53 - DNS


The Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical decentralized naming system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the Internet or a private network.

It associates various information with domain names assigned to each of the participating entities. Most prominently, it translates more readily memorized domain names to the numerical IP addresses needed for locating and identifying computer services and devices with the underlying network protocols.

By providing a worldwide, distributed directory service, the Domain Name System has been an essential component of the functionality of the Internet since 1985.

DNS record types

The main DNS record types are:

Authority domain servers

To retrieve the Domain Name System (DNS) servers having authority over a specific domain, the following command be used:

host -t ns <DOMAIN>

dig -t NS +short <DOMAIN>

DNS lookup

To resolve the IP associated to a Domain/Fully Qualified Domain Name:

dig +short <FQDN>


The following commands can be used to retrieve specific DNS records associated with a domain:

# Relies on ANY, which is often blocked or filtered, to query all records
dig +nocmd +noall +answer <target_domain> ANY

dig +nocmd +noall +answer <DOMAIN> <RECORDTYPE>

Reverse DNS lookup

To resolve the Domain/Fully Qualified Domain Name associated to an IP address:

dig +short -x <IP>
dig +short @<NAMESERVER> -x <IP>

host <IP>

nmap -sn -Pn --dns-servers <NAMESERVER> (<IP> | <FQDN> | <CIDR> | <RANGE>)

DNS zone transfers

A zone transfer is similar to a database replication act between related DNS servers. This process includes the copying of the zone file from a master DNS server to a slave server. Zone transfers should usually be limited to authorized slave DNS servers (by IP source or protected by a TSIG key) but a misconfigured DNS server could be allowing zone transfer from anyone.

The following commands can be used to test for zone transfers:



The DNSRecon and DNSenum tools can be used to enumerate nameservers for a domain and try a zone transfer for each enumerated nameserver:

dnsrecon -a -d <DOMAIN>
dnsrecon -a -n <NAMESERVER> -d <DOMAIN>

dnsenum <DOMAIN>
dnsenum --dnsserver <NAMESERVER> <DOMAIN>

DNS zone walking

Due to a design flaw in the NSEC records used by Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), it may be possible to discover all subdomains of a particular domain for which NSEC records are available.

DNSSEC is a number of security oriented specifications for DNS aiming at securing the DNS protocol against a number of attacks, including the spoofing and poising of records as well as man-in-the-middle attacks.

The integrity of DNS records is ensured by storing a digital signature associated to a specific record, in a RRSIG record. The DNS resolver retrieves the queried record along with its digital signature, and can afterward query the DNS server for the public key, stored in a DNSKEY record.

The NSEC and NSEC3 record types are defined in DNSSEC to handle the case of inexistent records. As a non inexistent record cannot be digitally signed, the need arise to securely inform the DNS resolver that the queried record does not exist. NSEC records work by returning the "Next Secure" record stored alphabetically in the zone, meaning a enumeration of all defined domains is possible using the NSEC records of a zone. NSEC3 addresses this issue, by returning salted hashes of domain names instead of directly returning the domain name.

The DNSRecon tool can be used to conduct DNS zone walking:

dnsrecon -t zonewalk -d <DOMAIN>

Forward lookup brute force

Forward lookup brute force consist of guessing valid names, from a wordlist, of servers by attempting to resolve a given name. If the guessed name does resolve, the results might indicate the presence and even functionality of the server.

Subdomains wordlists

The following wordlists of subdomains can be used:

# bitquark - Top 1000 to 1.000.000.

# dnsscan - Top 100 to 10.000.

# SecList - 2.178.752 entries.

A custom wordlist based on already discovered subdomains or specific keywords can also be generated using Altdns:


DNS brute force tooling

MassDNS can be used for fast DNS brute forcing using multiple resolvers. The subbrute.py Python script provided in the MassDNS repository can first be used to generate a list of subdomains, from a specified subdomains wordlist and root domains list, to resolve with MassDNS.

python3 ./scripts/subbrute.py -d <DOMAIN_FILE> <SUBDOMAIN_WORDLIST> | ./bin/massdns -r <lists/resolvers.txt | RESOLVERS_FILE> -t A -o S -w <OUTPUT_RESULT>

The additional following tools can be used to conduct automated forward lookup brute force:

# Subbrute.
python subbrute.py -v <DOMAIN>
python subbrute.py -v -s <WORDLIST> -c <THREADS> <DOMAIN>

# echo "<NAMESERVER>" > tmp_resolver.txt.
python subbrute.py -v -r tmp_resolver.txt -s <WORDLIST> -c <THREADS> <DOMAIN>

# Gobuster.
gobuster -m dns -w <WORDLIST> -t <THREADS> -i -u <DOMAIN>

Amass / dnscan / Nmap / Recon-Ng / DNSRecon / Fierce / DNSenum / AltDNS / ...

Reverse Lookup Brute Force

If the PTR records, used for mail services, are configured for the domain, reverse lookup brute force may possible.

If the DNS forward brute-force enumeration revealed a set of scattered IP addresses, the following bash one liner can be used to conduct a reverse lookup brute force:

for ip in $(seq <0> <255>);do host <x.x.x>.$ip;done |grep -v "not found"



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