Lenny Domnitser, 10 June 2008
|Verizon redirects non-existent domain names to advertising. This disruptive service can be turned off, but it is far from simple, and Verizon’s own instructions are wrong. This page provides correct instructions for the Verizon MI424WR router.|
Verizon’s home fiber Internet service, FiOS, defaults to redirecting non-existent domain names to a Web advertising server. This “feature,” which supposedly helps Internet users search for information, subverts the domain name system, making impossible software that depends on non-existent names not existing, and generally offending. A vulnerability in a similar service from Earthlink allowed phishing sites to be displayed on genuine non-existent names, like login.paypal.com. Figure 0 shows what happens when a Verizon customer tries to visit http://nosuchwebsite123456.com.
Figure 0. Advertisements shown instead of an error page.
You can opt out of the program, but it ain’t easy. There is no checkbox—you must manually set a specific DNS server. What’s more, the instructions on Verizon’s website are wrong (as of this writing)!
This page provides correct instructions with lots of screenshots for disabling “DNS Assistance” (I would call it “hijacking”) using the Verizon MI424WR router.
1. Log in to the router admin website.
Figure 1. Login.
2. Go to “My Network” (top navigation links), then “Network Connections” (left navigation), then click the “Broadband Connection (Coax)” link.
Figure 2. Follow the highlighted links.
3. The “Broadband Connection (Coax)” page shows a bunch of properties. Write down the DNS servers.
Figure 3. Note DNS servers.
4. Click the “Settings” button. Find “DNS Server” and change the selection from “Obtain DNS Server Address Automatically” to “Use the Following DNS Server Address”.
Figure 4. Connection settings page.
5. For primary and secondary DNS server, input the addresses that you copied. However, the last field of each address is replaced with the special value 14, which Verizon reserved for unperverted DNS. Click “Apply”. You may have to restart your computer, but I didn’t have to.
Figure 5. Carefully copy the old DNS address values, and replace the last field of each address with 14.
Figure 6. Your web browser (and other HTTP software) will now receive true errors instead of advertising.
If you would rather see the advertising instead of error pages, or if something went wrong, then you can just go back to step 4 and restore the “Obtain DNS Server Address Automatically” option.
It still certainly is not easy to turn off DNS redirection, but I hope I have at least made it clear how to do it.
Lay Internet users do not know that something is wrong when they see ads instead of real error messages, and I wish ISPs wouldn’t do this, but there’s money to be made, and economies of scale in the ISP business naturally cause a lack of competition. The Verizon tech support rep I spoke with said that he disabled DNS redirection at home, and was helpful when I wanted to disable it too, but most Verizon customers will continue to see these ads until laws are written to make the Internet a protected commodity, so that if a company wants to offer Internet access, it must follow the protocols of the Internet.