South African Internet users can enjoy a safer, and faster experience online thanks to a free new global DNS service made available by collaboration between Internet research organisation Packet Clearing House, IBM and the Global Cybersecurity Alliance (GCA).
Dubbed Quad9, the service is now available in South Africa, and provides higher levels of Internet privacy and security than was previously available.
“Working with our threat intelligence (TI) partners, we’re able to distil and provide, in real time, a filter that will prevent accidental and unfortunate exposure to malware that might otherwise infect users,”says Nishal Goburdhan, internet infrastructure analyst at Packet Clearing House, one of the founder organisations of Quad9.
“All of this is done through the use of intelligent filters, in the domain name system, a service that translates human friendly names to an IP address that a networked device can understand.”
While public DNS services are nothing new, Goburdhan points out that there are none that cover the breadth of services that Quad9 offers.
“Not only does Quad9 provide an immunisation service against malware, we don’t record, or store any personal identifiable information, which is a huge step forward in individual user privacy.
“Quad9 supports end-to-end encryption, meaning that your DNS requests are private; the services are provided domestically, at the Internet exchange points, meaning that there’s less chance of any man-in-the-middle interception, and it’s run by a team of professionals that have been providing this type of service for about 25 years.”
The system has been in pilot for a year, with almost 1-million users globally.
Thusa Connect, based in Durban, which provides IT support to enterprises and SMMEs, has been one of the trial users of the system.
Edrich de Lange, head of infrastructure at Thusa Connect, says: “Our customers are concerned with security, reliability, and performance. Before, many of them were using Google’s DNS resolvers, but Quad9 has much better geographic diversity generally, and particularly here in South Africa.
“With the added benefits of the great security features and the reliability we’ve experienced, it was an easy decision to switch our customers to Quad9.”
The Quad9 Domain Name System (DNS) service helps protect users from accessing millions of malicious internet sites known to steal personal information, infect users with ransomware and malware, or conduct fraudulent activity.
Businesses and consumers can safeguard their online privacy as the Quad9 (188.8.131.52) DNS service is engineered to not store, correlate or otherwise leverage any personally identifiable information (PII) from its users. In contrast, other DNS services often capture Information about the websites consumers visit, devices they use and where they live for marketing or other purposes.
Quad9 provides an automated security solution at a time when it is needed most by consumers. New polling of consumers across the US, UK, France and Germany found that just 27% of consumers think they are capable of staying ahead of the latest online threats and only 14% have ever changed the DNS settings on their computer.
To take advantage of the security and privacy of Quad9, users simply need to reconfigure a single setting on their devices to use 184.108.40.206 as their DNS server. Full instructions on what a DNS service does and how to switch to Quad9 can be found at www.quad9.net.
The protections delivered via Quad9 cover not only traditional PCs and laptops but can also be extended to internet connected devices (TVs, DVRs) or Internet of Things (IoT) technologies such as smart thermostats and connected home appliances. These devices often do not receive important security updates and are also difficult to secure with traditional anti-virus tools, yet remain connected to the internet leaving them vulnerable to hackers.
How Quad9 works
With the launch of Quad9, consumers and businesses have a way of protecting themselves that is both effective and affordable with minimal configuration changes. Quad9 makes using security threat intelligence a hands-off effort and designed to give users “automated immunity” from known internet threats by automatically blocking access to known malicious websites.
Every website has a unique numerical address — known as an IP address. To make it easier to navigate the internet, those numeric addresses are translated to company names or words we can remember, understand, and search. Quad9 helps translate those numeric addresses into the URLs we are all familiar with, while adding in a layer of security and privacy before users land on the web address.
Whenever a Quad9 user clicks on a website link or types an address into a web browser, Quad9 checks the site against IBM X-Force’s threat intelligence database of over 40 billion analyzed web pages and images. The service also taps feeds from 18 additional threat intelligence partners including Abuse.ch, the Anti-Phishing Working Group, Bambenek Consulting, F-Secure, mnemonic, 360Netlab, Hybrid Analysis GmbH, Proofpoint, RiskIQ, and ThreatSTOP.
Quad9 provides these protections without compromising the speed that users expect when accessing websites and services. Leveraging PCH’s expertise and global assets around the world, Quad9 has points of presence in over 70 locations across 40 countries at launch.
Over the next 18 months, Quad9 points of presence are expected to double, further improving the speed, performance, privacy and security for users globally. Telemetry data on blocked domains from Quad9 will be shared with threat intelligence partners for the improvement of their threat intelligence responses for their customers and Quad9.
Why is DNS security needed?
The stakes are high — cybercrime is estimated to cost the global economy more than $2-trillion by 2019. Cybercriminals use tools and techniques to build realistic-looking websites that mimic legitimate companies. These websites might even have names that look similar to a household national chain or a local store — but in reality, are not because they have a different IP address — something that most users would find hard to detect.
The problem is compounded by the fact that there will be 80-billion internet connected devices (or IoT devices) in homes and businesses by 2025. It has proven difficult for users to secure and update these devices, as software vulnerabilities and misconfigurations are discovered.
With Quad9 used in a home or business network at the router or gateway level, users will have an added level of protection for their IoT devices. These smart devices would also be blocked from accessing remote hosts which have been identified as being harmful or IoT botnets such as Mirai, which infected millions of IoT devices in late 2016.
Globally, regulations relating to security and privacy also continue to emerge. In May 2018, Europe will enact the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of sweeping regulations meant to protect the personal data and privacy of its citizens. Quad9’s emphasis on data privacy is built with efforts like GDPR in mind.
How to use Quad9
In four easy steps, consumers and businesses can have Quad9 filtering out websites that pose a threat to their devices and networks. Individuals or businesses can use this DNS service from their computer, router or network devices to resolve DNS requests and receive domain-blocking protection.
Setting up Quad9 is a simple configuration change. Most organisations or home users can update in minutes by changing the DNS settings in a central DHCP server (router or Wi-i access point) which will update all clients in a few minutes, with no action needed at end devices at all.
In order to start using Quad9 today, simply change your DNS settings in your device or router to point to 220.127.116.11.