Security Agency Rolls Out Protective DNS for Schools

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has announced the launch of a new offering designed to prevent school users visiting malicious websites.

PDNS for Schools is completely free and will be rolled out from now into the coming year, according to NCSC deputy director for economy and society, Sarah Lyons.

“This timeframe will allow us to test capacity in the service and ensure we can deliver a PDNS offer to the different types of schools across the UK,” she explained.

PDNS for Schools is based on a long-running and highly successful part of the NCSC’s Active Cyber Defence strategy: the Protective Domain Name Service (PDNS).

Implemented by .uk registry Nominet back in 2017, it is a recursive resolver – finding answers to DNS queries and blocking access to risky sites.

Read more on education sector threats: UK Schools Hit by Mass Leak of Confidential Data

“PDNS prevents access to domains known to be malicious, by simply not resolving them. Preventing access to malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, viruses, malicious sites and spyware at source makes the network more secure,” the NCSC explained.

“In addition, PDNS provides organizations that use it with metrics about the health of their networks and gives them access to 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.”

The UK’s education sector certainly needs some help. Recent research from the NCSC published in January found that over three-quarters (78%) of schools had experienced at least one type of cyber-incident. A similar share (73%) said they experienced either phishing emails sent to staff or staff being directed to fraudulent websites, up from 69% in the 2019 report.

Ahead of the new school year beginning last month, several schools reported major disruption after suspected ransomware attacks.

Those keen to use PDNS for Schools don’t need to do anything until a full rollout is announced in the first part of 2024, the NCSC said.

In the meantime, local authorities in England and eligible public sector networks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that provide DNS to their schools are encouraged to sign up for the service.

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