Comcast trials Domain Helper service DNS hijacker

Here to stay


The DNS hijacker is here to stay.

When Denver-based developer Brent Gartner returned home from vacation this week, he discovered that Comcast, his home ISP, was redirecting his mistyped urls to its very own ad-laden search pages. Earlier this month, the cable giant resurrected this age-old land-grab scheme in several US markets, including Colorado, with an eye on hijacking typos across the country.

Comcast does provide an opt-out. And Brent Gartner promptly did so. But the new scheme still boils his blood. "This pisses me off as it will surely break many web-serivces, spiders, and any client other than web browsers that use HTTP," he tells The Reg. "It looks like a blatant attempt to steal revenue from competing services."

As you might expect, Comcast doesn't call its DNS hijacker a DNS hijacker. It prefers "Domain Helper service."

"Despite the fact that web addresses are easier to remember than their IP address counterparts, sometimes you mistype an address," reads a company blog post. "Normally, you then sit and wait for the Web browser to time out, then you receive an error message that the site does not exist, and then you have to retype the correct address.

"With the Domain Helper service we are testing now, we will instead help direct your Web browser to an easy-to-use page with suggestions and links to get you back on track. We also provide a seamless search experience on this page, which is powered by Yahoo!, so you can find relevant search information, or simply perform another search."

And no doubt, when you click on Yahoo! ads, Comcast takes a cut.

The, um, service is currently under trial in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. But other markets can expect some hijacking in the near future. "The goal is to roll it out nationally when we’re done testing in these initial markets," a company spokesman tells us.

Countless other ISPs have introduced similar schemes, including Charter, Cox, Earthlink, and Verizon. And some, including California-based ISP DSL Extreme, were forced to reverse themselves in the face of user complaints.

Famously, VeriSign once tried to hijack typos as a top-level domain operator. And it backpedaled, as well.

Comcast has at least been open about the matter - while providing an opt-out. The company has also submitted a whitepaper on the operation to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), available here.

The ISP does not prevent the use of the third-party DNS servers - though it was falsely accused of doing so earlier this year. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Cerebras sets record for 'largest AI model' on a single chip
    Plus: Yandex releases 100-billion-parameter language model for free, and more

    In brief US hardware startup Cerebras claims to have trained the largest AI model on a single device powered by the world's largest Wafer Scale Engine 2 chip the size of a plate.

    "Using the Cerebras Software Platform (CSoft), our customers can easily train state-of-the-art GPT language models (such as GPT-3 and GPT-J) with up to 20 billion parameters on a single CS-2 system," the company claimed this week. "Running on a single CS-2, these models take minutes to set up and users can quickly move between models with just a few keystrokes."

    The CS-2 packs a whopping 850,000 cores, and has 40GB of on-chip memory capable of reaching 20 PB/sec memory bandwidth. The specs on other types of AI accelerators and GPUs pale in comparison, meaning machine learning engineers have to train huge AI models with billions of parameters across more servers.

    Continue reading
  • Zendesk sold to private investors two weeks after saying it would stay public
    Private offer 34 percent above share price is just the thing to change minds

    Customer service as-a-service vendor Zendesk has announced it will allow itself to be acquired for $10.2 billion by a group of investors led by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, investment company Permira, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

    The decision is a little odd, in light of the company's recent strategic review, announced on June, which saw the board unanimously conclude "that continuing to execute on the Company's strategic plan as an independent, public company is in the best interest of the Company and its stockholders at this time."

    That process saw Zendesk chat to 16 potential strategic partners and ten financial sponsors, including a group of investors who had previously expressed conditional interest in acquiring the company. Zendesk even extended its discussions with some parties but eventually walked away after "no actionable proposals were submitted, with the final bidders citing adverse market conditions and financing difficulties at the end of the process."

    Continue reading
  • Singapore promises 'brutal and unrelentingly hard' action on dodgy crypto players
    But welcomes fast cross-border payments in central bank digital currencies

    In the same week that it welcomed the launch of a local center of excellence focused on crypto-inspired central bank digital currencies, Singapore's Monetary Authority (MAS) has warned crypto cowboys they face a rough ride in the island nation.

    The center of excellence (COE) was established by the Mojaloop Foundation – an open source effort to create payment platforms to make digital financial services accessible to those without access to banks. The COE aims to "accelerate financial inclusion in emerging markets" through hackathons, workshops and pilot projects while examining expanded CBDCs payment capabilities."

    Singapore's sovereign wealth fund has invested in Mojaloop, and MAS chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty serves as a board advisor and the authority provides representatives to the Foundation's working group, alongside folks from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and more.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022