Domain Name Security Neglected by U.S. Energy Companies: Report

A majority of the largest energy companies in the United States appear to have neglected the security of their domain names, according to CSC, a firm that specializes in securing online assets.

The Biden administration is concerned about potentially damaging cyberattacks aimed at the country’s critical infrastructure, and it’s taking steps to help electric utilities, water treatment plants and other industries protect their systems.

Data collected by CSC last week shows that nearly 80 percent of the top U.S. energy organizations are at risk of cyberattacks targeting their DNS and internet domain names. The data covers the 30 biggest U.S. companies (by market capitalization) that produce and deliver energy.

Specifically, CSC found that nearly 80% of energy firms don’t use registry locks, which can prevent domain name hijacking and unauthorized changes to DNS. More than two-thirds of the analyzed domains are registered with consumer-grade registrars instead of enterprise-grade registrars, which typically provide better security.

The analysis also found that when it comes to DNS security, only 3% use DNSSEC, which provides cryptographic authentication and integrity to DNS data. Furthermore, only 17% use DNS hosting redundancy, which is a backup mechanism for DNS outages that can result from configuration errors, infrastructure failure, or DDoS attacks.

CSC has also looked at the use of the DMARC email authentication protocol and found that 73% of the top 30 energy companies in the U.S. have a DMARC record in place.

Organizations can set the DMARC policy to “none” to only monitor unauthenticated emails, “quarantine” to send them to the spam or junk folder, or “reject” to completely block their delivery. In order for DMARC to be considered fully implemented, organizations must set a “reject” policy — this has been required of federal agencies.

However, CSC told SecurityWeek that it has not looked at the policies set by these energy companies, so despite a high percentage using DMARC, it’s likely that at least some of them have not fully implemented the system.

The overall findings are in line with data from a global report released last year by CSC. That report showed that only 10% of global energy companies used registry locking, only 2% used DNSSEC, only 19% used a corporate domain registrar, and 41% used DMARC.

CSC has also shared some recommendations on what companies should look for when choosing an enterprise-grade registrar.

“To manage a domain name portfolio, company’s need to work with a provider that has invested in protecting its own systems,” the company said. “With all of the cyber security threats today, not only does a good domain name registrar need to have the right technology—to protect itself and client companies from a data breach—but it also needs best-in-class operations practices that put security at the forefront of its mission, and in how it engages with its clients.”

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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