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Bell Starts Hijacking NX Domain Queries 310

inject_hotmail.com writes "Bell Canada started hijacking non-existent domains (in the same manner as Rogers), redirecting NX-response queries to themselves, of course. Before opting-out, you get their wonderfully self-promoting and self-serving search page. When you 'opt-out,' your browser receives a cookie (isn't that nice) that tells them that you don't want the search page. It will still use their broken DNS server's non-NX response, but it will show a 'Domain Not Found' mock-up page that they (I surmise) tailor to your browser-agent string. During the opt-out process, they claim to be interested in feedback, but provide no method on that page (or any other page within the 'domainnotfound.ca' site) to contact them with complaints. They note that opting-in is 'recommended' (!), and that 'In order for opt-out to work properly, you need to accept a "cookie" indicating that you have opted out of this service. If you use a program that removes cookies, you will have to repeat this opt-out process when the cookie is deleted. The cookie placed on your computer will contain the site name: "www.domainnotfound.ca."' Unfortunately most Bell Internet users won't understand the difference between their true NX domain response, and Bell's injected NX response."
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Bell Starts Hijacking NX Domain Queries

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  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig.hoggerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:34AM (#28941845) Journal
    Well, that's the bad old ma Bell that's still alive and kicking in Canada.
  • These pages are helpful for the typical web surfer. In fact, an automatic URL "fixing" service would be one of those revolutionary Web 2.0 features that exists in the recesses of the web, part of the infrastructure and totally natural to use.

    Yes, it breaks some scripts and runs contrary to published standards, but it presents a new (actually pretty old) conception of how the web should work.

    • by nicolas.kassis ( 875270 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:40AM (#28941989)
      This should be handled at the infrastructure level. DNS doctoring is bad for many reason. I'm sure a firefox or IE addon would actually be much more preferable. Something easy to dis-activate when things break.
      • by typosquatting ( 1586073 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @04:16PM (#28946789) Homepage
        I've made the point before, but it's worth pointing out again that this is just typosquatting on a massive scale.

        Many people don't realize that there's TONS of traffic going to typo domains (whether registered or not). For instance, youtuve.com (notice the v instead of the b) got 347,852 visitors over the last 31 days. It redirects to another domain for cloaking purposes, but here is the traffic report [sedo.com]. This level of traffic provides the financial incentive to implement these DNS schemes.

        By the way, there's a new, free typosquatting [aliasencore.com] scan tool at aliasencore.com. It shows you all the registered .COM domain names that are one character misspellings of any Alexa top 100,000 site you enter. It also displays screenshots of those typosquatting sites. It's a nifty way to get a quick idea of the rampant growth of typosquatting. Here's an example [aliasencore.com] that shows the 425 registered .COM domain names that are one character away from google.com.

        Full disclosure: I am Graham MacRobie, the CEO of Alias Encore, Inc. We help companies recover cybersquatting domain names, but we focus solely on "slam-dunk" typosquatting cases (obviously only registered domain names). I can speak from personal experience in this field that the very last thing we need is wholesale typosquatting at the DNS level. Bell Canada should turn this "feature" off immediately.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's fine, but whether or not it's helpful for the typical Web surfer is completely irrelevant.

      It's a clear example of a layering violation. If you want URL fixing, great, but do it in the browser, don't hijack DNS which other services depend on.

      As far as I am concerned, it is really is clear cut that this shouldn't be happening!

    • Browsers can take care of this quite well!

      I think they mostly do.

      Or put otherwise, this is a pretty heavy solution to the problem, if the problem is what it is to solve -- unlikely.


    • by qortra ( 591818 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:44AM (#28942071)

      These pages are helpful for the typical web surfer

      How is that? By encouraging them to use a search engine with which they are unfamiliar, or by leading them away from their intended target with advertising. Look at the Sample Page [domainnotfound.ca] again, and explain to me the utility in that crap. Domain errors should ideally result in a big red "X" so the user knows to turn around and try again.

      In fact, an automatic URL "fixing" service would be one of those revolutionary Web 2.0 features that exists in the recesses of the web, part of the infrastructure and totally natural to use.

      Now this is an interesting idea. Let me tell you the best way to handle this - on the client side, after the proper DNS opportunities have been exhausted. This is because the client best knows the users browsing proclivities (most often viewed pages, favorite search engines, etc).

      • This is because the client best knows the users browsing proclivities (most often viewed pages, favorite search engines, etc).

        Nowadays I have a horrid suspicion that the server knows the user's browsing proclivities better than the client.

    • by superdana ( 1211758 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:49AM (#28942161)
      This isn't about the web, this is about the Internet--there's a difference. The web is just one tiny piece of the Internet, and there are 65,000 other services that require a properly functioning domain name system. Screwing it up in a way that only "works" for the web is totally unacceptable.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Minwee ( 522556 )

        Bell makes a habit of screwing up other services. If you're not requesting data on port 80, preferably from one of their servers, then you are just causing trouble.

        Way back when Bell Sympatico was first introducing ADSL I signed up for it and stuck with them for a few years. I put up with things like their spam-friendly mail servers, even going so far as to point out how their broken use of the VRFY command was exposing customer account numbers to the world and demonstrated how their POP3 server allowed

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dirk ( 87083 )

      It also breaks functionality of if basic programs. For example we have a lot of people that use Outlook Anywhere, and it will be broken by this. By default, it checks for the internal server first, and when it can't find it, it then jumps to Outlook Anywhere. Except now it gets a response for the internal server, and then waits forever for a timeout. So now we'll have even more people calling us asking why they can't get their email when they could before. We already have a list of 10 or so ISPs that w

    • by mini me ( 132455 )

      Some browsers do attempt to "fix" URLs. These services break those features, since the domain is always resolved properly as far as the browser is concerned.

    • by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @02:50PM (#28945487) Homepage Journal

      These pages are helpful for the typical web surfer.

      Do you work in marketing?

      Clue: DNS stands for "Domain Name Service", not "Targeted Advertisement Injection". The "typical web surfer" already has a tool that is responsible for handling unresolvable addresses, it's built into the browser. If you want more help, suggestions for typo fixing, etc. then the browser is the proper location.

      There are client programs out there that rely on getting proper DNS responses, including correct "domain not found" replies when the domain does not exist.

      Yes, it breaks some scripts and runs contrary to published standards, but it presents a new (actually pretty old) conception of how the web should work.

      No, it doesn't. And running contrary to published standards isn't a minor offense. They're called standards for a reason, and client-side programs expect a certain behaviour. Breaking that means breaking customers' software. And no, the web should not work this way. If you want to get a search page on DNS error, a Firefox plugin would be the proper approach, not DNS manipulation.

      What this is is the equivalent of your phone company hijacking every call with a mistyped phone number to a toll line with a "helpful" operator that helps you guess the correct number. The only difference is the payment method.

  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:36AM (#28941885)
    You wouldn't believe the amount of angry customer calls I had escalated to me by people who think that computers, modems and internet service are all the same things and I was responsible for all of them. If you want me to share them with you, bring lots of hard liquor - you're going to need it.
  • by ltning ( 143862 ) <(ten.niudna) (ta) (gnintl)> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:38AM (#28941935) Homepage

    The Deutsche Telekom / T-Online does exactly the same in Germany.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But compared to Bell you can switch the behaviour permanently off in your User Control Panel of T-Online. No weird cookies are required...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by comm2k ( 961394 )
      HanseNet / Alice also does this and as T-Online the opt-out process is done via a user control panel and is permanent, until you opt-in again. No cookies are set. While it shouldn't be necessary to do this in the first place it is MUCH better than a cookie based system as used by Bell.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:38AM (#28941937) Homepage
    Taco stands for Targetted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out. It is a firefox addon that keeps a generic, non-user specific cookie opting out of the things that need cookies to opt out of.
  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:38AM (#28941941) Homepage

    If this is a true description of the opt-out, it is SERIOUSLY broken.

    Simply put, any opt-out mechanism MUST enable the user's computer to properly receive an NXDOMAIN response. Because the problem is NOT the advertising web page on a web browser typo for http, but all the other things that do DNS lookups.

    For example, NXDOMAIN wildcarding even snagged and confused Dark Tangent [defcon.org] into thinking that someone was trying to MitM the Defcon forums!

    I can accept an ISP doing this only under the following conditions:

    a) The opt-out is a one-click item on the page

    b) The opt-out is perminent and for all connected through that IP/customer link

    c) The opt-out is a real opt-out which will cause NXDOMAIN responses to be properly returned as NXDOMAIN.

    This clearly fails B and C.

    • by qortra ( 591818 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:48AM (#28942147)

      b) The opt-out is perminent and for all connected through that IP/customer link

      But then, how will the user re-enable the service when they start missing those targeted advertisements?

    • It sucks that a provider's DNS is broken. Still, you can run your own caching DNS server and forward your requests to servers that work.

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @12:00PM (#28942411) Journal

      I'm not sure how an opt out that uses cookies is supposed to work. My mail client, for example, does a DNS lookup for smtp.domainwithtypoinname.com. The resolver on my machine sends a UDP packet containing the DNS request to the DNS cache. The DNS cache replies with NXDOMAIN. The function called by my mail client returns failure. How does the DNS cache get hold of the cookie to know that it should return the real NXDOMAIN?

      Hopefully the root servers will start using DNSSec soon, so the resolver can just flag these and the libc functions can return the same kind of failure as they would for an NXDOMAIN reply.

    • This puts itself exactly like the whole "Phorm" debacle... Where in order to have things work the way they should, you have to remember to "opt-out" any time you are using a different computer, or clear your cookies, or whatever.. however, it doesn't actually opt you out of anything, it just changes what you see.. (the Phorm debacle didn't opt you out of tracking everything you do with deep packet inspection, it just opted you out of seeing the ads tailored to you!).

      This is the same thing..
      Opt out should op

      • by dzfoo ( 772245 )

        Yeah, and good luck making your SMTP server (or any other IP service other than HTTP agents) understand cookies!


    • A small question.

      Can an NXDOMAIN response include additional info? If so could this be used to send a message such as "No such domain, use this search page"? If not would adding this be a problem?

      It seems that a solution that could return a correct NXDOMAIN response and suggest an alternative action would satisfy everyone's requirements.

  • Embarq does the same thing with their DSL:

    http://search.embarq.com/index.php?origURL=http://lkwkerwer.com/ [embarq.com]

  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:44AM (#28942073)

    Is there any way a local caching name server can detect this brokenness and return the right answer? I seem to remember some bind configs a few years back that would do that but I'm not sure if they would still work.

    Or maybe a firefox plugin could detect this damage and restore the original, correct behavior somehow.

    • by slazzy ( 864185 )
      Should be pretty easy thing to detect. Do a get of several domains you know shouldn't exist: ie: kg84jrtuwerufhg3r4.com and see what response you get from DNS servers. You could even go so far as to do a whois lookup to see if they are in fact registered or not.
    • by jimicus ( 737525 )

      You could set up your own caching DNS server and have it bypass your ISP altogether, instead drilling down the DNS from the DNS root servers.

      DNS is fairly easy to detect so it wouldn't be too hard to set up an invisible proxy, but most ISPs won't go to these kind of lengths.

      • Bingo.

      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        You could set up your own caching DNS server and have it bypass your ISP altogether, instead drilling down the DNS from the DNS root servers.

        Here is another useful thing you can do with your own server... because you probably have a large home lan, you can also set up the "caching" server to be authoritative for a tld like .home

        So, now you can get to all your machines on the lan by pinging sshing httping something.home

        You can also experiment with dynamic DNS updating the .home tld.

        I would advise staying away from a tld like .local, that messes up the bonjour protocol or multicast DNS or whatever its called.

    • by pipatron ( 966506 ) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @12:00PM (#28942401) Homepage
      I use dnsmasq [thekelleys.org.uk] on my router, you could use it locally as well. It has a --bogus-nxdomain=<ipaddr> option that you can use for this purpose.
  • by Timothy Brownawell ( 627747 ) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:46AM (#28942113) Homepage Journal

    Isn't this sort of forgery exactly what DNSSEC is supposed to prevent?

    (And no, don't go suggesting DNSCurve. It doesn't protect against your ISPs caching resolver being malicious like this.)

    • There's no forgery. You are connecting to their server just as you intended to and it is giving exactly the response they configured it go give. However, that response is not the one specified by the RFC.

  • Using other services like OpenDNS is a certainly one way to go, but last time I checked they had issues when it came to IPv6. Does anyone know any IPv6 friendly open DNS servers?

  • Bell's current business model pretty much relies on people not caring about the shit they pull.

    It's sort of interesting (or infuriating depending if I'm trying to use the internet..). My new ISP makes it no secret they hate everything Bell does. I think that largely has to do with them leasing their lines from Bell, and having their service screwed up when Bell does things of this nature. I imagine I'll be getting an email from my ISP soon telling me who to complain to about the service getting buggered yet

    • Fortunately it's not that hard to run a caching nameserver from a more authoritative source. I run one at home because I just don't trust Comcast's.
  • Cookie? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @11:57AM (#28942355)

    How is this cookie supposed to work for lookups from apps other than a web browser?

    • It's not... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by argent ( 18001 )


      When you "opt-out", your browser receives a cookie (isn't that nice) that tells them that you don't want the search page. It will still use their broken DNS server's non-NX response, but it will show a 'Domain Not Found' mock-up page that they (I surmise) tailor to your browser-agent string. ...is just ****ing unacceptable. That's not ****ing opting out.

    • by jimicus ( 737525 )

      It isn't. Clearly Bell don't consider themselves an ISP any more, they consider themselves a WSP. (Web Service Provider).

    • by Minwee ( 522556 )

      How is this cookie supposed to work for lookups from apps other than a web browser?

      I see that you are not a Bell customer. They don't follow the simple "You pay us, we provide a service" model which you have come to expect from other ISPs, but they are half way there.

  • OpenNIC [opennicproject.org] offers free, open, and democratic domain name services. No redirects like your favorite ISP or OpenDNS (and to think these used to be the "good" guys back in the days of everydns.net). All ICANN domains, plus a good helping of alternate roots (including OpenNIC) as a bonus. The OpenNIC DNS network is slowly building, with servers around the world

    Using your ISP's name servers is so passe. They'd like the masses to think that's the only choice.

  • Legal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
    So, what happens if I buy ping a domain that doesn't exist? Presumably this will then cache the DNS NXDOMAIN reply. If I then buy the domain, set up a DNS entry, and then try to connect to it, I will get their sever instead of mine. This sounds like it would fall foul of computer misuse laws; intentionally hijacking a connection. The presence of ads means that they're doing it for commercial purposes, which usually carries a heavier sentence. Other ISPs will not be breaking these laws, because they wil
    • Re:Legal? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RedK ( 112790 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @01:18PM (#28943861)
      How did this ever get +5 ? Seriously, if you register a non-existant domain, they won't hi-jack you. First, there's this thing called TTL on requests, when a DNS server caches a response from an authoritative source, it is not permanent. It has a Time to Live, defined in the Start of Authority in the zone on the master server or on the entry itself. So after a while, the DNS server will query the authoritative source again to make sure its answer is still correct and up to date. This is also implemented for NXDOMAIN queries, as defined in RFC2308. Section 3 is specific that NXDOMAIN queries should also return the SOA and that the receiving cache is to use the minimum TTL (the last value in the SOA). The default on this is 3600 seconds, or you guessed it, 1 hour. Since your domain will take 24-48 hours to show up on the ccTLDs or gTLDs anyhow, 1 hour isn't going to make or break anything as far as caching a NXDOMAIN answer and anyway, you wouldn't have gotten that traffic to begin with.
  • Feedback form (Score:2, Informative)

    by talcite ( 1258586 )
    For those of you who want to let Bell hear a bit of your mind, the comments form is here:

    https://www.bell.ca/support/PrsCSrvInt_CtUs_Eform.page [www.bell.ca]
  • by Man Eating Duck ( 534479 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @12:12PM (#28942673)

    The first hit for me is the wonderful errornerd.com, which can fix these errors if you download their registry utility [errornerd.com].
    They can even fix a host of other errors, even 404s [errornerd.com] and errornerd.com is a fraud [errornerd.com] errors.

  • I spent June in Toronto and Ottawa with friends and my family, all of whom have internet service provided by Rogers. Now I have a bunch of type-o URLs in FF's history when I'm typing the in the address bar. Anybody in the province who can get DSL should go to Teksavvy where you'll get good service and none of this crap.

  • Viewed in the context of net neutrality -- how can there be net neutrality if they don't even provide net access
    according to the semantics of the protocols?


  • Paytec/McCloud telco does this here in the states.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This seems to only affect lookups for queries prefixed with www. For example, a lookup of blerght.com returns nx, while www.blerght.com returns There may well be other subdomain queries that it also hijacks.

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @12:47PM (#28943301)

    DNS is recursive, right? Starting with the TLD servers, then downwards. Someone upstream of Bell is returning a 'domain not found' and Bell is intercepting that and modifying it.

    I understand that you're using Bell's local DNS servers to start the search, but the effect is the same as them intercepting and modifying your communications.

    ISPs doing this kind of crap should get sued under whatever law most closely applies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They're not intercepting your communications with any outside server. You asked them for the IP address linked to a given domain name, they asked a higher-level DNS server that returned NXDOMAIN to them, and instead of just returning the same NXDOMAIN to you like everyone else would they returned a pointer to the server hosting their search page. Underhanded? Sure. But intercepting and modifying your communications? Not really. Your communications were with the ISP to being with, not the upstream DNS server

  • where's that perl script that queries random domains to break the ISP's DNS cache?

  • And everyone wins: a version of BIND that allows an overlay of master records based on secondary queries. You look something up, the authoritative query goes out to the replacements, the fallback position is the root nameservers.

    Then, you can participate in OpenDNS or OpenNIC or whatever you want, *and* participate in the base DNS network as well. Plus, if you ever decide someone is being naughty, you can just overlay them with a whiteout (and you get rid of every domain-squatter-searcher you want to get ri

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday August 04, 2009 @12:55PM (#28943483) Homepage

    They're reselling InfoSpace. Click on this link [domainnotfound.ca] to demonstrate.

    InfoSpace claims to be passing search queries to Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and Twitter, then combining the results. I'm surprised they can do that. Google, Yahoo, and Bing all prohibit that in their terms of service. (With Google, you're only allowed to use Google's display format, expressed in their AJAX API, but you can add additional info. Google doesn't allow reordering or combining their results. Yahoo is more flexible; you can reorder, reformat, and, subject to some restrictions, add ads. Bing allows reordering and combining for Web searches, but not other types of searches.)

  • Better Headlines:

    "Bell Is Hijacking NX Domain Queries"

    Does Bell "startS" hijacking on a daily basis or all the time? Tony Hawk skateS every day.

    "Bell Hijacking NX Domain Queries"

    Brevity is wit.

    Hit the reply button to make excuses and apologies.

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