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Protective DNS aims to protect remote workers from malware attack

The Protective Domain Name Service Digital Roaming application provides home workers with the same protections against malware and malicious websites as they'd receive in the office.
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Written by Danny Palmer, Senior Reporter on

Remote working has put people at risk of being targeted by cyber criminals because home networks are rarely set up with enterprise-level security in mind. But a new tool could give home workers the same protections against cyberattacks as they're used to in the office.

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre's (NCSC) Protective Domain Name Service (PDNS) has been active since 2017, helping to keep public sector workers as safe as possible from cyberattacks – and now there's a version for remote workers.

PDNS is designed to stop the use of DNS for spreading and operating malware, ransomware and other cyber threats by preventing the browser from finding websites that have been identified as malicious – ultimately, if you're working from a public sector building, your computer is protected by PDNS.

SEE: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many employers to send their their employees to work from home and the public sector is no different in that regard, with remote working suddenly becoming the new norm.

That meant that government employees suddenly found themselves outside of protected networks and more vulnerable to hackers and malware because they're not protected by PDNS at home – so their networks could find and connect to malicious sites if the user was exposed to one.

With this in mind, the NCSC – in partnership with Nominet – released a free tool that enables remote workers across the public sector to stay safe with PDNS from home.

The PDNS Digital Roaming application for Windows 10 detects when a device is being used outside of an enterprise network and redirects DNS traffic to PDNS using an encrypted DNS over HTTPS (DoH) protocol. It offers users the same protections against malware and other cyber threats as they'd have when connecting from the corporate network.

SEE: How do we stop cyber weapons from getting out of control?

PDNS Digital Roaming is available to all public sector staff, even if they weren't using it on enterprise networks previously. The NCSC notes that PDNS isn't a VPN but a "lightweight application" that encrypts and redirects DNS traffic to keep users safe.

"By installing it on their device, staff can ensure that their DNS traffic is being directed to the PDNS and is thus protected by this innovative service," said David Carroll, MD of Nominet's NTX Cyber division.

"Solutions like the PDNS help to secure the critical infrastructure that our nation relies on, the organisations that house our most personal records, and the institutions that we turn to in our hours of most need," he added.

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