New DNS firewall service safeguards personal data, university systems

By the end of March, internet traffic at Virginia Tech will gain additional safeguards from a new DNS firewall that will protect user data from potential compromise occurring as a result of connections with websites known to be malicious.

The DNS, or Domain Name Service, is the global directory or 'phonebook' of the internet. It helps computers connect to sites on the internet through Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. A DNS firewall is a service that queries a database of purported malicious sites and prevents computers from communicating with those sites, thus protecting users, computers, and data from computer viruses, installation of malware, or other attacks that could lead to the theft or corruption of data. The IT Security Office (a unit of the Division of Information Technology) has completed a project to scope, customize, and test a new DNS firewall to protect Virginia Tech users from malicious sites on the internet.

The implementation began on March 7, 2019, and a stepwise rollout is progressing throughout the month of March. By the beginning of April, internet traffic at Virginia Tech’s campuses, centers, and institutes will gain protection from the firewall by default.

For the vast majority of users, this change will be unnoticeable, and no action is needed on the part of users. This firewall does not screen sites based on their content: it only screens for IT security hazards.

For complete information on the DNS firewall, including details on which hosts automatically use this service, and information on how to connect to the internet via alternate means (opt out), visit the DNS firewall entry in the  4Help Service Catalog.

In the event that a site is mistakenly flagged as malicious, there is also an option to report a “false positive” to the IT Security Office for review. Details on how to proceed can be found on the web page that pops up when a site is blocked, as well as in 4Help’s DNS firewall page.

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Virginia Tech 4Help IT support, available online at 4help.vt.edu, by phone at (540) 231-4357, or in person at the 4Help kiosk located in the center of Torgersen Bridge (kiosk hours: 12-5 p.m., M-F).