would have a more challenging time manipulating DNS responses to redirect visitors to malicious websites and steal their personal information.
According to the latest Te Pūrongo Whakakitenga data and insights report from N4L, the school and kura network provider, New Zealand schools face increasing threats to online safety and security.
The report shows that 2.3 million online security threats were blocked daily, with more than half of these security blocks occurring at secondary schools. Malware and malicious websites were the most commonly blocked online threats. In addition, the report indicated a 17 per cent increase in cyber threats compared to the first half of the year.
While DNS attacks have traditionally been considered a lesser cyber threat than others, they are trending upwards. One example of a DNS attack is DNS hijacking, redirection, or poisoning. In these types of cyber-attack, an attacker modifies a victim’s DNS settings to redirect legitimate queries to an attacker-controlled IP address. Malware or exploiting DNS server or router weaknesses are the most common methods for this attack.
DNS Security Extensions combat DNS attacks by appending cryptographic signatures to IP address requests and replies, allowing your computer to reject incorrect or misleading data. DNS Security Extensions combat this attack by appending cryptographic signatures to IP address requests and responses. Therefore, inaccurate or misleading data will cause your computer to reject the answer because it lacks the “digital signature” of the rightful owner.
The SchoolDNS service currently provides schools and kura with several capabilities. These include:
- set-up and running costs for up to two domain names
- access to the DNS portal for easy account changes, reducing administration risks
- 24/7 support based in New Zealand.
Additionally, the service offers yearly registration renewal as a default and a higher level of reliability and security that meets New Zealand government requirements.
While the SchoolDNS service can integrate with the DNSSEC service for additional protection, the Ministry is still working to make this fully available as part of the service.
Using the SchoolDNS service, schools and kura can expect a decrease in DNS registrations becoming invalid, removed, or subject to attacks.