Rogers Communications Inc.’s practice of re-directing faulty DNS requests to a server hosting advertising-laden Web pages is irksome and potentially unethical, but there’s a way for telecommuters to get around it, says an expert.
Some Rogers’ customers started having trouble connecting with office VPNs last summer, when Rogers began the DNS re-direct practice. The practice remains in place today.
DNS re-direct essentially enables Rogers to convert mistyped URLs into ad revenue for itself, by sending the user to a Web page on the Rogers server. Rogers calls it a “Supported Search Results” service.
But telecommuters are affected by the change as Rogers’ servers are returning addresses that would normally be reserved for non-public office domains, explains Richard Hyatt, chief technology officer at Toronto-based BlueCat Networks.
“My big worry with doing DNS re-direction is instead of just accepting Web traffic Rogers starts accepting e-mail traffic and everything else,” he says. “That [treads] a grey line because really what they’re doing is impersonating someone else.”
Rogers would not agree to an interview on the subject. The company would also not reveal the vendor providing the “DNS re-direct” service. Customers having trouble with their VPN can contact Rogers’ customer support for a solution.
“It has only impacted a handful of customers,” said Rogers’ spokesperson Nancy Cottenden. “There are several potential solutions depending on the VPN setup, so we ask that customers call in to speak to us at 1-888-764-3771.”
But Hyatt says the best solution may to be to stop using Rogers’ DNS servers altogether.
He advocated switching to OpenDNS – a free, closed-source DNS resolution service offered by a San Francisco-based company (also called OpenDNS) founded in 2005 by DNS expert and entrepreneur David Ulevitch.
Switching to use the free services of OpenDNS will not only get your VPN working again, but could offer other benefits, Hyatt said.
“OpenDNS is much, much faster. I use it at home myself.”
He said the service can also prevent your browser from going to phishing sites set up by hackers, and offers parental safety features. Plus, using the server will stop Rogers from earning more money from your URL typos.
“The fact that Rogers is making money of a service that you’re paying for – that’s the only part that really bothers me,” Hyatt says. “Give me the service for free, and then you can make money off the advertising.”
That’s precisely what OpenDNS does. But the service offers other features too, says founder David Ulevitch. Users who type in “google.cmo” will still be taken to “Google.com” instead of an advertising page, thanks to the services auto-correction feature.
“Our entire service is based around the idea of providing people choice and flexibility,” he says. “An ISP thrusting an unwanted service on their customers is just shaking more nickels out of the pockets of their subscribers.”
Users can also exempt their office domains from being re-directed by OpenDNS, solving the problem of any conflicts that crop up.
Here’s how to use OpenDNS to solve the DNS re-direct problem, step-by-step:
Five steps to implementing OpenDNS
1. In Windows XP, open the Control Panel and select “Network Connections.”
2. Now open up your current Local Area Connection settings.
3. Click Properties.
4. Select the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) from the list and then click the Properties button.
5. Now it’s time to enter your new DNS servers. First select the “Use the following DNS server addresses” option and then type in the preferred (126.96.36.199) and alternate (188.8.131.52) servers.
That’s it, you’re ready to start using your new DNS server. The OpenDNS service can be used on may different operating systems. Check for instructions on how to configure anything from Unix to your Nintendo Wii on the company’s Web site.
Exempt your VPN from re-directing
Now that you’ve changed your home computer’s settings, create a free account at the OpenDNS Web page and sign in. Then click on the Settings tab.
Click on Advanced Settings.
Click “Manage” under the “Manage VPN Exceptions” in the “Domain Typos” section.
Type in your office VPN server and add it to the list. Then click done. In a few minutes time, you will be able to connect without worry.