November 18, 2019
The world’s top 6 internet browsers, including Chrome, Safari, and Firefox plan to support a new protocol: DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH). DoH encrypts traffic and can improve user privacy online. Currently, it’s one of the most controversial cybersecurity subjects. DoH hides your online activities from internet service providers (ISPs). Thus, ISPs and governments have rallied against the protocol, creating a range of protests against the new standard.
DoH is a vital step towards user privacy. But it’s not perfect and only useful in combination with other security tools. Read on to learn more about DoH and how to use it to protect yourself.
What Does DNS-over-HTTPS mean?
Most people only need to know that DNS-over-HTTPS is a good thing. You should embrace the change. But why?
You can think of the domain name system (DNS) as a phonebook. It translates the domain name into internet protocol (IP) addresses. And that’s a crucial part of connecting to any website. After all, it’s easy to remember domain names, but challenging to remember IP addresses.
How does it work? You enter the domain name, like www.facebook.com. Your computer makes a DNS query to your ISPs DNS servers to get a machine-friendly IP address of the site. For example, the IP address of Facebook is 18.104.22.168.
Where does DoH come in? You perform this check through the HTTPS protocol. You may have noticed in recent years that more sites became “https://www….” instead of “http://www…” It’s because HTTPS is a secure protocol preventing cybercriminals from gaining access to your connection.
While HTTPS encrypts data exchanges on the website, DoH encrypts the DNS requests instead. This way it hides your visited websites from your ISP too.
Why Do ISPs hate DoH?
If anyone hates the DoH, it’s the ISPs. The Internet Service Provider Association even went as far as nominating Mozilla to be the “Internet Villain of 2019” for implementing DoH. But they had to withdraw the nomination after massive community backlash.
Why all the hate? Many ISPs tend to track user data for many reasons. It’s not just about big brother keeping an eye on you, although that’s a part of it.
ISPs collect data to improve performance, dedicate system resources, and cooperate with government investigations. Sometimes they block particular sites or activities, e.g., peer-to-peer transfers. Some ISPs track data to sell to advertisers.
DoH makes it much more difficult for ISPs to do all this. Instead of having a clear record of your activities, most data is encrypted.
ISPs also claim users can enable DoH to undermine web-blocking programs. Some countries ban explicit content or set parental controls. Using this technology can bypass these restrictions.
What Does This Mean for Me?
It may seem that HTTPs and DoH make everything you do online private. DoH indeed provides extra security through encryption while improving performance. And DoH does make it more difficult for your ISP, hackers, or the government to check your activity. But they still have many other data points that they can use to track you. Thus, you still need to take the necessary measures to protect yourself online.
It’s not a story of good guys versus the bad guys. DoH may prevent ISPs and governments from keeping an eye on you. But the data still goes through your browser. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and other major companies can track your internet usage.
The bottom line? You should enable DoH. But it’s worth it to take extra steps to safeguard your privacy and security further. And when it comes to the safety of your internet connection, your best tool is a VPN. A VPN or a virtual private network creates encryption tunnels between your computer and the websites you want to visit. You connect to a VPN server (https://nordvpn.com/servers/) which then connects you to the target website. Encryption secures everything between.
DNS-Over-HTTPs is a great thing for consumers. If anything, this standard is an excellent step in the right direction towards privacy and security online. And, you can already start using it in Chrome and other browsers. But remember, DoH alone isn’t enough.
Be sure to use security tools like VPNs and other online privacy safeguards. The threats to your digital security are everywhere. Now’s the time to use all the means at your disposal to protect yourself and your privacy.