The use of encryption on the internet has grown tremendously over the past decade; HTTPS has quickly shifted from a technology used primarily to protect e-commerce, to an industry standard for website development. Many users now know to look for the padlock in their browser’s address bar to confirm that their connection is securely established via HTTPS. But that padlock is not telling the whole story.
Before your computer ever establishes a connection with a website, it must translate the website address into an IP address. Your operating system typically handles this task, asking a Domain Name System (DNS) server to look up the address, much like a phonebook. Unfortunately, the DNS system has changed relatively little since it was originally designed for the needs of the 1980’s internet, when there was little consideration for security or privacy.
Even now, most devices by default will pass these queries to the DNS server configured by the network operator or ISP that you are connected to – and in nonencrypted plain text! While DNS queries do not expose the content of your internet activity, they do expose which sites you connect to, and when. Anyone eavesdropping on DNS traffic can ascertain someone’s general browsing history, learn a lot about the device they are using, and the patterns of how they use it. There is also a potential to block or change DNS records, preventing access to certain web addresses or redirecting your browser to malicious endpoints. The collection of this data is a huge risk to privacy; earlier this year, a Thai ISP accidentally leaked an astounding 8 billion DNS records they collected about their customers’ internet usage. 
Luckily, the industry is starting to address these weaknesses by implementing support for newer DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) and DNS-over-TLS (DoT) standards, both of which encrypt your DNS queries while in transit. The latest versions of macOS and iOS have added support for encrypted DNS using both protocols , and Microsoft is currently testing DoH support for Windows 10 . Unfortunately, these solutions are not turned on by default, and they still assume ultimate trust in the DNS provider, but they are a step in the right direction when configured properly with a provider you trust.
Today, Cloudflare announced a new proposed standard: Oblivious DoH (ODoH) . This proposal takes DoH one step further, by adding a proxy between your device and the DNS server. This approach aims to further increase privacy by hiding the identity of the request from the DNS server. But, like any new internet protocol, it will likely be years before we see widespread adoption.
DNS is a foundational part of the internet and is critical to its security and privacy. At Grey Market Labs, we think it is important to build solutions with security and privacy by design, and we hope to see the industry do the same with DNS.
Grey Market Labs is a Public Benefit Corporation founded with the social mission to protect life online. We build revolutionary software and hardware products, and partner with like-minded industry leaders, to create a future with “privacy-as-a-service”.
Simply: we prevent data from being compromised and protect our customers work, online.
Contact us to see how we can work together.