Baby, I swear it's déjà vu: TalkTalk customers unable to opt out of ISP's ad-jacking DNS – just like six years ago
Have you tried turning it off and on again? Yes!
Updated TalkTalk broadband users are complaining they can't opt out of its Error Replacement Service, which swaps NXDomain DNS results with an IP address. And if that sounds familiar, it should. Users of the budget ISP complained about the very same issue back in 2014.
The Error Replacement Service redirects links to DNS addresses that don't exist, like those created by fat-fingered address bar typos, to a TalkTalk-run webpage. El Reg reader Louis described it thusly:
"If I type a non-existing domain in the browser, instead of getting the proper 'Hmm. We're having trouble finding that site' message, I get a list of 'search results' vaguely linked to the the non-existing domain. This is mildly annoying, as I'd rather not send my typos to some random advertiser," he said.
His woes don't stop there – the "service" also prevents him from logging into his work VPN. "During connection, instead of seeing the login window, I see a TalkTalk-branded page with 'search results' and I can't complete the login process," he complained.
This isn't an isolated problem. The TalkTalk support forum is flooded with similar complaints, no doubt partially thanks to the rise in home working caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.
TalkTalk offers a way to opt out of the service, requiring users to visit a specific web page and then restart their router. But this appears to be somewhat ineffective, with both Twitter and the TalkTalk forum filled with complaints.
"Can anyone tell me why the opting out of the TalkTalk Error Replacement service is not working? I have twice now opted out and twice rebooted router and still I am pestered by this annoying 'Service'," tweeted TalkTalk customers James Hewitt earlier last year.
So far, it seems like the sole silver bullet is to switch to a different DNS provider. In the case of Reg tipster Louis, he used TalkTalk's own non-hijacking server (with the records 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52). Presumably OpenDNS, Cloudflare, or Google Public DNS would work just as effectively.
Other users have reportedly found that replacing their router works just as well – although one would assume this is because a new router would have different DNS records to those issued by TalkTalk itself.
The Register has asked TalkTalk to comment. We haven't heard back yet, but when we do we'll update this story.
Updated on 21 April @ 09.23 GMT to add:
A TalkTalk spokesperson said: “We are aware of an issue with our Error Replacement service and we’re looking to resolve as soon as possible. While some customers may wish to opt-out, the service works as designed and provides further guidance with their online search.” ®