back to article Verizon hijacks your browser

Verizon is shamelessly hijacking web browsers on its new fiber-optic internet service. With posts to the online forums at BroadbandReports and WebmasterWorld, FIOS subscribers claim that when they carelessly mistype web addresses, Verizon redirects their browsers to its very own ad-driven search pages. As reported by …

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  1. Adam Azarchs

    Not the first!

    Comcast (cable internet, also in the news for its bittorrent 'management') has been doing exactly this to its customers for at least 6 months (I don't know how much longer before that).

  2. James O'Brien
    Thumb Down

    Yuuuup

    Yep I have Verizon FiOS service and I will say its awesome but this must be a new development since once I read this article and then typed in the wrong address intentionally it too me to the "Powered! by! Yahoo!" search engine. I have previously (within the last week mistyped) a webaddress and usually IE just reports that it cant find the webpage or google kicks in and does its thing. Nice to see even if I mistype a webaddress now and would usually use Google to find something that i have to either use the Google toolbar or go to the website itself to find something. Thanks Verizon.

  3. James O'Brien
    Flame

    Check this out

    http://netservices.verizon.net/portal/link/help/item?case=dns_assist&partner=verizon&product=fios

    this is for how people with the DNS HiJack that Verizon can fix the problem

  4. Raife Edwards
    Thumb Down

    I can tell you this is a real-pain...

    My broadband provider is Charter. And, I have had no end of troubles with this "service". Here are a few of the problems this creates:

    First, it is automatic, not opt-in. What this actually means is that you must allow a "cookie" to be set to turn this AD-page off. And, every time your caches, and cookies, are flushed (for security, and routine maintenance, reasons), it is re-enabled.

    Second, some browsers, apparently, send out the first thing typed into the address-bar (I.E. "some_company-name")... and then the browser waits for a DNS-error, or DNS-hit... before trying to append the "HTTP://WWW.", and ".COM", to the requested address. Since, the idiot search-page is considered to be a valid DNS-response, these browsers consider the search-page, itself, to be the destination, and therefore, will never get to the actual destination web-page... without re-entering the full -URL-. This is really annoying and undoes a very basic feature, of convenience, within several browsers.

    Third, you cannot actually turn the "service" off, at all. All a Charter-subscriber can actually do, is tell the service to display Charter's "search error-page" (rather than receive a true DNS-error). This means, once again, that any browsing functionality that depends upon the correct DNS-system responses... is simply hosed.

    And, finally, Charter simply refuses to acknowledge any of these problems as being their fault, or to change any aspect of this, intentional, "Browser HI-JACKING"... no matter how many of their customers complain about it. Frankly, this is because they get paid (ad-revenue) for this "service", and they are, effectively, a government-facilitated monopoly, in our area, so basically we (the customers) are simply screwed.

  5. Aubry Thonon

    Stealing bandwidth

    "If you type a nonexistent or unavailable URL (e.g., www.verizon.cmo), or enter a search term, into your browser address bar, Verizon may present you with an Advanced Web Search page containing suggested links based upon the query you entered"

    What they should have added: "Oh and by the way, since you are paying us for every byte sent down the line to you, you are effectively paying us to provide you with advert you didn't ask for. Ads which we get paid for providing to you in the first place. Isn't this grand, we get paid twice for the same crap. If we did this in the physical world, we'd be accused of stealing resources."

  6. UnnDunn

    I use OpenDNS anyway...

    As much as I like El Reg, I think this is much ado about nothing. I'm on FiOS, and I wouldn't switch providers over this. I use OpenDNS and it does much the same thing anyways.

  7. The Sceptic
    Stop

    Heeeeelllllllloooooooo!

    Microsoft have done this for years & still do! - you install certain updates and suddenly microsoft is your search engine.

    Google does this! (to assist the customer apparently)

    What am I missing here?

    I think what we have here is a marketing campaign from another provider who isn't happy with verizon

    Yeh, sure outlaw it - but what would all the other big boys do?

  8. Andrew Sweeney

    not just FIOS

    I have their DSL, and it started doing it to us yesterday too

  9. Chris C

    re: Not the first

    Comcast isn't doing it here in western Massachusetts. At least not yet.

    Don't these companies understand the problems they cause when they start messing with DNS? There's a reason ICANN never instituted a global response. It's because users and programs need to know when the requested domain doesn't have a DNS entry.

    On a separate note, I wonder about the legal liabilities of this. As in trademark infringement. If they're offering their own data on close-but-misspelled domains (especially a search which may show competitor's products), they may be liable for trademark infringement. For example, if they hijack targwt.com and redirect you to their own search which advertises for Wal-Mart. Throw that possible liability onto the questionable nature of their "common carrier" status since they're now "managing" BitTorrent traffic...

  10. Dam

    Opt out instructions

    1/ terminate your contract

    2/ get a new ISP

    3/ you've successfully opted out from the uuuuh... "service"

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Orange

    do this too.

  12. Ian
    Alert

    It's not just the web

    What people are missing is that this happens not just to web pages, but to anything happening over IP. Verizon's DNS servers return the IP address of their search engine to any request for a non-existent name, not just for http (web) access. So mail servers, ssh clients, ftp clients etc. etc. get redirected as well as web browsers. With the redirection on a browser you see that you're being deliberately misdirected but as your mail, ftp etc. fail you're left scratching your head until you realize that Verizon have hijacked all unallocated names.

  13. Jeremy
    Stop

    Talk Talk Too...

    They present a 'helpful' error page which just so happens to be covered in Google ads and a link to what they think is the 'correct' address, which also happens to be some kind of tracker.

    Not that it matters a jot to me, their DNS servers are an absolute joke - I switched to OpenDNS about 10 minutes after my connection went live and haven't looked back.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ICANN needs to get off their lazy bums and stop this kind of thing

    Time after time, ICANN just says they will "study" problems like this. They should start enforcing their rules. All they'd have to do is cut off a major ISP for violations for some period of time and the others will tow the line.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erm, am I missing summat???

    Come on, get real people.. Microsoft/Google etc..etc.. they all already do this.. Why shouldnt the ISP be able to "improve" this functionality and make money at the same time (maybe they will cut there prices as a result)?

    As far as I understand it looks for misstyped domains which include the ww,www or wwww prefix's i.e. mainly websites only, so unless you ssh, telnet or try to send email to a host containing this prefix you wont notice it.. it also replaced NXDOMAIN within related A record lookups so no NXDOMAIN for MX etc..etc..

    I think its all about clarity of imformation, if they explain it well enough then people will understand and realise there is nothing to complain about...

    More ISP's will follow very shortly, watch this space....

  16. Jeremy
    Happy

    Re: Erm, am I missing summat???

    > (maybe they will cut there prices as a result)

    Hahahahahaha! You gotta be kidding me!?

  17. William Bronze badge
    Thumb Down

    To Erm, am I missing summat?

    Are you missing the fact that it is a lot more difficult to change ISP's then it is to change search engines?

    I don't have to use google to type at the address bar, and google does not give me a search page if I type the wrong address. Even if it did, I easily have the option to completely disable that "feature". Having your ISP do it is a whole level down.

    Any restriction in choice is something to complain about. What a wet lettuce you are.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    This is becoming "standard practice" with US ISPs

    Our business uses at least 3 different ISPs at different sites, and they all do this.

    Not much point in canceling a contract with one ISP only to find that the "competition" does exactly the same thing.

  19. PunkTiger
    Thumb Up

    OpenDNS

    To those who mentioned the OpenDNS service, thank you! I never knew this service existed and I'm going to test it out once I get home from work.

  20. J

    Not here either

    "Comcast isn't doing it here in western Massachusetts. At least not yet."

    Neither here in Central Virginia -- yet.

  21. Kurt Faasse
    Jobs Horns

    So what?

    How many complaints are registered when Internet Explorer defaults to MSN Search? How many deadheads do not know how to change their default web browser? How many people own computers and high speed internet who should not be allowed near a four function calculator? (Or, for that matter, how many drunks and just plain unskilled drivers should never be allowed behind the wheel?) How is this a big deal that rates an article? A president of a certain superpower hijacked a justice system and had his military attack a nonthreatening nation. How does this compare? Priorities, people.

  22. Nexox Enigma

    DNS...

    There are plenty of DNS server alternatives out there. I have my home router (w/ dns caching proxy) aimed at the servers that I run at work. Anyone in the world can use them, they're fast, and as long as I get my coffee every morning they should be reliable.

    I never noticed my ISP (Cox) doing anything sketchy, but the server was heavily overloaded or something, because it could easily take ~500ms to get a lookup. That would be why I decided to switch.

    But yeah OpenDNS isn't the only alternative, though I did try that for a bit. I didn't really feel like opting in to their browser hijacking, plus they refused to resolve some torrent trackers on occasion. Honestly just try ns1.<collegedomain>.edu and you'll end up with a reliable and unmolested nameserver to use.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ian: - apparently it IS just www.* addresses

    I did a brief test on a Verizon FiOS connection today, and it only resolved random strings if they started with www. If I left the www. off, and just typed ping <randomstring>.com, I got a "name could not be resolved" response.

    Unfortunately, the "opt-out" method linked from the main story didn't work.

  24. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Re: So what?

    Well last time this happened it was done globally in the .com registry and it broke so much stuff that it threatened breakup of the DNS system as people started putting fudges into their DNS to work around it.

    But if it only affected browsers then perhaps "pain but so what" would be a reasonable response - but guess what ? HTTP is just one protocol - there are lots of things that, as already pointed out, use DNS. I wonder how many FTP, SMTP, ...,... connections their 'web' server get once this is in place ?

    Re: apparently it IS just www.* addresses

    For now, can't see that not changing if they smell more advertising revenue !

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